Train Accident Cases
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Cases involving train accidents and resulting injuries have a number of significant differences from other personal injury cases. By being aware of the following information, you can make a more informed decision about whether to pursue a train accident case.
Common Reasons for Train Accidents
There are a variety of reasons why train accidents occur. For example, the operator of the train may make a critical error. He or she may be tired or lack experience. He or she may be distracted. Such distractions can lead to train derailments or collisions with other vehicles, trains or people.
Another reason why a train accident may occur is due to defects. The tracks, roadbed or other structure may be to blame. The vehicle may sustain a catastrophic mechanical or electrical failure.
The design around the train’s route may also be to blame. For example, there may be an issue involving the crossing arms, signals or warning lights.
Common Carrier Laws
The first key distinction is that the train company may have a greater duty to its passengers than other types of defendants in personal injury cases. In a typical personal injury case, the defendant has the duty to act as a reasonably prudent person would have acted in a similar set of circumstances.
However, some states have imposed a greater duty on such common carriers. Common carriers include entities that provide transportation services to the public, including buses, trolleys, taxis and trains. In these states, the duty of the common carrier may be to act with the “highest degree of care” in order to safely transport the customer.
Although this threshold is lower to prove than duty under a typical personal injury case, you must still show that the train company was negligent. If the accident was caused by someone other than the railroad company, such as a negligent pedestrian or a stalled vehicle on the railway, the railroad company may not be a viable defendant in the case.
Just as there may be a variety of reasons to blame for the accident, there may be a variety of plaintiffs. The type of plaintiff can change how the case proceeds.
A passenger may be injured during an accident in which the train is traveling at a fast speed, causing catastrophic injury or death. Passengers may also be injured while boarding or exiting the train. If the railway owner fails to meet its high standard of care for a common carrier, it may be held liable for the injuries that result, including medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Many railroad accident injuries and deaths occur to people not actually doing business with the train. For example, a car may be hit while it is on a railroad crossing that has no lights or signals to alert the vehicle to an incoming train. A bystander may also be hurt in a train derailment or after some cargo falls out of the train. For a bystander to recover, it must have been foreseeable for the type of circumstances to arise that led to his or her injury. Additionally, the bystander’s own negligence may come into play, such as not looking for a train or driving while a crossing arm was coming down.
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act applies to injured railroad workers who work for a railroad that is engaged in interstate commerce. This act requires many proactive responsibilities for the railway owner, including conducting inspections to remove potential hazards, offering training and supervision to employees, enforcing safety regulations and generally offering a reasonably safe working environment.
Injured employees have the burden of showing that the railway owner’s specific act or omission caused or contributed to the injury. Benefits are available to workers, as well as survivors if the accident resulted in death.
Accident cases involving trains are also different from traditional personal injury cases in the fact that many trains are required to install and maintain a black box. This box records important information that is critical after an accident, including information about the direction the train was traveling, when the brakes were employed, whether a horn signal was used and the speed that the train was traveling. Similarly, train signals often store or transmit information to dispatch centers. This information is vital to help establish your case as a train accident plaintiff.
Train accident cases are complex and may deal with a variety of laws and regulations. A personal injury lawyer who focuses his or her attention on public transport cases may be able to discuss important concepts of these cases, such as applicable laws, statutes of limitations and damage caps.
Read more on this legal issueLegal Considerations in Train and Railroad Accidents
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.