Commercial semi-trucks carry all kinds of cargo on our roads and highways every day, including materials that can be dangerous to transport. When one of these trucks is involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle, not only is there the sheer mismatch of forces between a 40-ton truck and a two-ton car, but the cargo itself can cause severe harm, too.
Here’s what you should know about truck accidents involving hazardous cargo, including crash statistics, what kinds of cargo to look out for, what kinds of health problems may result, and how you can get legal help if you’ve been hurt.
Trucks and Hazardous Cargo Crash Statistics
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) statistics show that there were 4,050 fatal truck accidents in 2015 and over 53,000 truck accidents involving injuries that year. Of trucks with hazardous cargo that were involved in accidents, 13 percent of crashes released some sort of hazardous cargo as a result. The most commonly-released material was flammable liquid, such as gasoline or fuel oil; in fatal crashes with hazardous material release, 67 percent involved flammable liquids. In non-fatal injury crashes with material release, 57 percent of the time it was flammable liquids.
Classifications of Hazardous Cargo
There are as many types of hazardous cargo as there are trucks on the road. Tanker trucks may be carrying dangerous liquids, but regular trailers may also be carrying different kinds of hazardous goods, too. Trucks carrying dangerous goods typically must show by law a diamond-shaped plaque that indicates how the cargo is classified. Some examples of the kinds of classifications of hazardous cargo that can cause injury to others in an accident may include:
- Class 1: Explosive materials.
- Class 2: Gases, especially flammable or hazardous ones.
- Class 3: Flammable or combustible liquids.
- Class 4: Solids that are flammable, combustive, or reactive in certain ways.
- Class 5: Oxidizing agents or organic peroxide chemicals.
- Class 6: Toxic poisons or chemicals poisonous to inhale.
- Class 7: Radioactive materials.
- Class 8: Corrosive chemicals.
- Class 9: Substances that are noxious, anesthetic, or otherwise don’t fit other classes.
Each classification of hazardous material may have a further sub-class that defines in greater detail the properties of the cargo and should also be displayed on the diamond plaque. This information is of critical use in an accident, so that first responders can quickly get an idea of what they’re facing and how to best help victims of a crash.
Risks of Hazardous Cargo Crashes
When a truck carrying any kind of hazardous material crashes, the lives of everyone on the road around the crash can be put at serious risk, including the lives of police and medical personnel responding to the accident. Some of the types of injuries that may occur include:
- Thermal (heat) burns from vehicle fires caused by flammable materials.
- Chemical burns caused by reactions with spilled acids, oxidizers, or other chemicals.
- Lung damage and breathing problems from inhalation of dangerous gases.
- Broken bones, or other slip-and-fall injuries from slippery spills.
- Extremely severe injuries from explosive materials.
Slick or slippery chemicals may also be a direct cause of an accident if the truck is leaking, as an oil or other substance spilled on the road may impair braking.
Get Legal Help Today
If you or someone you love has been hurt or killed in an accident with a truck that was carrying hazardous materials, you don’t have to fight alone to get the legal help that you need. Wayne Wright LLP is here to stand up for the rights of those who have been injured by the recklessness, carelessness, or negligence of trucking companies and drivers, and we would like to help you seek the compensation that you and your family may be owed in a court of law.
To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation about your accident with one of our experienced legal professionals, call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or just click the live chat box on this page right now.