Like anything else we use in daily life, hazardous materials, or “hazmat,” must be distributed from factory to consumer. The majority of hazmat is shipped via commercial trucks. Truckers shipping such items must have special training and certification, which requires regular renewal.
Although hazmat truckers are skilled, trained professionals, even they are subject to car accidents. Any trucking accident is dangerous, but they are especially deadly when harmful chemicals are involved.
Truckers can haul several kinds of dangerous materials, and this cargo can cause several kinds of injuries.
Any vehicle accident can cause an impact injury. Your body can make contact with the inside of your car. You could be hit by an oncoming vehicle, or you could be thrown from your car, making hard contact with the ground or surrounding objects. Impact injuries are a particular problem in trucking accidents, as cargo can spill, landing on drivers.
Much of the hazmat that is shipped is explosive. Explosions are not always giant balls of fire, despite what we see in Hollywood movies. Sometimes, a volatile material creates a concussive blast that radiates outward. Any kind of explosive can send you backward, hitting the back of your seat with enough force to cause injury. With nowhere to go, the force can continue to press down on you, cracking ribs and damaging internal organs. A big enough explosion could send your vehicle flying or eject you from it, creating even more impact damage.
We’ve already mentioned explosives, which, of course, can expose you to fire. Not all hazmat is flammable. Often, trucks carry corrosives that can cause chemical burns. These burns are harder to treat, as you sometimes need an agent to nullify its effects. You may not have access to this, and waiting for emergency services can make the injury worse.
Various acids are used for industrial purposes or even for household cleaning. Other materials, such as oxidizing agents, can harm your skin. Radioactive materials can leave burns on the outer layer of skin, but they can have much deadlier effects inside.
There is a surprising number of common items that use radioactive materials. Many devices that measure depth use radioactive minerals, as do medical imaging devices. When improperly handled, radioactive hazmat has an interesting effect on the body. As mentioned above, it can burn the top layer of skin. However, radioactive materials also give off beta rays. These can be absorbed into the skin, causing serious damage. They can interact with your cells, creating mutations. These mutations could potentially lead to cancer. If you believe that you were exposed to radioactivity in a trucking accident, seek medical help immediately. Even if you feel fine now, you could be experiencing internal degeneration, and you need a specialist to treat and prevent long-term damage.
It is often easy to forget that we use hazmat every day. There are many common cleaners and other household products that are harmful if swallowed. In a trucking accident, there is a lot of confusion. Vehicles are swerving, and if cargo spills, that only adds to the chaos. You could find yourself screaming or breathing heavily, inhaling poisonous liquids. Even with your mouth closed, liquid could splash into your eyes or ears, allowing poisons to enter your system.
Many poisons can be easily wiped away, keeping you safe. Some, however, could make their way into your bloodstream if left on your skin for too long. If a trucking accident leaves you covered in any foreign substances, clean them off immediately and seek medical attention.
Liability in a Hazmat Trucking Injury
In any personal injury claim, the details determine liability. To determine responsibility, you must ask how the hazmat spilled.
The owner of a commercial truck is responsible for its upkeep. Often the truck is owned by the trucking company, but it could be privately owned by an independent trucker. If the accident or spill was the result of a malfunctioning truck, that may be the fault of its owner.
Sometimes a spill is directly related to who last handled the cargo. When hauling hazmat, the truckers themselves might not interact with product. It is handled only by those who load and unload it, and the driver simply transports it to a new location. If the loaders did a poor job of securing the cargo or the trailer doors, they can be held liable for a hazmat spill. Perhaps the driver or someone else handled these cargo last. If so, they might be the responsible party. Ask your attorney to investigate who, exactly, handled the cargo or the trailer. That party could be responsible for damages in a hazmat accident.
If you’ve been harmed by dangerous chemicals in a trucking accident, reach out to our office today. We may be able to take your case and help you seek compensation. Our number is 888-4-ZEN-LAW, and you can reach us online.