Not all motor vehicle accidents are the same. In fact, accidents involving large commercial trucks, or 18-wheelers, are usually much more devastating than simple automobile collisions. Add to that a commercial vehicle that is carrying hazardous cargo, and you may have a serious disaster on your hands. If you or someone you know has been involved in this type of accident, truck accident lawyers will be able to guide you through the litigation process so you can recover everything to which you are entitled.
What makes truck accidents different?
There are several factors that make litigating a truck accident case, unlike a simple auto accident case. First, there are various laws that apply specifically to trucks accidents, as well as, rules and regulations that govern truck drivers, trucking companies and how they operate. Also, the parties typically involved in truck accident cases are different. In many cases, there are more parties involved than simply the truck drivers.
A truck accident itself is typically different than a car collision. First, driving a semi is completely different from driving a car, simply because trucks are more sophisticated vehicles. The physical dynamics of what takes place during a truck accident are usually quite different as well, which ultimately means the injuries that are caused are more likely to be catastrophic.
Regulatory agencies that govern commercial vehicles
Truck accident lawyers are familiar with the various regulatory agencies that govern how commercial vehicles are maintained and operated on our roadways. Because of the serious nature of accidents involving these vehicles, regulations have been established to monitor and oversee the entire trucking industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, regulates both truck drivers and commercial trucks themselves. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) also institutes certain rules regarding general motor vehicle performance and safety.
Regulations that pertain to truck drivers
The FMCSA provides guidance and regulatory oversight on several different subjects. For instance, there are specific medical requirements that truck drivers must meet before they can operate a commercial truck. There are very specific regulations regarding the transportation of hazardous materials, which could potentially harm the public or the environment. There are also rules regarding how to safely secure cargo, which is especially important for trucks carrying loads that are not be contained inside a trailer.
Specific rules for trucks with hazardous cargo
Transporting hazardous cargo in the United States is regulated by the federal government. Some of the special rules these trucks are required to follow include:
- Identifying material as hazardous and placing appropriate signage on the truck to warn other drivers.
- Hazardous cargo must be properly handled, loaded and secured.
- Trucks carrying hazardous cargo are prohibited from traveling on certain roads where transportation of dangerous material is considered a public safety hazard.
- Truck drivers carrying hazardous materials must be educated on how to properly carry the cargo.
Examples of common types of hazardous cargo
Generally speaking, any materials that are extremely flammable, toxic, radioactive, explosive, reactive or corrosive are considered hazardous and are closely regulated. These materials include, but are not limited to:
- Fuel oil
- Display fireworks
- Blasting agents
- Explosive devices
- Flammable and non-flammable gases
- Poisonous and toxic gases
- Compressed gases
- Spontaneously combustibles
- Organic peroxides
- Infectious substances
- Radioactive materials and waste
- Battery fluid
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- Certain medicines
Who is responsible for collisions involving hazardous cargo?
While your first inclination will be to sue the driver of the truck hauling the hazardous cargo, that may not be the only source of liability. While the driver certainly may have been negligent in causing the crash, the trucking or shipping company could also be liable if the cargo was not properly loaded. Any company that may have been responsible for conducting routine inspections or maintenance may also be liable, depending on the situation.
Another consideration is the company who manufactured the cargo and packaged it, if there is reason to believe that the hazardous materials were not safely packaged, or if the cargo was hazardous but not identified as such when it was manufactured. A trucking company that hires drivers to carry their loads can also be held liable for the driver’s negligence, especially in cases where drivers are carrying hazardous cargo.
If you have questions regarding truck accidents or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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