HazMat Truck Accident
Of all auto accidents, truck accidents are most likely to result in serious injury or death to their victims. This is due, in part, to the dangerous cargo trucks are often carrying. Hazardous materials (“HazMat”) is in fact so dangerous that federal, state, and local guidelines all closely regulate exactly how this material must be transported. Transportation companies that fail to meet these safety standards face both administrative penalties (such as fines and license suspensions) and civil liability for their negligence.
Truck accident victims who have been injured by the negligence of a truck driver or transportation company have the legal right to be compensated for all of the losses they have sustained. This can include financial, physical, and emotional losses. The experienced Atlanta truck accident attorneys at Slappey & Sadd fight for victims and their families to ensure that all of these losses are identified. They fight hard for fair settlement offers, and when insurance companies refuse to make them, our attorneys fight hard in court to prove our clients’ losses to a jury. Call 404.255.6677 to schedule your free consultation today.What is HazMat?
According to 49 CFR §171.8, hazardous material is defined as a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce, and has designated as hazardous under section 5103 of Federal hazardous materials transportation law (49 U.S.C. 5103). The term includes hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, marine pollutants, elevated temperature materials, materials designated as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Table (see 49 CFR 172.101), and materials that meet the defining criteria for hazard classes and divisions in part 173 of this subchapter.
This is a broad definition that applies to a wide variety of substances. It includes:
- Compressed, flammable gases (such as acetylene, ethylene, butane, hydrogen, methylamine, oxygen, sulfur, silicon and ammonia)
- Flammable liquids (such as spray finish, dip tanks, liquified petroleum gases)
- Explosives and blasting agents (such as dynamite, nitroglycerin, picric acid, black powder, blasting caps, and pyrotechnics)
- Certain rechargeable batteries
- Automotive oils and liquids
There are many other hazardous materials commonly found in homes and workplaces. The above list encompasses those products that are commonly transported on the roadways of Georgia. When these materials are transported on public roadways, all road users face the risk of being injured by them. This is why the law requires a heightened duty of care to be exercised by commercial drivers and transportation carriers.What Rules Protect Road Users From HazMat?
There are many different safety rules that apply to hazardous materials. In 2003, the Transportation Safety Administration issued a rule pursuant to the Patriot Act requiring background checks of commercial driver’s license holders who wished to retain their HazMat endorsement. This endorsement is required of any commercial driver crossing state lines whose cargo requires the use of a HazMat placard.
Placards are another safety requirement that many Georgians are familiar with from traveling our state highways and freeways. 49 CFR §172.504 sets forth requirements for placards that must be used on vehicles transporting hazardous materials. Section 502 also has stringent requirements to ensure that HazMat placards are clear. They may not, for example, be used in vehicles that are not transporting hazardous materials. Section 502 even prohibits signs, advertisements, and slogans that could be confused with a HazMat placard due to its color, design, shape or content.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also reports that safety training is required of all “HazMat employees.” A HazMat employee is a person who is employed by a hazmat employer (A person who uses one or more of its employees in connection with: transporting hazardous materials in commerce; causing hazardous materials to be transported or shipped in commerce; or representing, marking, certifying, selling, offering, manufacturing, reconditioning, testing, repairing or modifying containers, drums, or packaging as qualified in the transportation of hazardous materials), and who in the course of employment directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety. Training must consist of general awareness and familiarization, training specific to the employee’s function, safety training, and security training. New HazMat must receive initial training upon hiring, and recurrent training every three years thereafter.How Evidence of a HazMat Violation can Strengthen a Truck Accident Injury Case
Like all personal injury lawsuits, a truck accident case is based on allegations of negligence. The injury victim alleges that the driver and/or carrier (and other individuals or companies as appropriate) were negligent in the operation of the truck. For truck carrying HazMat, the duty of care extends to the duty to safely handle and transport the hazardous materials.
A jury can consider many different types of evidence in determining whether HazMat was handled safely. It may hear from the injury victim, truck driver, or other eyewitnesses. It may hear from expert witnesses (such as structural or chemical engineers) about the damage that was caused by the HazMat. All of this evidence will be considered so the jury can answer the question of whether or not the HazMat was handled with reasonable care. As you might imagine, evidence that a transportation company failed to meet its legal obligations under existing HazMat regulations often demonstrates negligence. This evidence is very often considered unfavorably by a jury. Though it does not definitively prove negligence, it helps an injury victim build a strong case against the defendant drivers, transportation companies, or other legal entities.Experienced Atlanta Truck Accident Attorneys who Know HazMat Law
HazMat can cause serious injuries - and even death - to the victims of truck accidents. It is important to hold negligent drivers and carriers accountable for these devastating injuries. With the advice of the experienced Atlanta truck accident attorneys at Slappy & Sadd, victims are better able to both prevent negligent driving in the future and access the full compensation to which they are entitled. Our attorneys have decades of knowledge and experience, and they have helped auto accident victims across Georgia access fair compensation for their injuries. Call 404.255.6677 to learn how our lawyers will fight for you.