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Florida Truck Accident Lawyer Explains Why Hazmat Truck Accidents Are So Dangerous

12/17/2021
Trucking Accidents
BY

Large commercial trucks carry a wide variety of cargo, including construction materials, all manner of produce, and even motor vehicles. When one of these huge, 80,000 lb. vehicles is involved in an accident on the roadway, it may result in substantial consequences, particularly to the occupants of the passenger vehicle.

Yet, it gets worse. When a truck accident involves a big rig that is carrying hazardous materials, the results can be catastrophic. In addition to THE catastrophic injuries and fatalities that may occur, the hazardous materials can spill out onto the highway and expose drivers, passengers, those near the accident, and even entire communities to toxic fumes and corrosive chemicals.

A Florida truck accident lawyer ar Searcy Denney understands the dangers of hazmat truck collisions and the best ways to get you back on the road to recovery.

What is HAZMAT?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “HAZMAT is an abbreviation for “hazardous materials”—substances in quantities or forms that may pose a reasonable risk to health, property, or the environment. HAZMATs include such substances as toxic chemicals, fuels, nuclear waste products, and biological, chemical, and radiological agents. HAZMATs may be released as liquids, solids, gasses, or a combination or form of all three, including dust, fumes, gas, vapor, mist, and smoke.”

Types of Materials Transported by Hazmat Trucks

A hazmat truck, or tanker, carries liquid or gas cargo, or flammable or explosive solids. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets forth nine classes of hazardous materials. These classes should be marked by a visor card on all four sides of the vehicle transporting the substance:

  • Class 1: Explosives. This class includes anything that could create an explosion, become projectiles, blasting agents, or detonating devices.
  • Class 2: Gasses. Flammable and non-flammable compressed gas, including toxic gasses, are included within this category.
  • Class 3: Flammable Liquid. A flammable liquid could be gasoline, diesel or jet fuel, motor oil, kerosene, ethanol, and others.
  • Class 4: Flammable Solids and Spontaneously Combustible Materials. Sulfur, activated charcoal, aluminum powder, and magnesium are considered flammable solids, along with other household goods like sulfur. 
  • Class 5: Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides. These chemical compounds enhance the burning of other materials.
  • Class 6: Toxic Materials and Infectious Substances. Rat poison, for example, is toxic but not a gas or liquid. This class also includes infectious biological materials. An infectious biological substance is any pathogen that could cause disability or death if a human or animal is exposed. The most dangerous infectious substances for humans are Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Escherichia coli (verotoxigenic), Hepatitis B virus, Marburg virus, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. For animals, the most dangerous are the African swine fever virus, foot and mouth disease virus, and Sheep-pox virus.
  • Class 7: Radioactive Materials. A radioactive spill could affect the environment and nearby residents for years, decades, or centuries. Any material that’s considered radioactive requires special handling and management.
  • Class 8: Corrosive Materials. This class includes strong acid or base materials that can quickly burn and corrode.
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous. This is a catch-all for any substance that’s hazardous but doesn’t fall into any of the other categories. Lithium batteries are one example. Chances are you have lithium batteries in your home — they’re commonly found in mobile phones, cameras, and other consumer electronics. When handled correctly, they’re not a hazard. They generate a large amount of energy and are highly flammable and explosive under certain conditions. Dry ice forms carbon dioxide gas, which then lowers the percentage of oxygen in the air. That’s why, in some circumstances, it could actually cause a person to asphyxiate.

Why Are Hazmat Truck Accidents More Dangerous Than Typical Truck Accidents?

There are several reasons why hazmat truck accidents are more dangerous than other kinds of truck accidents, including:

  • A hazmat truck might be carrying various types of liquids that make the road slippery when spilled. Accidents happen in mere seconds, and if one car collides with a truck and the substance spills, other drivers in the area may easily lose control of their vehicles on the slippery pavement, thereby increasing the risk of a multi-vehicle pileup.
  • In most truck packs, solid goods being transported are well-placed and tightly tethered within the cargo area of the trailer. Even sudden maneuvers do not typically dislodge the cargo. However, if the truck has a tank filled with liquid, especially if it’s not completely filled, the liquid will slosh from side to side and may throw the truck off balance due to its shifting center of gravity. That increases the chances that the truck will be involved in a jackknife or rollover accident.
  • Exposure to toxins often results in injuries that are not immediately symptomatic. If you’ve been in a truck accident, you’re likely quick to evaluate any visible injury to yourself and your passengers, but if a toxic gas has been released into the air, that’s just as dangerous; and you can’t see it.

What Are Some Common Injuries Caused by Hazmat Truck Accidents?

When a victim of a truck accident comes into contact with hazardous chemicals, serious injuries are likely, including organ damage, skin burns, blindness, and even death if the chemicals are ingested. These are the types of injuries from which the victim may never recover. Severe chemical burns can cause disfigurement as well as many other health problems.

Truck accident injuries can be severe and life-changing. Many accidents between a passenger car and a big rig result in harm that includes traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, and a range of other medical conditions.

But when an accident involves a hazmat truck, a wide variety of additional injuries can occur.

  • Fires or Explosions. Substances like propane and gasoline can ignite and cause explosions or fires, resulting in up to third-degree burns over much of the body. Other people close to the explosions and fires, including first responders, are also at risk. Fires and explosions can emanate from both flammable liquids and flammable solids.
  • Airborne Substances. Once in the air, these substances can’t be contained. Depending on the wind and climate, the fumes can travel miles from the accident site. Exposure to toxic gas can lead to temporary skin and eye irritation, but also long-term and untreatable respiratory and neurological conditions.
  • Oxidizers and Organic Peroxides. These are chemical compounds that enhance the burning of other materials.
  • Radioactive Materials. The effects of a radioactive spill can be catastrophic and last for years, decades, and even centuries.
  • Corrosive materials: This category includes strong acid or base materials that can burn or corrode.
  • Miscellaneous materials: This includes hazardous substances that do not fall into any of the other categories. Lithium batteries are included in the category because they are highly flammable and explosive under certain conditions.

A Florida Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You Recover For Your Hazmat Truck Accident Injuries

Hazmat truck accidents are the most dangerous accidents on the road. We’ve all seen the news clips about entire communities being quarantined for days. The injuries sustained are just as serious. Seek immediate medical attention and then contact a Florida truck accident lawyer at Searcy Denney for your free consultation. We work entirely on a contingency fee basis, with no risk to you.

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