Most people have no idea that hazardous material enters Atlanta or passes our city on a daily basis. Trucks transporting nuclear waste, explosives, and dangerous gasses drive right alongside your vehicle on I-75, and some of these trucks pull into the city to offload hazardous materials like dynamite, fireworks, and chemical fertilizers. You probably can’t even tell these trucks apart from regular tankers that transport fuel or other materials.
Unfortunately, a collision with one of these trucks is incredibly dangerous because hazardous materials can escape. Any motorist struck by the tanker can suffer serious injuries from the force of the collision alone. But there is also a risk that you will inhale or ingest toxic chemicals or suffer a chemical burn. Please contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys today if you’ve been in a crash involving a truck that was hauling hazardous materials. One of our Atlanta truck accident lawyers can discuss what steps to take to preserve your rights to compensation.
Transportation of Hazardous Materials
The federal government has taken primary responsibility for regulating the transportation of all hazardous materials, called “hazmat.” They have divided hazardous materials into 9 classes, including explosives (such as dynamite) and gasses, as well as radioactive fuels and miscellaneous items like lithium batteries.
Other hazardous materials include ammonium nitrate fertilizers, arsenic, and even COVID-19 test samples. Tons of hazardous materials are transported every day of the week.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) creates regulations to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials. They can:
- Issue rules and regulations for the transportation of hazardous materials;
- Issue, renew, modify, or terminate special permits; and
- Maintain and review incident reports and other critical records.
Truckers Need Special Permission to Haul
Because this is dangerous work, a trucker needs a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) on their CDL before they can begin hauling these dangerous substances. Georgia has a Hazardous Materials Threat Assessment Program which conducts a threat assessment on anyone seeking to obtain or renew an endorsement.
Some criminal offenses disqualify a person from obtaining an HME, such as unlawfully selling or using explosives or treason. Other offenses like arson, robbery, or bribery will temporarily prevent an applicant from obtaining an HME for several years.
Steps to Take after an Accident Involving a Chemical Spill
Tankers are very large and incredibly heavy if they are full. They can cause devastating damage to your car and probably leave you with painful personal injuries. Some motorists cannot do anything but cry out in pain and hope that someone calls an ambulance.
Nonetheless, there are certain steps to take following a hazmat accident. We recommend:
- Call 911 to report the accident. Tell them whether you were involved in a crash with a tanker. Also report whether you see chemicals spilling out of the truck or plumes of smoke released into the air. This is an emergency which could impact people living in the nearby community, and officials need to respond quickly.
- Move away from the tanker, if possible. Some material could catch on fire or even explode. You should remove yourself from the immediate proximity, but don’t leave the scene until the police show up.
- Help anyone who needs immediate medical attention. Some hazardous materials can cause dizziness if inhaled, along with breathing problems. You might also suffer a burn from chemicals coming into contact with your skin. Assist anyone at the scene who needs help.
- Document the accident from a distance. This is tricky, because you don’t want to go near the truck and the hazardous materials. Still, try to take pictures of all vehicles involved to give your lawyer a general sense of where all vehicles ended up following the collision.
- Swap information with the truck driver. You want his name, license number, insurance information, and employer information.
- Head to the hospital when you are done talking with the police officer. Tell them about the accident and mention the chemical spill. Toxic exposure can produce symptoms weeks or months later. Listen to what symptoms your doctor tells you to pay attention to.
Why You Should Work with an Attorney
Accidents involving hazardous materials are complex for several reasons. One is that your medical problems might take months or years to materialize. If you were exposed to a toxic substance, you might develop cancer later.
Trucking companies want to settle cases quickly and for very little compensation. You need to be careful about accepting a settlement that looks generous at first blush. Does it provide for medical care in the future if you come down sick due to exposure? Or is it only covering your past medical expenses?
Our Atlanta truck accident lawyers think about these future expenses. We are prepared to negotiate for fair compensation when you are involved in a hazardous materials accident. For example, we can seek compensation for:
- Past and present medical bills to treat your injuries. Our clients often need time in the hospital, medication, wheelchairs, and rehabilitation services to fully heal.
- Future medical bills to treat your injuries. Any contact with hazardous materials could result in needing more care down the road, including future surgery or chemotherapy.
- Past, present, and future lost income. You might not be able to work due to your injuries and illness.
- Past, present, and future pain and suffering. A settlement should do more than cover out-of-pocket expenses. Get a fair amount for intangible losses like pain and emotional distress.
- Damage to your vehicle and other property. Tankers can destroy a smaller car, which will need extensive repairs if it isn’t already totaled.
We can also submit your claim to the trucking company, which usually bears ultimate responsibility for the crash. These companies try to avoid paying anything or admitting any liability. They might also be struggling with negative media attention due to the toxic release.
Our Atlanta Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help
Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys has helped dozens of people hurt in truck accidents, and we can shepherd your case through the legal process. Reach out to our firm to schedule a consultation by calling (404) 529-3476.