Legal Liability for Train Derailment

Trains tend to carry many people when transporting individuals to destinations. Though accidents are not very common, a derailment may occur for various reasons. When these incidences arise, many passengers may become injured.

Broken glass, fallen cars, moving objects affected by force and speed and even other people may harm an individual during a derailment. Other problems may happen after the derailment such as fires, collisions with traffic or other trains and pedestrian collisions when the issue occurs in a populated area. Often the reason for these circumstances revolves around mechanical or electronic failures.

Many situations involving a derailed car or train cause multiple injuries to several individuals. In the worst cases, such accidents are fatal.

Reasons for Derailments

Train derailments may occur for a number of reasons, including the following:

Poor Judgment

Several subjects of inquiry are investigated when these instances occur to determine fault and the reasons behind such major accidents. On some occasions, accidents are caused by an engineer’s poor judgment. Such bad judgment calls are often disastrous when high speed and velocity are involved. Other factors may exacerbate the situation, such as a delay in using brakes or speeding up instead of slowing down. The higher speed tends to cause the cars to run off the tracks which lead to derailment of most or some of the cars of a train.

Technological Malfunctions

Though many trains have sensors that automatically kick in, sometimes malfunctions cause these to miss indications and not engage. When the costs are higher than the company can afford, these technologies may not be utilized.

Advancements in electronic circuits and systems allow for an easier usage for those trained in the technology. These advanced technological systems usually engage quickly and efficiently to avoid accidents. It is when they are not updated or maintained that incidences usually occur. These cases may be grounds for negligent claims.

If the transportation company is aware of such faulty systems or has failed to take steps to maintain its equipment, such factors may lead to a negligence claim against the company. It is vital systems are updated, maintained and repaired whenever any issues arise.

The Need for Safety Technologies

Trains that derail because of preventable processes should have a system to avoid collision and derailment. Some industry leaders and experts have explained that control systems should be implemented into all trains to allow for automatic speed changes when necessary. More lives may be spared and injuries averted due to these alterations.

Types of Lawsuits

Personal injury claims may be initiated for individuals who are harmed during accidents. A third party such as the company owner may be liable for damages that result from such accidents. An examination into the accident is usually required to determine the cause of derailment or collision.

Class action lawsuits are another way of compensating for these issues. When a large amount of passengers have become victims to injuries, this may be the only practical way for them to bring suit against a company that is usually well armed with its own legal representation. Class action lawsuits allow groups of people who have been similarly harmed due to a similar set of circumstances. Class actions allow individuals to split the cost of legal representation among class members. These cases may become complex and require more time and proof to resolve.

Wrongful death claims are another possible outcome of train derailment accidents. These suits are filed against an individual that may be held liable for the death of a passenger. The parties who have the right to bring such a civil action are typically defined under state law. However, individuals who can bring such a lawsuit often include the executor of the estate, spouse, dependent children and other close relatives. The person or entity these claims are brought against may be the owner of the company the train is under, the driver, manufacturer of parts that were defective or another individual that caused the accident leading to death.


The driver of the train may be held responsible if their actions caused the injuries. His or her actions are commonly imputed to the employer. The legal duties of a defendant are often heightened when involving common carriers. When mechanical or electrical failure is known to occur, the owner or manufacturer may be held liable. The factors behind the accident are important criteria for finding who should pay for compensation to the victims. An examination into what caused the accident is vital for determining why the train derailed or collided with another.

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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.
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