After Spill, Protect Yourself From Third-Party Lawsuits

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Spills of hazardous materials, diesel fuel and other regulated materials requiring environmental cleanup are subject to a maze of environmental regulations. They can also open up the spill generator to potential third-party lawsuits related to strict liability. Do you know the extent of your company’s exposure in the event of an environmental spill? Here is some information on liability based on our more than 20 years experience assessing and managing spills and environmental claims.

The laws defining strict liability hold that you are legally responsible because of who you are, not what you do. A transporter activity creates a legal responsibility, as does a shipper activity. Costs can be significant. By law, the spill generator is responsible to pay:

  • All damages and costs related to environmental impairment and waste disposal
  • Property damage and bodily injury arising from the spill
  • Fines and penalties for failing to comply with reporting regulations

The environmental and spill liability laws are written in such a way that no matter who causes the release, the party with care, custody and control of the material at the time of loss is legally responsible to respond, contain and report the spill, plus remediate the site and safely and legally dispose of contaminated soil and material.┬áIf you meet the statutory definition of a legally responsible party, then it doesn’t matter that the spill was the result of an accident, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.

Ready to Respond Quickly

The best way to limit your liability and contain your costs related to a spill is to be prepared to clean it up quickly and report it to the right agencies in the time required. That’s where Spill Center comes in. We are a spill management and reporting resource serving a broad range of clients since 1990. Our staff of environmental, technical and legal specialists is available 24/7 to provide expert answers to your questions and professional support when you need it most. A single call to Spill Center gets the ball rolling to contain your costs and limit your liability after an environmental spill.

To minimize your liability, document all activities after a spill, including efforts taken to contain and stop leaking materials and all regulatory reporting activities, to avoid being drawn into a pre-existing contamination problem as a responsible party. Drivers should write down everything they do after a spill to contain it. That driver’s log can be used to place the company in a legally defensible position against third-party claimants. Documenting that a release was separate in time, separate in nature, and was the subject of a separate and complete response and remediation will go a long way toward a successful defense.

Understanding the potential liability associated with your company’s activity and being adequately prepared to respond quickly to environmental spills arising from that activity will help minimize any liability. Spill Center can provide a safety cushion. If you aren’t already a client, we hope that you’ll check us out at our new website at or call me directly to discuss how we can assist your operation. Call me at 978-568-1922 X222 or email me at I look forward to hearing from you.