Train Accident Attorneys
No matter whether you’re riding a commuter train to work or negotiating railway crossings while driving your children to school, like millions of other Americans, you have contact with the railway system every day. It only takes one malfunctioning piece of equipment or a moment of negligence by a railroad employee to cause a catastrophic accident that could change your life or take the life of a loved one.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reported that between January and December of 2011, there were almost 2,000 train accidents that occurred nationwide—an increase from 2010. Of these, 155 involved straight collisions, while 1,442 involved derailments.
Regardless of where or how you were injured, it is vitally important that you do not hesitate to get the involvement of an experienced train accident lawyer that you can trust. It is important to keep in mind that a train accident claim can be complex and will rest entirely on several factors, including the intensity of the accident that occurred and the extent of the injuries that were sustained.
Injured individuals who are not railroad employees have the right to seek compensation for pain, suffering, and loss under federal law. In many cases, the railroad company’s insurance and legal counsel will attempt to negotiate a settlement—and, predictably, the railroad company’s experts will attempt to settle for as little money as possible. They are skilled negotiators who are well informed of the laws. You need skilled legal counsel that you can depend on to protect your interests and secure fair compensation for your suffering and loss.
Train Accident Facts
- There is a train collision or derailment every 1.5 hours.
- Trains carrying hazardous chemicals derail every 2 weeks.
- Railroads today are in dire need of updating and improvement.
- The FRA reports that 80% of railroad crossings do not provide adequate warnings.
- Train collisions involving pedestrians has increased over the last few years.
Passenger Train Accidents
Passenger rail service in the U.S. operates with few fatalities. There is, however, a significant number of serious injuries yearly. Many passengers are injured while not even on the train. Some injuries are a direct result of train derailments, collisions, or faulty equipment.
Common causes of railroad accidents as identified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) include:
- Defective or missing crossties
- Switches improperly lined
- Switch points worn or broken
- Failure to control shoving movement
- Failure to comply with restricted speeds
- Failure to apply sufficient hand brakes
- Switches damaged or out of adjustment
Many of these injuries occur on train company property while passengers are in the process of boarding or de-boarding. This is especially true on metropolitan transit rail lines where ridership is increasing. The opposite is being seen on long-distance passenger lines where ridership is decreasing. Therefore, it is vital that train operators and managers maintain a vigilance when it comes to the protection of their riders.
Collisions Involving Trains & Cars
Thousands of collisions involving trains and cars occur annually. Due to the massive size discrepancy between train cars and automobiles, such accidents are catastrophic. Instances of derailment and conductor negligence can quickly lead to accidents involving other vehicles on the road—and, when they do, the results often include serious injury or wrongful death. Usually, train accidents are the result of improper maintenance or excessive cargo loads that can easily lead to derailment or malfunction. Human error must be taken into account in these situations.
Train conductors and staff are just as susceptible to making mistakes as anyone else, but these mistakes have the potential to be fatal when they affect the operation of such a large vehicle.
Railroad crossings are often the sites of train-car collisions; however, no matter where the accident takes place, there will always be the need for legal address. Attorneys from our firm are here to help. We are dedicated to the practice of personal injury as it relates to railway accidents, and we want to help you seek compensation for any injury and loss that may have resulted from your collision. You can trust that we will work tirelessly in order to ensure that a strong case is built on your behalf. One that will effectively convey the totality of the situation and how your rights, safety and personal wellbeing were compromised during the accident.
A train accident of any nature will likely result in massive destruction. When it is an accident between two rail vehicles, the adverse consequences will likely be amplified even more. An accident between train cars involves the colliding of two engine-powered machines moving at full speed with little or no time to slow down. Add this to the massive weight and sheer force of each moving vehicle, and you have a disaster. This means that the likelihood of lessening the destruction caused by the impact of the hit will be little, and the likelihood of total destruction will be great.
Train-on-train accidents are different from other railroad mishaps in the fact that they almost always could have been avoided. The industry has taken great measures to ensure that safe operating procedures are in place. This means that when two trains collide, it is most likely the result of one or more acts of reckless or negligent behaviors being taken by a train operator or conductor. When officials fail to follow operating policies or choose to ignore safety laws, they are not attending to their job responsibilities as they should be. While these may be minor offenses in other business sectors, within the train industry they could very quickly become public hazards that might lead to a railway accident.
Train Accidents Involving Pedestrians
Perhaps those most at-risk of train accidents are pedestrians. This is primarily because individuals stand little chance of survival against a train car going full speed down the tracks. There have been many instances of train / pedestrian accidents that have resulted from a lack of proper railroad maintenance and supervision. It is a common assumption that the pedestrians who were hit and killed or injured by a train were purposeful acts of suicide; however, this is not always the case. In fact, many such incidents are purely accident.
Railroad crossings are the site of many train accidents—particularly those involving pedestrians. In many cases, this is the result of a conductor's failure to blow the train whistle in alert of its arrival. In other cases it could be due to a station's failure to properly employ professionals to maintain the order and safety of railroads. Even the derailment of a train car could quickly result in injury or death to nearby pedestrians.
It is not safe to assume that railroad accidents or train collisions will physically damage only passengers, employees, and train station workers. Often, passing persons are harmed during collisions as well.
Accidents Caused by Conductor Negligence
After a train accident takes place, the incident will most likely be under investigation by National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the train company, and possibly other state and local authorities. They will review the accident and potential causes, including the safety of the railroad and the train itself. In cases that come down to matters of conductor negligence, the investigation will become even more scrutinized by authorities. Train conductors are expected to abide by certain laws, provide quality service, and pay detailed attention to all of their surroundings. When they fail to do their job properly, they put hundreds of others at risk.
Examples of conductor negligence can include:
- Managing the train while intoxicated
- Driving on drugs or a prescription medication
- Talking on a cell phone or texting
- Any type of behavior that will take the conductor's full attention away from his or her job
If you were in a train accident caused by conductor negligence, do not wait another moment to consult with a train accident lawyer from Arnold & Itkin. At our office, we have experience in the area of train accident law and claims regarding the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
Accidents Caused by Excessive Cargo Load
Among the severest of train accident causes is that of excessively overloading the cargo on a train. This is because excessively overloaded train cars are difficult to control—making operation almost impossible in some cases. When cargo loads exceed their allotted weight limits, the lives of passengers become endangered. A train car that is too heavy could easily derail. It could just as easily it topple due to an inability to stay upright.
Too often, ineffective operation and maintenance can lead to serious issues. This is particularly true when improper maintenance is complicated by an overloaded train car. Perhaps one of the biggest problems that result from an overloaded train is that of derailment, which can quickly harm passengers, workers, and roadside travelers. The lives of others should never be put at risk due to negligent or reckless behavior.
If you have been injured in any type of train collision, especially one caused by excessive cargo overload, you should not hesitate to contact a train accident attorney as soon as possible.
It is the responsibility of railroad owners and operators to ensure that every possible measure is taken to both educate and warn the public of the inherent dangers that are associated with railroad properties. It is also their responsibility to take all possible measures to secure their rail yards, switching yards, rail right-o-ways, train bridges, and all other railroad property from both willful and innocent trespassers.
While railroad companies are responsible for securing their property, trespass fatality is the number one cause of all railroad-related deaths. To kids and teenagers, the world is a playground. They don’t know or care who owns a particular piece of property, all they know is that it looks like a great place to play. Furthermore, adults may take advantage of the rail right-of-way to jog, ride bikes, fish, and walk on or near railroad tracks daily, without realizing that they are trespassing and endangering their lives and the lives of train crews.
In 2006, the Federal Railroad Administration reported that trespass fatalities increased by 14.5%.
If you or a family member have been injured in an accident on railroad property, the railroad company may be found liable for the injury if they didn't take sufficient measures to secure their property from trespass. If so, then you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injury or loss. Arnold & Itkin LLP can offer you the support and legal guidance you need during the difficult time following a railway accident.
Improper Train Maintenance
In order for a train car to run properly, it must be adequately maintained.
This is a seemingly reasonable statement; however, it is not always one which is reasonably adhered. In fact, many train accidents are the direct result of failure to maintain train car vehicles in the ways necessary to ensure safety. In addition to seeing to it that all of all of a train's inner parts are in good working condition, train operators and the companies that run them are also responsible for the maintenance of several other systems related to the proper functioning of railway vehicles. Areas that require continual maintenance include the wheel lathe, the brake system, and even the facilities that train companies utilize to ensure that their cars are cleaned and stored safely.
Trains can pose a public hazard if they are not well maintained in a way that allows for the safety of passengers, workers, and nearby onlookers. This means that proper maintenance procedures must be taken at all times, including those times when a train is not actually on the tracks. For example, train cars are stabled in depots which need to be cleaned and serviced just as thoroughly and frequently as the train itself. Failure to properly wash depots and make sure they are free of any toxic hazards and/or materials is crucial to the operation of the train. Furthermore, a train's mechanical parts—right down to the toilette system—need to be cleaned, updated, and maintained constantly in order the ensure that defects in one area do not trickle into any other, thereby causing accidents of a catastrophic nature. Even fallen leaves on a railroad track could pose potential danger because they have the ability to damage train car wheels—a problem that could lead to derailment.
After you have been injured in a train accident, you have every right to question the causation of the accident. In fact, there is often good reason to believe that the seriousness of the accident could have been avoided had the proper maintenance procedures been taken. With the help of a train accident lawyer that can investigate the accident and determine what led to it, you stand to obtain a much more profitable case outcome.
What You Need to Know When Filing a Train Accident Claim
It is an unfortunate fact that hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of individuals are injured or killed every year in catastrophic train accidents. While there are many factors that can cause collisions and derailments, perhaps the most important thing to know after an accident is how to respond. Claims can be filed after any type of accident (train collisions included). Filing a claim could potentially help you acquire the compensation you need in order to recover after an accident—financially, medically, and emotionally.
However, this is can be a complex process and, as such, there are certain things you need to know before filing.
One of the most important aspects will be providing proof that your injuries resulted from the train accident. In any accident, there are time limitations that must be adhered to. Deciding to file a claim months or even years after an accident could greatly deter your chances of receiving compensation. Some of the most reliable sources of proof are police reports that document the accident and include your name in the documented information, eyewitnesses who can testify on your behalf, and medical evidence from your doctor.
A crucial part of a claim is the naming of the negligent party. Investigations can be done to determine the party at fault for the accident. In some cases there’s more than one liable party. Train operators and conductors are often the persons at fault; however, the train company as a whole could be responsible, as could the manufacturing company of defective train products. Therefore, it will be essential for you to obtain the legal representation of a train accident attorney in order to help you determine where the blame should be placed.
Keep in mind that insurance companies will not be eager to compensate you for your injuries, no matter how major or minor they may be. Insurance adjusters may use anything you tell them against you. Unfortunately, injured victims often innocently trust the insurance company with which they are working, only to be further hurt by a claims adjuster or other member of the company. Therefore, it is highly encouraged that you speak with an attorney before taking any action in your pursuit to file a claim on behalf of your injury.
Train Accident FAQ
If I'm Injured in a Collision, Who Can I Make a Claim Against?
Train collision claims can be made against any person or organization responsible for the collision, including:
- Track owner
- Train manufacturer
- Railroad company
- Railroad operator
- Light rail transit agencies
- City / state operator and administrators
If I Was Injured as a Railroad Employee, Can I Still Sue My Employer?
Yes. If you are an injured railroad employee, FELA allows you to seek damages from your employer if your injuries were sustained as a result of the railroad's negligence or its failure to comply with certain basic train safety standards.
What’s Required of a Train's Crew as They Approach a Public Grade Crossing?
Crew of a freight train must maintain a reasonable lookout and control over the vehicle as it approaches a railroad crossing. Depending on state and federal laws, they may have to decrease speed as a crossing nears, particularly in the presence of hazardous conditions.
What Is the Railroad's Responsibility for Grade Crossing Protection?
The installation of crossing protections are usually funded by state and federal governments, but once installed, it is usually the railroad's job to make sure they are well maintained. The railroad must also maintain adequate sight lines at crossings, clearing away obstructions as necessary.
What Are My Rights If I was Struck by a Train at a Railroad Crossing?
If you can demonstrate the crossing was negligently maintained or that the train operators were acting negligently, you may be able to bring a claim against the railroad company. You may also file a claim against any other person or entity whose negligence contributed to the collision.
Are There Safety Regulations That Control Railroad Crossings?
There and state and federal regulations in place that govern the safety of railroad crossings; however, safety devices such as lights, barriers, and audible warnings are not mandated for every railroad crossing. This determination is typically made by state regulatory agencies. It is interesting to note that only about 20% of railroad crossings in the United States employ warning lights and barriers.
Is It Okay to Walk, Jog, or Ride Bikes on Railroad Right of Ways?
No. Railroad right-of-ways are private property and are extremely dangerous.
What Is the Most Prevalent Cause of Non-Employee Railroad Fatalities?
The Federal Railroad Administration reported that in 2006, trespass fatalities, the #1 cause of all rail-related deaths, increased by 14.5% to 530. In addition to children playing near the tracks and on rail bridges, this includes those who jog, ride bikes, fish, and walk near or over tracks.
What Does the Term "Negligence" Mean? How Is It Applied to Train Accidents?
Negligence refers to blame assigned to an individual or entity that failed to exercise the level of responsible behavior required to prevent harm in a given circumstance. In the case of train accidents, negligence refers the behavior of railroad employees, management, operators, and owners that contribute to train accidents and resulting injury and death. Negligence in these circumstances is often determined at trial by a jury.
Who Is Responsible for Railroad Safety Regulations?
The Federal Railroad Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Department of Transportation share regulatory responsibility for railroad safety. Each state has regulatory bodies that regulate and inspect railroad operations in their state.
What Damages Are Recoverable in Train Collisions?
Recoverable damages can include the past and future medical bills and wage loss, pain, disability, and emotional suffering. If you are married, your uninjured spouse may also have a claim for loss of your services and companionship. In the unfortunate event of a fatal injury, surviving family members can file a claim for the deceased's lost income as well as the loss of care, support, services, society, and companionship.
Who Do I Contact If I Have Been Injured in a Train Accident?
If you have been injured in a train accident, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as quickly as possible. The wreckage of a train accident will only be preserved for a short time and sometimes those remains provide crucial clues as to the cause of the accident and the responsible party or parties. When you obtain representation from train accident attorneys like the team at Arnold & Itkin, we can work quickly to evaluate accident scenes, interview witnesses, examine grade crossings, and help determine liability before valuable evidence is lost or corrupted. Investigations such as these are often necessary to prove railroad accident claims, and most individuals do not have the time or resources necessary to properly examine evidence, particularly when attempting to recover from an injury. For that reason, the attorneys at Arnold & Itkin obtain expert consultants to help prove your claim as soon as we are hired, allowing you to focus on your recovery process. If you are considering filing a railroad injury claim, we can help. Contact our office today for a free consultation.
How Arnold & Itkin Can Fight for You
Companies are often reluctant to admit to liability in train accidents. Victims need qualified attorneys to make sure the train company bears responsibility for a catastrophic train accident and that the victims are fairly compensated. The operator of a train involved in an accident may be a government entity. Such operators may have successfully promoted the passage of tort claims act laws that affect train accidents. If this is the case, good legal assistance is imperative in order to negotiate the complex legal requirements of such cases.
At Arnold & Itkin, we have dedicated our careers to the protection and representation of personal injury victims throughout the country—throughout the world, for that matter. Train accidents are a big part of our practice. Our successful track record is representative of the dedication and personal care we devote to each and every one of our clients. We know how difficult the time following an accident can be, especially when it involves the operating systems of a train company, and we are committed to helping our clients through it.
We've taken the necessary steps to ensure we are up to date on all current laws regarding railway accidents, making us a force to be reckoned with when it comes to serious personal injury claims. Injury accidents are trying enough without the stress of figuring out how to pay for the legal services you need in order to address your case. For this reason, we have taken that element out of the mix. We work on a contingency fee basis, so if we cannot recover damages on your behalf then you won't owe us a thing. We are here to help with all of your needs, from professional support to legal guidance and anything else that might arise throughout your legal journey.
Filing an accident claim can be a complex process and your chances of obtaining the aid you need (and deserve) will greatly increase with the help of an attorney from our firm. Do not hesitate to contact a train accident lawyer from Arnold & Itkin to learn more about the ins and outs of filing a train accident claim.