Are hazmat drivers and carriers liable when accidents cause spills? Can individuals recover compensation for the property damage, personal injuries, and wrongful deaths that occur? Incidents involving hazardous materials occur at a rate of approximately four per day and can involve everything from diesel fuel and gasoline to ammonia and radioactive debris. Exposure to these toxic substances can cause serious injuries including cancer and neurological damage. Exposure can also cause wrongful deaths. In some cases, damage may not become apparent until years after the exposure.
As of November 2017, the US Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has recorded 463 incidents while cargo was stored during transit and 3,767 hazardous materials incidents that occurred while cargo was in transit. A further 3,213 incidents were reported while cargo was loaded and 6,988 were recorded while cargo was being unloaded. In total, one individual died, five individuals required hospitalization, and a further 91 required care without hospitalization.
There are nine different classes of hazardous materials. These include gases, flammable liquids, flammable solids, oxidizers, poisons, radioactive materials, corrosives, and a final "catch all" category of miscellaneous cargo that could pose a threat when released. When these materials are released in a hazmat accident, they can pose both an immediate and long-term risk to public health and safety.
Liability for a Hazmat related accident can fall upon the driver, their employer, or a third party whose actions contributed to or caused the accident. For example, a company overloading the vehicle that negatively changes the vehicle's center of gravity resulting in vehicle rollover during transport. Drivers and hazmat carriers can also be held liable for failing to maintain proper records and failing to conduct proper training for the material being transported. It is also possible to hold the transportation company, vehicle manufacturer, or mechanics liable for design defects or faulty maintenance that contributed to the accident.
Hazmat carriers are also responsible for cleaning up any spills or debris that is contaminated. These requirements vary depending on the cargo being transported and the environmental impact it can cause. When contamination occurs, it is possible to pursue claims against the carrier and any individuals or entities that neglect their obligations for cleanup and compliance. The FMCSR regulates all motor carriers and large trucking companies and requires them to follows specific minimum industry standards in the trucking industry.
Kansas law allows individuals to pursue personal injury claims for up to two years after an automobile accident occurs. Minors may have a longer period of time. If you do not file your case or settle it before the applicable statute of limitations expires, you automatically lose and are barred from recovery.
Acurate and detailed records are required when an accident involves potential exposure to hazardous materials. Many illnesses may not manifest immediately and accurate records are required that can link cancer, respiratory problems, neurological damage, etc. to the exposure. Individuals involved in a hazmat accident should be cautious about agreeing to a settlement that waives their right to pursue future claims related to a toxic exposure.
Brad Pistotnik Law represents clients who are involved in a hazmat accident in Kansas City, Hutchinson, Wichita, Russell, Kansas City, Salina, Colby, Hays, Great Bend, Liberal, Dodge City, Garden City, Wellington, Enid, Ponca City and elsewhere in Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois. Our team can help individuals pursue claims for personal injuries and protect their right to pursue future claims should a toxic exposure cause long-term health consequences that manifest years down the road.
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