Tanker Truck Accidents

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 What Are Tanker Trucks? What Makes Tanker Truck Accidents So Dangerous?

Truck accident lawsuits generally refer to vehicle accidents involving at least one large commercially operated truck. This can include vehicles such as:

  • Big rigs;
  • Semi trucks;
  • Delivery trucks;
  • Cargo trucks;
  • Tractor-trailer trucks;
  • Transport trucks; and
  • Other types of trucks, such as tanker trucks.

When referring to truck accidents, the implication includes larger commercial vehicles as opposed to pick-up trucks or SUVs. A typical commercial truck weighs more than 25 times the weight of a car. Because of the sheer size of the commercial truck, any accident with a large truck can be catastrophic.

Tanker trucks differ from other large trucks in that they are made up of a cylindrical tank, which is towed behind the cab of the truck. This tank often carries very dangerous cargo, such as gases. They may also transport:

  • Benign liquid substances, such as milk from dairy farms;
  • Liquid fuels, such as gasoline or diesel;
  • Gases as previously mentioned, such as nitrogen, propane, and other natural gases;
  • Toxic chemicals; 
  • Fertilizers; and
  • Non-potable water.

As previously mentioned, an accident with any sort of large truck is considered to be especially dangerous due to the sheer size of commercial trucks. Given the fact that tanker trucks often carry dangerous cargo, accidents with tanker trucks are considered to be especially dangerous.

What Are Common Causes of Tanker Truck Accidents? What Are Some Common Tanker Truck Accident Injuries? 

One of the leading causes of car accidents in general is negligence. In some cases, only one of the drivers involved in the accident is at fault. In others, multiple drivers may be responsible for the actions that caused the accident and any resulting injuries.

Negligence claims can be found in various situations. One of the most common examples of this would be when a driver does not stop to look both ways at a stop sign before proceeding. Another increasingly common example involves texting while driving instead of closely paying attention to the road.

Other examples for common causes of car accidents include, but may not be limited to:

  • Adverse weather conditions;
  • Defective vehicle or mechanical issues; 
  • Poor visibility due to factors other than inclement weather, such as trees blocking the view of the road for drivers; 
  • Driving under the influence (“DUI”);
  • Issues involving road signs or stop lights; 
  • Roadwork; and 
  • Various other unpredictable factors.

In addition to these common causes for vehicular accidents, there are multiple reasons for trucking accidents specifically. Some examples the most common reasons include:

  • The truck’s larger hood flew up, obscuring the view of the driver;
  • Inclement weather or poor road conditions that are especially troublesome to larger trucks;
  • Speeding, which is increasingly dangerous given a truck’s size and inability to stop as quickly as other vehicles;
  • Lane drifting;
  • Improper truck maneuvering; and
  • Driver fatigue.

In accidents caused by the truck’s driver, 87% of those accidents were due to driver fatigue. Trucking companies commonly push to have products arrive on time; often, this need is placed as priority over the driver’s safety. Because of the constant urgency to fulfill an order, different types of negligence may cause an accident.

Vehicle accidents often result in injuries to the parties involved in the accident. Some of the most common injuries associated with tanker truck accidents include:

  • Back and neck injuries, such as whiplash;
  • Various spinal cord injuries;
  • Head and brain injuries, such as a concussion;
  • Burns, the chance of which increases if the truck involved was a tanker truck carrying chemicals;
  • Amputation and/or disfigurement;
  • Internal injuries caused by airbag deployment, such as abdominal trauma;
  • Cuts, lacerations, and bruises; and
  • Broken bones.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Tanker Truck Accidents? 

Fault in a tanker truck accident is generally determined through police reports, eye witness statements, and accident scene reconstruction. Many large truck drivers use dashboard cameras, and some trucking companies require the use of such cameras. While these cameras do not do anything to actually prevent accidents, they are more likely to accurately show who is at fault in a truck accident.

Truck drivers may be held liable if the accident was intentional, or if the driver was an independent contractor; meaning, not an employee of the company for which they drive, while operating the truck. If the driver can prove the accident was unintentional, and they are an employee of a trucking company, the trucking company may be found liable instead.

Under the legal theory of Respondeat superior, employers are always held responsible for unintentional accidents caused by their employee. There are multiple reasons an accident can occur that could place liability on the trucking company:

  • Encouraging unsafe driving for the purposes of filling an order quickly;
  • Forcing drivers to be on the road beyond hours that are permitted under state and federal regulations;
  • Hiring drivers without conducting proper criminal background checks, drug or driving tests, or mental examinations; or
  • Failing to consistently conduct inspection, maintenance, or repairs to their fleet of trucks.

Are There Any Legal Remedies Available for a Tanker Truck Accident? 

The main legal theory of recovery is based on driver negligence. A person injured in a tanker truck accident must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant, such as the driver, truck company, business entity, etc, owed the plaintiff the duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care to avoid injury under the circumstances;
  • The defendant failed to exercise reasonable care; and
  • The defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care is what caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Truck accident cases can sometimes lead to a civil lawsuit for damages. Legal remedies in a truck accident usually consist of a monetary damages award. This requires the liable party to reimburse the victim for any losses associated with the accident injuries. A damages award consisting of reimbursements commonly include:

  • The costs associated with any resulting injuries such as hospital or physical therapy costs;  
  • Any damage that was done to the car or other property that insurance will not cover;
  • Lost wages or lost earning capacity; 
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress; and 
  • Additional criminal penalties, especially for cases involving drunk driving.  

If a death results from the collision, a wrongful death lawsuit could arise if the truck driver was grossly negligent. Finally, tanker truck accident lawsuits often involve heavy factual and legal analysis in order to determine which party is at fault. It can sometimes be difficult to tell which party was responsible for a truck accident; in most cases, the expert opinion of an attorney can assist in determining liability by recreating the scene. This may also result in a more accurate damages award that truly reflects legal liability for the accident. 

If there are multiple drivers who may be at fault for the injuries or damages resulting from the accident, some of the drivers could be excused from liability if a legal defense applies to their situation. The following are some of the most common examples of defenses:

  • Lack of Proof: If one of the elements of negligence is missing, or if there is not enough evidence to prove liability, this could be used as an affirmative defense to protect a driver from being held responsible;
  • Lack of Fault: Lack of fault as a defense may reduce the amount of damages that a defendant is liable for. This is accomplished by showing that the plaintiff was the one who actually caused the accident to happen;
  • Emergencies: If emergency conditions were present during the occurrence of the accident, stating this as a defense could potentially lead to dropping the case entirely. At the very least, it could result in a reduced sentence for the defendant;
  • Assumption of Risk: Assumption of risk can apply as a defense in cases involving the other driver knowing of a certain risk, and still acted regardless of the fact;
  • Contributory or Comparative Negligence: Some jurisdictions do not allow a plaintiff to recover damages if they contributed to their own injury. In other states, the damages may be reduced according to the percentage of fault attributed to each party involved in the accident;
  • Statute of Limitations Expired: A statute of limitations relates to a set time frame in which a plaintiff may file an action. This can be used as a defense if the plaintiff has failed to file within the necessary time period. Varying by state, most auto accidents generally have a time limit of anywhere from two to six years in which to file a claim;  
  • Involuntary Intoxication: If it can be shown that the defendant was intoxicated against their will and had no knowledge of it, which is what caused them to get into the auto accident, it could serve as a defense; and/or
  • Failure to Mitigate Damages: A defense which may be used when a plaintiff did not attempt to lessen any damages. An example of this would be if refused to seek medical attention, which led to more serious injuries.
  • Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help With a Tanker Truck Accident Lawsuit? 

    If you were involved in an accident with a tanker truck, you should immediately consult with a local personal injury lawyer. As state laws vary in terms of laws and statutes of limitation, a local and experienced personal injury attorney will be best suited to explaining to you how the laws of your state may affect your case. An experienced attorney will also ensure your legal rights are protected and will represent you in court as needed.

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