Understanding The Serious Public Safety Risks of Train Derailments For Railroad Workers And The Community in General

Injuries resulting from a train derailment can be devastating. Fallen cars, broken glass, and moving objects affected by speed and force are just a few safety hazards for both general public and railroad workers. Injury risks may compound even after the derailment, due to  collisions with a second train, fires, and dangers to pedestrians. In most cases, the reasons for a railroad derailment may relate to electronic signals and mechanical failures.

Effects of a Train Crash

A train derails when the train runs off its rail. It doesn’t need to completely leave its track. Furthermore, regardless of its severity, individuals on the train and railroad employees face potential safety and health hazards. Also, all operation is disrupted or suspended until the underlying issue can be resolved,  affecting other passengers.

The passengers and crew face significant risks of serious physical injury in a train derailment. The surrounding population and environment are at a high risk if the train is carrying hazardous material. The toxic material can easily be released in the environment polluting both air and ground.

The majority of train derailments are the result of mechanical failures or operational errors. There have been instances when trains have been derailed deliberately to prevent or avoid a more serious accident and collision. Special field agents with the FRA or Federal Railroad Administration investigate the cause of train accidents, often along with local law enforcement personnel.

Investigation for train derailments resulting in numerous fatalities and catastrophic injuries are taken over by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB is a federal agency and has authority over FRA investigations.

If the cause of the railroad derailment or accident investigation shows negligence, a skilled railroad personal injury attorney can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party for obtaining compensation to cover lost income, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Railroad employees and their families can seek compensation from the railroad company by filing a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Other non-employees often can file a common law negligence action against a railroad or another responsible third party.

Reasons for Train Derailment

All causes for train derailments can be grouped under two broad categories – maintenance neglect and operational errors (human error). Train accidents are almost always preventable because of the nature of these causes.

Maintenance Errors

Maintenance errors can be in relation to the train or the track. Track defects and improper maintenance forms the second leading cause of train derailments and accidents. Stretched or broken rails, improper welds, and maintenance of the ballast on bridges and other areas can cause derailments. This happens because these deficiencies will affect the train’s gauge, alignment, and elevation.

Devastating wrecks can also occur if the train is not regularly or properly maintained against possible defects, which is why federal law requires detailed regular inspections. Extreme weather conditions, and signal and communication errors can contribute to train derailments.

Operational Errors

Human or operational errors occur when the crew or managers are negligent. Negligence, with respect to the engineer, can be in the form of being distracted by a phone call, speeding, or using alcohol or drugs while operating the train. Speeding is a primary cause of many train accidents. The crew can be deemed negligent if they fail to follow safety precautions, if they switch tracks improperly, or if a prior train crew negligently leaves standing train cars in unsafe positions.

Fault of Railroad Companies

Railroad injuries are typically caused by the failure of railroad companies to abide by industry standards. This includes FELA standards, regulations, laws, and safety. Every corporation is responsible for the actions of its employees.

Negligent conduct by railroad companies includes:

  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Failure to maintain railroad crossings
  • Forcing employee overtime creating inattention and drowsiness
  • Improper use of railroad equipment
  • Failing to perform safety inspections

Hiring a Resourceful Railroad Injury Attorney

Train collision and derailment analysis requires an experienced and skilled railroad attorneys who evaluate two major areas: reasons for a collision/derailment and the severity of injuries. The train/railroad accident attorney has in-depth knowledge of railroad industry standards, detailed federal railroad regulations, and laws surrounding the railroad industry. Railroad attorneys for injured persons look at what happened with reference to the industry rules, laws, and standards. Skilled railroad attorney can prove negligence or negligence per se by establishing a breach of industry or regulatory standards.

The next area a skilled railroad attorney proves invaluable is in calculating the accurate value of a claim by analyzing the severity and nature of the injuries. Railroad companies fight paying fair compensation every step of the way. Railroad collision and derailment claims are relatively expensive to investigate compared to other motor vehicle accidents, and experts must be consulted in most cases. One thing is for sure, a railroad will likely pay more attention to an experienced railroad injury attorney than one that is perceived at being green. Our law firm provides free confidential consultations with regards to all types of railroad injury claims.

Talk to a Capable Railroad Injury Attorney Today

You will benefit from seeking legal representation if you find yourself to be the victim of a train derailment. The attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help you hold the negligent parties responsible whether you are a member of the community or an employee of the railroad company. To schedule your free consultation, call us at (833) 997-1774 or fill out this online contact form.