Why Are Accidents Involving HAZMAT Trucks So Dangerous?

1.2 million daily hazardous material deliveries are made throughout the country by airplanes, railroads, trucks, and barges. Although most are delivered without incident, when they do occur, hazmat spills are dangerous and expensive. Additionally, over the past decade, traffic accidents involving hazardous materials trucks have consistently increased across the United States, causing severe consequences for both truck and passenger vehicle operators, and area residents, as well as excessive collateral damage. If you were injured in an accident involving a hazardous materials spill, a thorough investigation by an experienced Virginia Beach truck accident attorney will be needed to determine all liable parties. Contact the personal injury law firm of Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free consultation. 

What Are Hazardous Materials?

An industry-wide abbreviation for hazardous materials, the term HAZMAT is defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation as “All substances “capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce.”  Essentially, HAZMAT materials are those that are poisonous, flammable, or otherwise capable of causing serious damage when released into the environment or misused.  

To prevent catastrophic accidents, these materials are subject to stringent rules regarding their packaging, classification, storage, handling, and labeling when they are transported from one place to another.

Hazardous materials can be solids, liquids, or gases divided into nine distinct categories:   

  • Class 1: Explosives
  • Class 2: Gases
  • Class 3: Combustible Liquid and Flammable Liquid
  • Class 4: Dangerous When Wet, Spontaneously Combustible, and Flammable Solid
  • Class 5: Organic Peroxide and Oxidizer
  • Class 6: Poison and Poison Inhalation Hazard
  • Class 7: Radioactive
  • Class 8: Corrosive
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous

What Makes HAZMAT Vehicle Accidents So Dangerous?

Unlike most traffic collisions, accidents that involve hazardous materials vehicles often have long-lasting and widespread repercussions. While railroads certainly transport much larger quantities of these dangerous substances, the majority of fatal HAZMAT-involved accidents during the past 10 years have involved commercial trucks.

Collateral damage that is commonly caused by HAZMAT traffic accidents includes:

Explosions and Fires

Any traffic accident can result in severe injuries to those involved, including vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. When a tractor-trailer carrying flammable or toxic materials crashes or overturns, both the cargo and the fuel can quickly ignite, leading to a fast-spreading fire or a major explosion. This endangers anyone in the vicinity, including other drivers and emergency responders.

Danger to Workers and Residents

A serious hazmat explosion or spill could cause noxious substances to seep into local sewage and water systems, leading to serious illnesses and other long-range consequences for those who were near the crash site as well as those who live in the immediate area. 

Harm to the Environment

Harmful chemicals can impact the local environment in multiple ways, including harming local flora and fauna, as well as shorelines, rivers, lakes, and ponds. 

Increased Risk of Injuries 

Any accident involving a commercial truck is more likely to produce severe and catastrophic results than an accident involving passenger vehicles. Fully loaded, a tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds whereas the average car only weighs about 4,000 pounds. When one of these vehicles collides with the other, it is the occupants of the smaller automobile that are more likely to be injured or killed. When that tractor-trailer is hauling hazardous materials, that risk is compounded.  

What Types of Compensation Are Available for HAZMAT Accident Victims?

When calculating damages associated with your HAZMAT truck accident, your Virginia Beach truck accident attorney will consider both your current and anticipated expenses. HAZMAT truck accident victims are eligible to collect:

  • Economic damages: These cover any medical expenses incurred by the victim arising from the accident. They typically include current and projected medical bills, lost earnings, and reduced earning capacity. 
  • Non-economic damages: These damages serve as compensation for any emotional trauma caused by the HAZMAT accident, like pain and suffering and mental anguish.  

Even the best insurance policy is unlikely to cover every damage associated with a HAZMAT truck accident case. Trucking, leasing, and haulage companies will work to minimize your payout by disputing your claim in any way they can. Additionally, insurance companies and their policyholders often employ underhanded tactics that ultimately add to the expense and trauma caused by a HAZMAT trucking accident. 

Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

An accident involving a truck transporting hazardous materials can have serious consequences for the occupants of the smaller vehicle. The injuries most commonly sustained in these accidents can cause permanent disabilities and even death. At Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, our experienced Virginia Beach truck accident attorneys have been successfully advocating for the victims of all kinds of truck accidents since 1985, including the $2.4 million settlement we secured on behalf of the family of a client who was killed when the car in which he riding was clipped by a negligent truck driver. 

If you were injured in a HAZMAT or other commercial trucking accident, schedule a free case review with one of our skilled lawyers. Call (833) 997-1774 or complete our quick contact form. Our offices are located in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, and Portsmouth.