After a Spill: Blame vs. Liability

An environmental release resulting from a vehicle accident or a spill at a fixed facility requiring emergency cleanup can set off a complicated and potentially expensive chain of events for the spill generator. Laws defining liability provide that a party involved in an activity is legally responsible for damages resulting from that activity, regardless of who is at fault, explains Tom Moses, president and founder of Spill Center, a leading nationwide specialist in spill support and environmental claims management.

“The key to protecting against damages resulting from fuel spills and other releases is two-fold: understanding the potential liability associated with the company’s activities and being adequately prepared to control costs and mitigate damages,” relates Tom, an environmental attorney and former US EPA toxicologist.

“A transporter activity creates legal responsibility, as does a shipping activity or a construction activity – regardless of who is at fault for the spill. And it should be remembered that the spill generator’s responsibility does not end once the contaminated soil and materials are hauled away,” he observes. The company also needs to make sure that it is dealing with reputable cleanup contractors.

“Having someone knowledgeable on the team when it comes to spill mitigation and the legal consequences that can result from an environmental release can prove invaluable,” notes Tom, who holds a certificate in Hazardous Materials Control and Emergency Response from Georgia Institute of Technology and is a member of the American Chemical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Environmental Law Institute.

Tom advises clients to report any spill of diesel fuel, hazmat and other regulated materials, even when the release might not meet the particular jurisdiction’s reportable quantity regulations. “All applicable reporting and cleanup requirements must be strictly followed or the spill generator likely will have to face the consequences – which can be very costly,” he says.

“Truck accidents with spills of diesel fuel or hazmat require a prompt and efficient response to contain the costs and limit potential liability associated with these environmental releases. Penalties for failure to comply with regulatory reporting requirements can be severe,” continues Tom. “The best way to protect against spill-related fines and third-party claims is to be prepared for spills before they happen. Creating a detailed contingency plan is the best first line of defense. It acts as a road map to direct your response to spills, whenever and wherever they may occur.

This information is provided by Spill Center®, a leading nationwide spill-support specialist and environmental claims management company. With more than 20 years experience assessing and managing environmental spills, Spill Center offers expertise in emergency response, investigation and remediation of accidental releases of hazmat and other regulated materials.

A comprehensive program, which includes assistance with spill reporting, is available to help clients deal with environmental releases swiftly and thoroughly to avoid trouble with the authorities.

To learn more about Spill Center spill support and environmental claims management services, visit; call Tom Moses directly at 978-568-1922, X222; or e-mail him at

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