Railroads and trains are governed by different laws than common automobiles. Due to the sheer physics of such a large vehicle, when accidents occur, the damage tends to be severe. It can also be harder to prevent a train accident, at least on the part of the conductor.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) sets the guidelines for railroad safety. However, there is a margin of error that may occur in addition to habitual human negligence. The FRA is also the organization that creates liability for the safety of train passengers. The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) protects railroad employees from injuries on the job or illnesses from exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Types of Train Accidents
Common types of train accidents include wrecks at railroad crossings, crashes involving the train with a car or truck, exposure to toxic chemicals and/or property damage via a train derailment, and mechanical failures. Derailment, train-on-person collisions and damage to property from a train are also in this category. Each of these scenarios presents significant damages to the environment, property, and of course the health and safety of anyone involved.
Who is Responsible?
Due to the complexities involved in determining responsibility for a railroad accident, experts may be needed to reconstruct and reenact the accident and scene of the accident. Based on expert testimony, liability and responsibility can then be determined. Some common causes of railroad accidents include conductor error, railway company negligence, mechanical errors, distracted pedestrians, negligent drivers, or an object sitting on the tracks. Negligently performed inspections or maintenance of a train or rails may also account for train accidents.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, several parties may be involved in your particular case. These may include:
- The Conductor. Similar to operators of big rig vehicles, train conductors are held to a higher standard of safety than drivers of passenger vehicles with strict safety protocols in place courtesy of the FRA. If a train accident occurs due to negligence on the part of the conductor, they may be held liable for damages as a result of a train accident.
- The Railway Company. Like any company which relies on profit, cutting corners and mere gross negligence are common risks. If a railway company chooses to set profit above the safety of its employees and the public who will have to cross railway lines, disasters can occur. It is the job of the railway company to regulate its employees and the machines they use.
- The Maintenance Provider. If a maintenance provider hired for inspection or repairs of a train or railway fails to do so sufficiently, due to provider error or plain negligence, and an accident occurs as a result, the maintenance provider can be held liable for damages.
- The Parts Manufacturer. If a manufacturer or retailer of defective train or railway parts or parts on a vehicle stalled on a railway contributes to a train accident, the parts manufacturer may be held liable for resulting damages.
- A Pedestrian. In cases where a pedestrian steps or jumps in front of a moving train and is injured or killed as a result, that pedestrian may share partial or full liability with the railway depending on whether adequate warning devices were in place to prevent such an occurrence.
- The Driver. If the driver of a vehicle moves onto the tracks due to the driver’s negligent operation or incapacitation, they may be held liable for their own damages if a train accident occurs as a result.
Do You Have a Claim?
Depending on the nature of your injuries due to a railroad accident, your lawyer may identify possible claims for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lifecare expenses
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
- Funeral expenses
Hiring an Attorney
The railway industry has its own sets of rules, regulations and laws. It is important to find a personal injury attorney that has experience in this category so they can best represent you. This attorney’s experience is more important than their geographic location, so choose the right lawyer, not just one that is near you.