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Tanker Truck Accident Lawyers

Legally reviewed by: Jenna-Marie Cosme October 17, 2022
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Tanker trucks are large, heavy, and often filled with hazardous chemicals, and accidents involving these vehicles can be catastrophic. If you’ve been involved in a tanker truck crash, you have a number of legal options, and a free case evaluation can help you build the strongest case possible.

Worker performing a maintenance check on a tanker truck to avoid accident

Tanker trucks are commercial vehicles that are often tasked with carrying the fuel that helps keep our autos moving, from passenger vehicles to big rigs.

But like all other vehicles on the road, sometimes these large trucks are involved in an accident, and the hazardous materials they’re carrying can contribute to severe injuries and other tragic outcomes.

If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident involving one of these trucks, a tanker truck accident attorney can help you build a strong case and seek the compensation you deserve.

What Are Tanker Trucks?

Tanker trucks are one of the many types of semi-trucks on the road, but unlike the more common models that have a long, rectangular tractor-trailer, these vehicles typically have a cylindrical attachment.

That’s because tanker trucks are typically tasked with carrying liquid cargo, including food-grade liquids or other chemicals, though they sometimes also carry dry goods.

Generally, these trailers are made of aluminum, carbon steel, or stainless steel. Depending on the type of cargo they’re carrying, these cylindrical chambers can also be refrigerated, pressurized, or insulated.

Dangerous Cargo A Tanker Truck May Be Hauling

Tanker trucks have all of these specifications for a reason: They are commonly used to transport hazardous materials.

Most fuel trucks are tanker trucks, transporting gasoline, petroleum-based products like oil or tar, or other highly flammable or noxious chemicals, including acids and other corrosives. Some tanker trucks even carry radioactive materials.

These large trucks are also popular in the agricultural community, where they’re used to transport everything from fertilizer to more dangerous materials like ethanol, pesticides, and herbicides.

And many septic trucks are also tanker trucks, called on to transport raw sewage and waste. All of these toxic materials can make a car accident involving a tanker truck especially dangerous.

How Tanker Truck Accidents Occur

There are a number of common causes that can lead to tanker truck accidents.

Tanker truck drivers must go through vigorous training and earn several endorsements before being qualified to handle these commercial trucks. Yet truckers are still susceptible to scenarios like driver fatigue, distracted driving, or even more wanton cases, like driving under the influence.

Like vehicles on the road, tanker trucks can also have mechanical issues, including tire blowouts or faulty brakes. Since tanker trucks are so much heavier and more difficult to handle than passenger vehicles, a trucker may have a lot of trouble controlling the vehicle in these situations.

But these accidents are not always the fault of a truck driver — or even the tanker truck. It’s possible for the trucking company to improperly load these big rigs, which can throw off the balance of the truck and make them more difficult to handle.

And the behavior of other drivers and outside factors like weather and road conditions can also lead up to events that cause a tanker truck crash.

Why Are Tanker Truck Accidents Dangerous?

Tanker truck accidents are often considered more dangerous than other types of car accidents, for a number of reasons.

Cargo Spills

Whether they’re fuel trucks, septic trucks, or agricultural trucks, at the end of the day, all tanker trucks are cargo carriers. And an accident involving these vehicles can lead to a cargo spill.

Severity of these spills can vary, depending on the type and amount of cargo involved. But dry goods, like grains, can blow out and blind other drivers on the road, or make it easier to skid out.

And liquid or liquid gas cargo can cause their own sets of problems, including making the road slicker, corroding or gumming up the tires of other vehicles, and sending dangerous fumes into the air.

Explosions And Fires

Many of the dangerous chemicals these truck drivers must transport are also highly flammable. Gasoline, petroleum, and oil are common cargoes carried by tankers, which can go up in flames in the wake of an accident.

But other common cargo such as fertilizers, pesticides, or even food-grade chemicals can also burst into flame or even explode, especially in the case of a pressurized trailer getting punctured or ripped open.

Toxic Chemical Exposure

Many tanker trucks also carry very dangerous materials, including radioactive materials. In the case of an accident involving these trucks, chemical spills can spread toxic fumes in the air, and exposure to this or the chemical can lead to serious injuries.

What Are Your Legal Options After A Tanker Truck Accident?

If you’ve been injured after an accident with a tanker truck, there may be several legal avenues open to you.

Most truck accident victims pursue a personal injury case, which works to recover the costs of any injuries that may have occurred as a result of the accident.

It’s also possible to file a claim or negotiate a settlement with the insurance company representing the truck driver, trucking company, or any other liable parties in the case.

An experienced truck accident lawyer will be able to explain all of your legal options and help you build the strongest case possible, no matter which direction you decide to take.

Steps To Take After A Tanker Truck Crash

Regardless of which legal avenue you choose in the wake of a tanker truck accident, you’ll likely have to follow several important steps, to insure any case you or your personal injury attorney file will be as strong as possible.

1. Gather Details

Gathering details covers a lot of ground. This could include all documentation related to the crash, or any subsequent medical treatments or vehicle repairs.

You or the law firm representing your case will most likely need to acquire:

  • The police report
  • Photos of the accident scene
  • Photos of any personal injuries
  • Dates of any doctor’s appointments
  • Written testimony from any doctors you’ve seen
  • Bills related to any medical treatments or medications
  • Any claims filed with your insurance company
  • Damage estimates related to your vehicle
  • Bills related to vehicle repairs
  • Bills related to alternative forms of transportation

These are just some of the details that will come into play. But a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer will help ensure you gather all the documents you need.

2. Consult A Truck Accident Attorney

While it’s not technically required to have legal representation in these types of cases, it’s highly recommended, as legal procedures can be complicated and emotionally exhausting.

With years of experience on their side, a seasoned attorney will be able to ensure you have everything you need to make the best case possible, and ensure that the process goes as smoothly as it can.

3. File Your Injury Claim

Once you and your lawyer gather all the evidence and determine the details of your case, it will be time to file your claim.

This technical procedure involves the official filing of your case. Other parties involved will be notified that a claim has been made and be asked to respond.

4. Negotiate A Settlement Offer

A majority of these cases settle out of court, with lawyers on both sides able to reach a financial agreement that satisfies all parties.

Sometimes, opposing sides will fail to see eye-to-eye, however. In these cases, you have the opportunity to bring your claim to court, where the verdicts are returned by a judge or sometimes a jury.

What Factors Can Affect Your Truck Accident Claim?

There are a number of other factors that may impact your case, especially depending on where you file it.

Negligence And Negligence Laws

In order to file any type of legal claim after a tanker truck accident, you will need to prove negligence.

The principle of negligence states that any potentially liable party must be shown to have a “duty of care”. The case revolves around proving that they failed to uphold that duty, and the result led to real injuries, physical or otherwise.

But this principle is practiced differently across the states. Some states utilize an idea called comparative negligence, where the duties of each party involved are taken into account.

In these states, any negligence found on your behalf can impact the amount of damages you’re ultimately rewarded.

At-Fault Party

The number of at-fault parties can also potentially impact your claim.

An at-fault party is the person or persons directly responsible for causing the crash. Many tanker truck accidents will have multiple at-fault parties, including truckers and drivers of other passenger vehicles.

The insurance company of each party will have to be involved, which can impact the outcome of any negotiations.

Liable Party

Aside from those who are found to be directly at-fault for the accident, there may be additional liable parties involved in your case.

Liability describes a broader involvement in the circumstances that helped create or lead up to the crash, meaning liable parties didn’t have to be on the scene.

The definition opens up potential players to everything from a trucking company that improperly loaded the vehicle or trained their employees to a local government, if unsafe road conditions were at play.

Statute Of Limitations

The statute of limitations is how long you have after an accident to file your case. It can range drastically from state to state, spanning anywhere from several months to several years.

Still, regardless of your specific state’s laws, it’s highly encouraged to file an accident claim as quickly as possible, to ensure the best evidence can be gathered and make the strongest case possible.

At-Fault Laws

While at-fault parties describe who caused a crash, at-fault laws dictate who is responsible for paying for the incident.

Some states follow at-fault laws, which say the driver found at fault for an accident, or their insurance company, is responsible for covering any expenses connected to the crash.

In no-fault states, every driver must have something called Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. This policy typically covers any expenses related to a crash that the driver is involved in, regardless of who is found at fault.

But it’s also possible for drivers in no-fault states to seek compensation for any costs that exceed their PIP coverage limits.

What Types Of Damages Can You Claim In Truck Accident Cases?

The compensation you can receive in these cases is referred to as damages, and they account for any costs that may have been incurred, whether they be financial, physical, or emotional.

Medical Bills

Medical expenses are one of the most common types of damages to calculate in these cases.

They cover the cost of medical treatment required as a result of the crash, including:

  • Ambulance rides
  • Rides to and from the hospital
  • Surgery and hospitalization costs
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Doctor visits
  • Costs for at-home medical care
  • Therapy or rehabilitation bills
  • Medical devices

Lost Wages

This damage accounts for any income the accident may have prevented you from earning, including:

  • Salary
  • Bonuses
  • Promotions
  • Lost accounts

If you were unable to return to your job or the same line of work because of injuries sustained in a crash, you may be entitled to compensation.

Pain And Suffering

These types of damages cover any suffering you may have felt after a crash, including that caused by:

  • Physical pain
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of the companionship of a spouse or partner
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Wrongful Death

In the most tragic cases, you may be able to seek compensation for wrongful death.

These damages cover costs related to fatalities, including:

  • Funeral or burial expenses
  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of emotional support
  • Loss of income or capacity to save money

Common Injuries In Truck Crashes

Due to the nature of their size and cargo, tanker truck accidents can unfortunately cause a number of catastrophic injuries.

Some of these include:

  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Disfigurement
  • Dismemberment
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
  • Traumatic brain injury and other head injuries

Tanker Truck Accident Rates In The United States

While there are many statistics available for trucking accidents, numbers that specifically track tanker truck rollovers or tanker truck accidents can be difficult to find.

Still, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) keeps tabs on “large truck” crashes, and reported more than 510,000 in 2019, including 4,479 fatal crashes, and approximately 114,000 that involved injuries.

FAQs

If you’ve been involved in a tanker truck crash, you may have additional questions about the scenario or your legal options. Find answers to common questions below.

Are Tanker Trucks Safe?

There are many factors that can make a tanker truck, or the act of driving one, very dangerous, including their potentially hazardous cargo and their greater likelihood to roll.

Drivers must undergo an enormous amount of training to qualify for the job, and, by and large, accidents are on the rare side.

Can Tanker Trucks Explode?

Yes. Due to their cargo and often-pressurized trailers, it is possible for a tanker truck to explode.

How Much Is The Average Settlement Offer For A Tanker Truck Accident Claim?

The average settlement depends on a number of factors, including where the claim was made and the details of the case. An experienced tanker truck attorney will help you determine the types of damages you can sue for.

Do You Have To Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer To File A Truck Accident Injury Claim?

While it’s not required to hire a personal lawyer for these cases, it’s highly recommended, due to the complexity of tanker truck crashes and the often-large number of at-fault parties involved.

Reach Out To Connect With The Best Tanker Truck Accident Lawyer In Your Area

If you or a loved one have been involved in a tanker truck crash, you may be entitled to compensation.

An experienced truck accident lawyer will help you build a strong case. LegalFinders can help you find a free consultation, and start working today on seeking compensation you deserve.

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