Truck Accidents and Hazardous Materials

Earlier this month, a Washington interstate was the scene of a truly bizarre trucking accident. A tractor-trailer carrying hundreds of bee hives turned over on the highway, unleashing 14 million bees into the air.

No one suffered serious injuries. The bees were being transported to pollinate crops. The story was picked up by dozens of media outlets across the country.

Are we here to tell you to be fearful of trucks carrying bees toppling over near you? No. This was an extremely rare case. The story does, however, serve as a reminder that you never know what the truck driving alongside you is shuttling down the interstate. Compared to a lot of cargo that is trucked across the country, millions of bees are harmless.

Right now, there are thousands of tractor trailers hauling lethally hazardous materials like gasoline and toxic chemicals. There are most certainly some of these trucks on the Georgia roads you and your family drive every day.

Truck accidents can be devastating enough. Add flammable, poisonous or explosive cargo to the mix, and it can be a recipe for a true catastrophe.

Police said the driver who was hauling the truck full of bees may have either fallen asleep at the wheel or was speeding at the time of the crash. This should serve as another reminder that it is up to you to drive safely near trucks. Just because cargo is dangerous doesn’t mean the driver is going to drive less recklessly. And even if a truck driver is driving safely, it does not mean the cargo on board can’t cause harm.

Close to Home

On Nov. 21, 2013, Wesley Mulligan was driving on U.S. 17 in Effingham County, about 250 miles west of Atlanta. It was a Thursday afternoon. Mulligan, 18, was on his way to pick up his sister from elementary school. Mulligan’s other siblings, Garrett Mulligan, 16, and Eli Hickox, 3, were in the car with him.

At an intersection, Wesley Mulligan crashed into a truck that was hauling 8,800 gallons of gasoline. The tanker truck exploded. Flames lit up the sky and smoke billowed in the air. The driver of the tractor trailer was not injured. Wesley Mulligan and his two brothers were killed.

The tragic crash was one of the worst trucking accidents Georgia has ever seen. Charges were not filed against the driver, as he was not suspected of negligence. The wreck illustrates in grim detail that even if a truck driver is driving safely, trucks carrying hazardous materials on our roads can still be deadly.

Rules for Trucks With Hazardous Cargo

Transporting hazardous cargo in the U.S. is regulated by the federal government. Some of the special rules these trucks must follow include:

  • Identifying material as hazardous and placing appropriate signage on the truck to warn other drivers. This often comes in the form of placards. Trucks must typically have placards warning of hazardous materials on all sides of the truck.
  • The 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.
  • Trucks with dangerous cargo cannot park within five feet of a public road.
  • Certain particularly hazardous types of cargo must be monitored at all times.
  • Truck drivers hauling hazardous materials are required to be educated on how to properly carry the cargo.

If you were involved in a truck accident and the truck driver failed to follow any of these regulations, you may be in line for compensation. There are many more rules trucking companies must follow. For more information, or if you think you have a case involving a truck that was hauling hazardous cargo, contact the attorneys at Fried Goldberg today.

Types of Hazardous Cargo

Materials that are extremely flammable, toxic, radioactive, explosive, reactive or corrosive are considered hazardous. These materials include, but are not limited to:

  • Fuel oil
  • Gasoline
  • Dynamite
  • Flares
  • Display fireworks
  • Ammunition
  • Blasting agents
  • Explosive devices
  • Flammable and non-flammable gases
  • Poisonous and toxic gases
  • Propane
  • Helium
  • Compressed gases
  • Spontaneously combustibles
  • Oxidizers
  • Organic peroxides
  • Infectious substances
  • Radioactive materials and waste
  • Battery fluid
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Certain medicines

Who is Responsible for Hazardous Cargo Crashes?

Your first thought is going to be the driver. But, while the truck driver’s negligence may have caused the crash, litigation against that driver is not your only option when it comes to seeking compensation.

The shipping or trucking company can be held liable if it did not properly load the cargo. Any company that performed maintenance on the truck could be found at least partly responsible if it did not properly maintain the vehicle. The company who manufactured the cargo and packaged it can be found liable if the materials were not safely packaged, or if the cargo was hazardous but not identified as such after it was manufactured.

The trucking company can also be held responsible for the driver’s errors. The company is supposed to safely train and prepare its drivers before they hit the road. Failing to do this is negligence, especially in cases where drivers are carrying potentially deadly cargo. A truck parts manufacturer can also be found liable if equipment on the truck defected or broke, causing the accident.

How We Can Help

When you or a loved one has been injured by a truck — whether it was carrying hazardous cargo or not — the team of attorneys at Fried, Rogers, Goldberg, LLC, is here to fight for you.

We literally wrote the book on truck accident law. No one is better prepared to take on your case with the same mix of experience, compassion and tenacity that secures our clients the substantial compensation they need to move forward in life.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, call us today at 877-591-1801 or contact us online. A consultation is always free and without obligation.

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