Have You Been Injured in a Train Accident?
Seek Legal Advice from a Train Accident Lawyer
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. For example, a freight train traveling 50 miles per hour could take more than a mile to come to a complete stop, so if a person or car jumps in front of a train without notice, it’s unlikely the conductor will be able to stop the train in time, and the consequences can be fatal. Similarly, even if there was enough time for a conductor to become aware of a hazard on the rails and react, an accident could still occur if the conductor is distracted or negligent.
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. 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. Furthermore, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) protects railroad employees from injuries on the job or illnesses from exposure to hazardous chemicals.
What are the Statistics on Train Accidents?
Common train accident scenarios involve derailment, train-on-train collisions, train-on-car collisions, train-on-person collisions, and damage to property. Each of these scenarios presents significant damages to the environment, property, and of course the health and safety of anyone involved. Paying attention and exercising extra caution when approaching a train crossing is a good way to protect yourself against potential train accidents.
Let’s go over some important train-related accident statistics from the National Transportation Safety Bureau:
- A person or vehicle is hit by a train every 2 hours in the United States.
- Nearly 1,000 people are killed every year in train-related accidents.
- On average, every two weeks a train derailment leads to a chemical spill.
- Train accidents have been increasing in frequency in recent years.
- On average, there are 5,800 train crashes every year in the United States.
- The majority of train accidents occur at railroad crossings, and 80% of those crossings are lacking adequate warning devices.
- 75% of train-on-car collisions occur during the day, while at night 50% of the accidents involve cars running into trains.
- The technology used by most railroad companies is severely out of date.
Who is Responsible for a Train Accident?
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, be it incapacitation as the result of a DUI or DWAI, violation of traffic controls, fatigue, distraction, or another type of avoidable error, the conductor 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. If a conductor with a history of unsafe behavior is allowed to continue working, or if a train with suspected maintenance issues is sent out unrepaired, these are just two ways in which a railway company could be held liable for ensuing damages.
- 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 and/or retailer of defective train or railway parts or parts on a vehicle stalled on a railway contributes to or fully causes a train accident, the parts manufacturer may be held liable for any resulting damages.
- A pedestrian. In cases where a pedestrian either due to distraction or intention 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 truck or other vehicle moves onto the tracks due to the driver’s negligent operation or incapacitation as the result of DUI or DWAI, violation of warnings or traffic controls, falling asleep at the wheel, or has their attention diverted by distractions, they may be held partially or fully liable for their own damages if a train accident occurs as a result.
Do You Have a Claim for a Train Accident?
Depending on the nature of you or your family member’s injuries due to a train accident, your personal injury lawyer may identify possible claims for:
- Medical expenses. Injuries resulting from a train accident may include: whiplash; broken bones and/or fractures; head, neck or back trauma; spinal cord injury; loss of limbs; brain injury; disfigurement; burns; tissue trauma; internal bleeding; paralysis; and, in the worst case scenario, death.
- Lost wages (or impairment of earning capacity) as a result of hospital stay-time, or, for the loved one of a train accident victim, the necessity to temporarily or permanently extricate themselves from work in order to provide care.
- Lifecare expenses, such as life support or ongoing medical expenses for chronic injuries.
- Vocational rehabilitation.
- Pain and suffering, for both emotional and physical distress.
- Wrongful death.
- Funeral expenses.
If you were injured or a loved one was injured or killed in a train accident, you need a personal injury attorney that understands the emotional and physical toll these accidents take, and understands the complexities of these types of cases. An experienced attorney will be aggressive in seeking the compensation that you deserve.