How Do Railroad Accidents Happen?

Railroad accidents are not as frequent as other types of transportation accidents.  As a result, most people may not see them as a serious risk of injury.  While trains may be viewed as symbols of a bygone era, they are still actively used throughout the United States, often as trams, commuter trains, metros, and subways.  In fact, America is home to roughly 212,000 train crossings, 140,000 thousand miles of track, and more than 600 railroads according to the Federal Railroad Administration.  When trains are involved in accidents, especially those caused by negligence and human error, severe injuries and deaths can and do happen unfortunately.  If you are injured in a railway accident, obtaining full and fair financial compensation is rarely as straightforward as it should be because the at-fault party will not want to be held financially accountable and their insurance carrier will often attempt to do everything in its power to avoid paying.  If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a train accident, the experienced Norfolk railroad accident lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp may be able to help. Call us today to schedule a free consultation. 

Railroad Accident Statistics

  • A report published by the Federal Railroad Administration showed that 2,190 railroad accidents took place at crossings in 2023, resulting in 752 injuries and 248 deaths.  In that same year, there were also 736 fatal trespassing incidents. 
  • Every year, about 1,000 victims are killed in railroad accidents.
  • Over 50% of all train accidents take place at unprotected railroad crossings.
  • Over 80% of train crossings are not equipped with any warning mechanisms like gates and lights.
  • Vehicle occupants involved in collisions with trains are 40 times more likely to be killed than if they collided with another vehicle of similar size.
  • On average, a train transporting hazardous materials derails every two weeks somewhere in the United States.

Leading Causes of Railway Accidents

Although train accidents can happen for many reasons, most happen at crossings when vehicles attempt to drive ahead of an oncoming train.  Although each train accident case occurs under its own set of circumstances, common leading causes of railroad accidents in the United States are:

  • Human error
  • Negligence
  • Reckless drivers and pedestrians
  • Speeding
  • Mechanical failure
  • Derailments
  • Defective tracks
  • Stalled vehicles on the track
  • Unprotected crossings
  • Suicide

How is Liability Determined in a Norfolk Train Accident?

To accurately establish fault and compensation, the facts of a railroad accident need to be thoroughly examined. By virtue of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966, the Federal Railroad Administration is endowed with the responsibility and authority to facilitate and govern railroad safety regulations. Commuter rail lines and railway companies have a duty to uphold the standards of safety for the protection of their operators, passengers, other drivers, and, pedestrians. All trains are also required to be outfitted with a black box, which is an electronic device that records data to be reviewed should an accident happen. After an accident, the train’s black box should be collected immediately because it will contain important details, like the speed at which the train was traveling, that can help determine the cause of the accident.  The black box is often an essential piece of evidence in proving railroad negligence.

It is worth mentioning that not every train accident is the fault of the engineer or the rail company. There are often numerous factors at play in personal injury cases that arise from fatal or serious train accidents. This is just one of the reasons why it is important to work with a knowledgeable Norfolk railroad accident lawyer who has years of experience litigating railroad accidents.  

Were You Injured in a Railroad Accident?

Trains are not inherently unsafe. Operators are put through training courses and only those who fulfill the necessary requirements should be hired.  The Federal Railroad Administration works closely with state inspectors in order to ensure that all facilities and tracks nationwide are safe to use and modernized in accordance with the latest safety regulations. If you or a loved one was injured in a railroad accident due to another person’s negligence, contact a Norfolk railroad accident lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp as soon as possible. We can perform an investigation and gather statements, documents, and other evidence to evaluate the strength of your claim and attempt to maximize your financial recovery.  Using these methods, we obtained a $60 million settlement for a man who sustained a permanent brain injury after a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into the gas station where he was working. To schedule your free case evaluation, call (833) 997-1774 or fill out our quick online contact form. Our offices are in Norfolk, Hampton, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Suffolk, and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. 


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