Liability in Truck Accidents With Hazardous Cargo

Aditi Mukherji, JD

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issues accident reports on a variety of truck accidents, including ones that involve cargo trucks carrying hazardous materials. Fortunately, the NTSB doesn’t indicate any recent occurrence of hazardous truck accidents in Illinois.

But if you get into a truck accident involving hazardous cargo, what kind of liability comes into play?

Here are three areas of liability a hazardous cargo truck accident may involve:

  1. Negligence per se. Truck drivers and their trucking carriers must follow the regulations set forth by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. In Illinois, truck drivers and their trucking carriers are also required by law to adhere to the Hazardous Material Transportation Act (HTMA), which provides requirements for the safe transportation of hazardous materials. You may be able to recover damages under the legal theory of negligence per se if you suffered harm:
    • From a violation the HMTA was designed to prevent,
    • You’re a member of the class of people meant to be protected by the statute (typically, the public), and
    • The violation of HMTA was the proximate cause of your injury.
  2. Negligent hiring or negligent training. Employers can face liability for truck injuries caused by employees when employers fail to ensure the truck drivers placed on the road are safe and qualified. An employer’s failure to conduct an adequate background check is one common way to prove negligent hiring. Other variations of employer negligence that may apply to a hazardous cargo case include negligent training, negligent retention, and negligent supervision.
  3. Shipper liability. In limited circumstances, the shipper of hazardous materials can be held legally responsible if injuries resulted from the truck’s cargo, especially if the shipper failed to advise the driver or the trucking company of the hazardous nature of material contained in the freight. Essentially, it comes down to the shipper’s duty to inform.

If you’ve been involved in a truck accident involving hazardous cargo, you may want to consult a truck accident attorney to explore your legal options.

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Liability in Truck Accidents With Hazardous Cargo