Who is Liable When a Car Accident Results in a Chemical Spill?
Last week’s chlorine leak on Chinaberry Lane was a wake-up call. Hazardous chemicals are regularly transported on roads and highways across the state, often on large trucks equipped with specially designed container tanks. An accident involving one of these vehicles could cause a major chemical spill. Depending on how the accident happened, you could be responsible for the crash and the subsequent clean-up efforts.
Cleaning up after a chemical spill is often a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. As such, being held responsible for the crash and spill could spell financial ruin. While you must drive with reasonable safety on the road, so does the driver transporting the chemicals. It is very possible that the other driver caused the crash or failed to properly secure the chemicals, leading to the spill. The company or entity transporting the chemicals is often responsible for the clean-up, although government and environmental agencies might get involved if the spill is severe. The chemical company could sue you for damages, including the cost of cleaning up the chemicals. You must speak with a lawyer immediately to protect yourself.
Table of Contents
- Understanding Responsibility and Accountability
Understanding Responsibility and Accountability
Who is Responsible for Chemical Spills Caused by Car Accidents?
Responsibility for a chemical spill after a car accident is tricky. While one driver might be responsible for causing the crash, they might not necessarily be responsible for the chemical spill. Determining liability often requires an extensive investigation into the cause of the crash and help from a Naperville car accident lawyer. Often, liability hinges on whether proper protocols were taken by the company or entity transporting the chemicals.
Generally, the company or entity in charge of transporting the chemicals is responsible for making sure they arrive safely at their destination. In the event of a spill, the company is usually responsible for the clean-up process, although this does not mean they are legally liable for the crash or spill.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the party responsible for using, transporting, and storing a hazardous chemical is liable for all costs associated with clean-up after a roadside spill. In addition, the responsible party also must pay for environmental damages related to the spill.
In many cases, an investigation reveals that the chemical company is indeed liable for the crash and spill. These companies have a big responsibility to make sure hazardous materials are safely secured during transportation. Even if they did not cause the crash, they might still be liable for the spill.
While the chemical company or the entity responsible for transporting and storing the chemicals may be initially liable for costs and damages from the spill, other drivers might also be responsible. For example, suppose a large tanker truck carrying hazardous liquid chemicals runs off the road and spills its cargo because another driver negligently cut them off in traffic. In such a case, the chemical company could sue the other driver and hold them liable for the costly clean-up and environmental damages.
If you were the other driver in an accident involving a chemical spill, you should be prepared for the other party to come after you in court. A car accident lawyer can help you prove that you did not cause the crash, and if you did not cause the crash, you should not be held liable for the resulting chemical spill.
Who Cleans Up After a Car Accident Causes a Chemical Spill?
While the company, entity, or agency transporting the chemicals is often expected and sometimes legally liable to clean up, they do not always do so. The party carrying the chemicals might try to evade responsibility and distance themselves from the accident without making any effort to clean up. Alternatively, the chemical company might not be equipped to handle a large-scale chemical clean-up, although they are legally expected to be prepared for such occasions.
Local, state, or even federal government agencies might take charge of clean-up efforts. Local law enforcement and emergency responders might be the first to arrive and take control of the scene. The state Department of Transportation might also step in and remove damaged vehicles from the road for the safety of other drivers. If a chemical spill is especially large and the chemical company cannot contain it alone, state or federal environmental agencies might assist with clean-up efforts.
How Liability for Chemical Spill After Car Accidents is Determined
If you were involved in a car accident that caused a chemical spill, you should not expect a bill in the mail any time soon. Other agencies and groups often take immediate charge of the situation for the sake of everyone’s safety, and they usually cover the costs. However, you should expect an in-depth investigation, and there is a good chance the other party will try to pin the blame on you and pass their expenses on to you.
Even if you caused the crash, the chemical spill might still be the other party’s fault. For example, the chemical company might not have properly secured the chemicals to the truck or tanker. Perhaps they failed to respond to the accident promptly, negligently allowing the spill to spread and cause additional environmental damage.
What to Do if You Are Involved in a Car Accident Involving a Chemical Spill
Call a Naperville car accident lawyer immediately if you are involved in a chemical spill caused by a car accident. Even if you are almost certain you are not at fault for the accident, the other party might try to manipulate the situation in their favor and throw you under the proverbial bus. The costs of even a minor chemical clean-up are staggering and would likely bankrupt the average person. Your attorney can help you make sure the company or entity transporting the chemicals is held responsible for their negligence.