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Important Information for Victims About Litigation Against Clean Harbors

After they're involved in a collision involving a commercial vehicle, many people make the mistake of thinking that obtaining compensation from the company responsible is just a simple matter of filing the right forms with its insurance company, collecting a settlement that makes them whole, and moving on with their lives. Unfortunately, things aren't quite that simple, because these large companies view the costs of paying settlements and judgements as just another item on their balance sheet, and one they have every incentive to minimize if they can.

This is particularly true when a company faces potentially massive liabilities from other sources, like the potential exposure of Clean Harbors subsidiary Safety-Kleen to civil litigation over its employees' exposure to benzene. Knowing that it may have to pay millions of dollars as a consequence of these suits, the company is likely to fight that much harder to avoid compensating you for the actual costs of their negligence. Dallas 18-wheeler accident attorney Michael Grossman explains.


Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What is Clean Harbors?
  • How many crashes involving injury has the company been involved in?
  • How could the potential costs of toxic tort claims against the company affect its approach to litigation?

Clean Harbors Quick Facts
Crash statistics courtesy the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

What is Clean Harbors?

Founded in 1980, Clean Harbors is the largest hazardous waste disposal company in North America, and controls its 21st largest private trucking fleet, with around 3,000 tanker trucks operated by around 2,000 drivers, which traveled more than 80 million miles in 2018. The company generated total revenues that year of almost $3 billion, with net income of $16.4 million.

Over the past two years, federal government data indicates the company's vehicles have been involved in 82 crashes, of which 31 have led to injuries. Fortunately, none of these collisions have involved fatalities. In fairness, these numbers don't tell us who was at fault for any of these wrecks. However, given the sheer numbers, it's highly likely that at least some number were the result of a company driver's negligence.

The significant costs these claims often exact are one of the main reasons that trucking companies fight so hard against victim's attempts to obtain compensation after a crash. This is especially true if the company already faces significant potential costs from other quarters, as with a Clean Harbors' subsidiary's potential exposure to claims related to benzene.

How Could Clean Harbors' Exposure to Benzene Claims Affect Your Case?

The average person involved in a commercial vehicle collision probably assumes that the only thing that matters to their case is the careless behavior of the semi-truck's driver or his employer. But there are plenty of facts beyond that which can also influence how a case proceeds.

One of these unexpected situations is a company's facing significant potential costs from other sources, like a sudden increase in fuel taxes. In the case of Clean Harbors, that other source may be a host of potentially expensive civil claims related to cancers allegedly caused by its employees' exposure to benzene.

While most people are now familiar with the massive tort actions involving asbestos and mesothelioma, there are many other substances, known as carcinogens, that can cause certain types of cancer in humans exposed to them for long enough time and at high enough doses. In the case of benzene, which Clean Harbors' recently acquired subsidiary Safety-Kleen uses in many of its products, those diseases include a particular type of leukemia and Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

While it's not clear exactly how much is being sought in these claims, or how successful they'll be, recent suits against other companies based on a similar cause of action have resulted in six-figure awards. Given that damages for benzene exposure are unlikely to be covered by most commercial liability insurance plans, this means Clean Harbors could be subject to substantial costs, even if not all of the suits filed are ultimately successful. Considering that the company's profit is only about $16 million, and many of these suits have settled for a third of that or more, they're likely to consider even the low end of the typical settlement or judgement amount a substantial threat to their current and future profitability.

You might expect that suits not related to collisions wouldn't have much bearing on your case. But we've seen how much resistance trucking companies put up against claims even when they're doing well. If they know that they're also facing the prospect of major additional costs from other quarters, it's likely to motivate them to fight back even more aggressively.

This can take a variety of forms, beginning even before you file suit in the case, with the company sending its representatives to the scene, where they can lean on witnesses, scoop up evidence, and have their vehicle moved away to repair any mechanical defects. But that's just the beginning.

Once you've notified the company of your intention to bring a case, they have a whole new set of tactics at their disposal for redirecting the blame onto you or your loved one. However obvious you may think the company's liability is, there's almost always some theory they can present that lets their driver off the hook. Even if the tanker drove your car off the road, they can try to claim your "faulty evasive maneuvers" were the real cause.

In addition to suggesting you were at fault for your own losses, we've often seen defense lawyers try to reduce the actual value of your losses by pointing to preexisting injuries or questioning the bonafides of your treating physicians. Unless you have a dedicated advocate in your corner, these tactics could greatly reduce the compensation you are able to obtain.

These strategies all rely on one assumption: that you won't be able to contest these arguments, and they'll undermine your case to a jury, despite not being based on the facts of what happened. Unfortunately, if you're attempting to handle your case on your own, that's exactly the position you're likely to be in.

But retaining an experienced semi-truck accident attorney will put you in control of the legal situation surrounding the crash. First and foremost, they'll be able to complete the necessary legal procedures to obtain all of the evidence needed to prove your case, which will otherwise remain out of your reach.

Second, with this evidence in hand, your attorney will be in a strong position to effectively rebut all of the strategies described above, spelling out for a jury exactly what actually took place in the crash, and why the negligence of the company's employee is to blame.

Make Sure Your Interests Are Protected With Help from Grossman Law Offices

Most people, and even plenty of attorneys, aren't prepared for the challenges of litigating against a well-resourced company that's highly motivated to fight back. If you want to put yourself in a strong position to obtain compensation that actually makes you whole, you need an experienced team on your side.

At Grossman Law Offices, we have almost thirty years of experience litigating cases against transportation companies, including private fleets, whose negligence has harmed our clients or their family members. That means there's very little the defense can send against us that we haven't seen and countered time and time again. And unlike some firms, we're always happy to explain the progress of your case and our strategy for success in plain English.

If you or a family member has been injured in a crash involving a Clean Harbors vehicle, please call (855) 326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help you. We're ready to hear from you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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