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Causes of 18-wheeler Accidents: Hazardous materials in cargo (HAZMAT)

Hazardous Materials Can Impact Your Health For Years After an Accident

According to the United States Department of Transportation, there are more than 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials on the road at any given time. This agency also estimates that 200 of the 5,000 fatal truck accidents that occur each year in the United States involve hazardous materials shipments.

Generally, any material which is capable of causing thermal (heat) or chemical burns, respiratory distress and/or lung injury, or releasing ionizing radiation is classified as HAZMAT.

Specific examples of hazardous materials are:

  • Gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, and other petroleum products
  • Compressed gases such as compressed oxygen cylinders or propane
  • Cryogenic (super-cold) gases such as oxygen and helium
  • Gases and liquids used in manufacturing
  • Biomedical hazardous waste products
  • Waste products from toxic materials clean-up sites

Examples of Recent Accidents Involving Hazardous Materials

In August, 2016, a truck carrying propellants used in the manufacture of airbags for autos and light trucks exploded without warning after catching fire near Eagle Pass, Texas. The fire and explosion killed one and six others were injured. The explosion was so violent that it leveled a house that was over 300 feet away from the explosion.

In October, 2016, a 16-mile stretch of I-95 in North Carolina was shut down after 3 separate HAZMAT tractor-trailer accidents occurred within hours of each other. One accident required an evacuation of everyone within a 3-mile radius. The truck contained trichloroisocyanuric acid and calcium hypochlorite, both of which can produce respiratory distress in inhaled.

In November, 2016, an 18-wheeler carrying 1400 5-gallon propane tanks rolled over on an I-20 on-ramp near Arlington, Texas. All the tanks eventually exploded and the bridge over I-20 was shut down until Texas Department of Transportation inspectors could certify the bridge was safe for use.

Dangers Associated With HAZMAT Accidents

Although many HAZMAT accidents occur on highways, the dangers associated with HAZMAT shipments are not localized. Depending on the type of materials that may be a part of a HAZMAT shipment, even people and residences located miles away are subject to injury. If the material is a gas, and the gas escapes, it can travel miles downwind of an accident site and cause an injury when it is inhaled.

Damages from a HAZMAT accident need not cause an immediate injury. Many substances are either known or suspected of increased risks of cancer and other health problems. In some cases, chemicals can contaminate soil and water sources, making them unusable for months or even years to come.

Your Legal Right To Be Compensated for Injuries After a HAZMAT Accidents

Unlike other accidents where injuries are usually immediately obvious and a diagnosis with a prognosis can be made within a few days, HAZMAT accidents can involve exposure to substances that can cause diseases that might not cause an immediate problem. As an example, an accident that releases compounds that contain benzene in either a gaseous or liquid state can be taken into the body is amounts that are very difficult to detect but yet could cause cancer years later. If soil is contaminated, the contaminating chemical could be absorbed into plants that could them be eaten by food animals and thus render them unsafe for humans to eat.

If you or a family member were involved in an accident where you were possibly exposed to a leaking HAZMAT cargo, you should be aware that you have the right to a settlement that includes monitoring the status of your general health until the risks of exposure to that material has either passed or has been reduced to an acceptable risk level.

The only way that you can be sure that your right to be compensated for your injuries, both immediate and future, is to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer who has experience in dealing with HAZMAT transportation companies and HAZMAT accident victims. In fact, if you are being pressured into accepting a settlement, you are probably being asked to accept a settlement that is worth far less than the compensation you are entitled to. DO NOT sign any type of document or release until you talk with a lawyer that understands the extent of your injury and its future consequences.

Once again, if you were injured in an accident and you may have been exposed to a hazardous cargo as a result of that accident, you should retain the services of a personal injury lawyer to protect your legal right to compensation for your injury.

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