Railroad Accident Law



What Are the Laws of Railroad Accidents?

Railroad Accident Laws are regulated primarily by federal law, though some state laws do play a role. Railroad safety is primarily administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which promotes and regulates safety throughout the railroad industry. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also has a role in regulating railroad safety and is usually the agency responsible for investigating and determining the cause of railroad accidents.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, approximately 3,000 train accidents occur each year in the United States, and nearly 1,000 people die each year as a result. Compared to the roughly five million auto accidents that occur each year, and the resulting 30,000 deaths, the number of train accidents and fatalities are relatively small. Common causes of train accidents include mechanical or electrical failures, obstructions of the railway, problems with the roadbed or track, maintenance failures, and human error.

Common Carriers

Common carriers are entities that transport people or goods according to defined routes and schedules, including trains. Each state has its own laws regarding common carriers and their liability in the event of an accident. Common carriers have duties to their passengers and cargo to ensure that they reach their destinations safely, and may face civil liability if they fail in this task.

Federal and State Laws

Under the Interstate Commerce Act (ICA), the U.S. Congress has the authority to regulate common carriers that transport passengers or cargo across state lines. Thanks to the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal laws governing railways take precedence over any state laws affecting common carriers, but each state may expand upon federal law in their own statutes and regulations. Federal regulations usually apply to equipment requirements, licensing, and transportation procedures, and violations of any of these requirements that results in an accident or injury may expose the railroad operator to liability per se.

Responsible Parties

Often, railroad accidents are caused by a conflagration of many factors. Determining who was responsible and in what proportion can be quite difficult. As a result, much railroad accident law crosses over with product liability, negligence, and even contract law to determine who will ultimately be held responsible for an accident, and in what proportion to other parties.

Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA)

Those injured while working on the railroad also have special legal considerations. In addition to state laws and worker's compensation programs, the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) may provide additional resources to protect injured railway workers.

For more information about Railroad Accident Laws, please visit the resources found below. Furthermore, for a list of attorneys in your area that focus their practices on railroad accidents, visit our Law Firms page.

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Railroad Accident Law - US

  • DOT - National Rail Safety Action Plan

    In May 2008, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) completed the National Rail Safety Action Plan which was originally launched in May of 2005 after several major train accidents. It focused on reducing the two leading causes of train accidents--human factors and track flaws. It accelerated research to strengthen hazmat tank cars, addressed the effects of fatigue on train crews, and enhanced highway-rail grade crossing safety by forging stronger partnerships with states.

  • Federal Railroad Adiministration - Office of Safety Analysis

    Welcome to the newly redesigned FRA Office of Safety Analysis Web Site. This site was established for the purpose of making railroad safety information readily available to a broad constituency which includes FRA personnel, railroad companies, research and planning organizations and the public, in general. Visitors have access to railroad safety information including accidents and incidents, inspections and highway-rail crossing data. From this site users can run dynamic queries, download a variety of safety database files, publications and forms, and view current statistical information on railroad safety.

  • Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

    The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (49 U.S.C. 103, Section 3(e)(1)). The purpose of FRA is to: promulgate and enforce rail safety regulations; administer railroad assistance programs; conduct research and development in support of improved railroad safety and national rail transportation policy; provide for the rehabilitation of Northeast Corridor rail passenger service; and consolidate government support of rail transportation activities. Today, the FRA is one of ten agencies within the U.S. Department of Transportation concerned with intermodal transportation. It operates through seven divisions under the offices of the Administrator and Deputy Administrator.

  • Highway-Rail Grade Crossing and Trespass Prevention

    The FRA's Highway-Rail Crossing Safety and Trespass Prevention Program is committed to reducing the number of collisions at highway-rail grade crossings and along railroad rights-of-way, where approximately 900 deaths occur every year. Using the "Three E" approach (Education, Enforcement, and Engineering), the crossing team has helped to reduce the number of fatalities at highway-rail crossings by 42 percent since 1994.

  • Railroad Controls Limited

    Railroad Controls Limited is dedicated to being the best resource for all of a railroad's needs in signaling and communications.

  • Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC)

    In 1996, FRA established the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) to develop new regulatory standards, through a collaborative process, with all segments of the rail community working together to fashion mutually satisfactory solutions on safety regulatory issues. RSAC Purpose The Committee shall seek agreement on the facts and data underlying any real or perceived safety problems; identify cost effective solutions based on the agreed-upon facts; and identify regulatory options where necessary to implement those solutions. In determining whether regulations are necessary, the Committee shall take into account section 1(a) of Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review).

  • Railway / Municipality Proximity Issues and Legislation

    Objective: To make the Canadian public and railway, municipal, government and other industry officials increase their awareness of issues that may arise when railways and municipalities are in close proximity to each other. The information presented on this site is intended to provide direction on successful resolution of such issues.

  • Risk Reduction Program

    The Risk Reduction Program Division assists the rail industry in establishing voluntary programs that identify and address risk and that include measurable goals and corrective action processes. By working with railroad, labor, and other interested organizations on a voluntary basis, the Risk Reduction Division will oversee projects that target operations, equipment, or systems that pose a risk to operational and personnel safety, and will establish projects that effectively prevent an accident or incident.

  • Transportation of Hazardous Materials

    The movement of hazardous materials throughout the railroad industry provides an excellent example of the dynamic interrelationship between shippers, carriers, freight car builders, maintenance and repair companies, and Federal, State, and Tribal governments. Under authority delegated to us by the Secretary of Transportation, we administer a safety program that oversees the movement of hazardous materials (including dangerous goods), such as petroleum, chemical, and nuclear products, throughout the Nationís rail transportation system, including shipments transported to and from international organizations.

  • United States Railroad Safety Act

    FRA's Office of Railroad Safety promotes and regulates safety throughout the Nation's railroad industry. The office executes its regulatory and inspection responsibilities through a diverse staff of railroad safety experts. The staff includes 400 Federal safety inspectors who operate out of eight regional offices. A regional administrator and two deputy regional administrators manage each region, with a supervisory specialist for five of the safety disciplines and several chief inspectors. The five disciplines include: Hazardous Materials Motive Power and Equipment Operating Practices (includes drug and alcohol) Signal and Train Control Track Structures

Railroad Accident Law - Europe

  • European Rail Transport - Legislation and Safety

    There are currently different national approaches to railway safety, different targets and different methods applied. Technical standards, the rolling stock and the certification of staff and railway undertakings differ from one Member State to another and have not been adapted to the needs of an integrated European rail system.

  • European Railway Agency (ERA)

    The European Railway Agency has the mission of reinforcing safety and interoperability of railways throughout Europe. As part of its common transport policy, the Community has adopted legislation to pave the way for gradual establishment of an integrated European railway area - both legally and technically. That involves the development and implementation of Technical Specifications for Interoperability and a common approach to questions concerning railway safety. The Agency's main task is to in the future manage the preparation of all those measures.

  • Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB)

    The European interoperability directives, the Railway Safety Directive and the GB legislation which enacts these Directives are available from the Department for Transport website. Also available from the Department for Transport is a map illustrating the routes defined as the GB part of the trans-European network.

Railroad Accident Law - International

  • Australia Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator (ITSRR)

    ITSRR has three key roles: * Administering rail safety legislation * Reporting on the reliability and sustainability of publicly funded transport services * Strategic coordination of safety regulation across transport modes of rail, bus and ferry

  • Canadian Rail Operating Rules

    The Rail Safety Directorate's mission is to develop and administer policies, regulations and services for the best railway transportation system.

  • Canadian Railway Safety Act

    Rail safety regulation in Canada is the responsibility of Transport Canada, which administers the Canadian Railway Safety Act, as well as the rail portions of other safety-related statutes. Transport Canada enforces rail safety regulations and conducts research and development in support of improved railroad safety. Transport Canada works closely with the railroad industry through forums such as the Advisory Council on Railway Safety and on various safety issues, including track standards, equipment standards, and transportation of hazardous materials. The safety of railroad employees in Canada is also subject to the regulations of the department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

  • Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF)

    The Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) was set up on 1 May 1985. The Organisationís basis under international law is the Convention of 9 May 1980 (COTIF). The predecessor of OTIF was the Central Office for International Carriage by Rail, which was set up in 1893. Until the signature of the Protocol of 3 June 1999 (Vilnius Protocol) for the modification of COTIF, the objective of this Governmental Organisation was principally to develop the uniform systems of law which apply to the carriage of passengers and freight in international through traffic by rail. These systems of law have been in existence for decades and are known as the CIV and CIM Uniform Rules.

Organizations Related to Railroad Accident Law

  • American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA)

    Our mission includes: The development and advancement of both technical and practical knowledge and recommended practices pertaining to the design, construction and maintenance of railway infrastructure.

  • American Train Dispatchers Association

    The American Train Dispatchers Association, one of the smallest unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO, has a lean structure, which nevertheless services its members well in their most important needs. Only six full-time officers, one appointed Director of Research and a small office staff provide representation in discipline and grievance handling, negotiate with railroads, both individually and collectively, arrange for legal assistance as needed, and engage in legislative activity on behalf of our craft and rail labor, in general.

  • Association of American Railroads (AAR)

    An important part of AAR's mission is to work with elected officials and leaders in Washington, D.C. on critical rail transportation issues to ensure that the railroads meet Americaís transportation needs today and in the future. The need for freight transportation is expected to skyrocket at the same time as Americans are looking for cleaner, healthier, more efficient solutions.

  • European Transport Workers' Federation - Railroad Division

    Railway trade unions in all European countries are facing the following developments in a different timing and to a different extent: Huge decrease in railway employment, job insecurity, outsourcing of activities, increase in work intensity, pressure on working conditions, demand for higher geographical flexibility and job flexibility. The ETF Railway Section works extensively in these areas. EU railway policy aims to create a single EU railway area and market and to increase the market share of rail transport within the transport sector.

  • International Transport Workers' Federation - Railway Division

    The ITF believes that the starting point of railway restructuring must be to modernize the network and improve the quality of service offered to existing and potential users. Within this context there are three prerequisites to successful restructuring: full consultation with railway workers' unions; protection of jobs to the greatest possible extent; and, the improvement of safety standards.

  • International Union of Railways (UIC)

    UIC mission: to promote rail transport at world level and meet the challenges of mobility and sustainable development. Main UIC objectives: * facilitate the sharing of best practices among members (benchmarking) * support members in their efforts to develop new business and new areas of activities * propose new ways to improve technical and environmental performance * promote interoperability, create new world standards for railways (including common standards with other transport modes) * develop centres of competence (High Speed, Safety, Security, e-Business, Ö)

  • National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP)

    The mission of the National Association of Railroad Passengers is to work for a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. NARP is the largest national membership advocacy organization for train and rail transit passengers. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the United States. Our work is supported by over 23,000 individual members.

  • National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, Inc. (NRC)

    The National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, Inc. (NRC) is the only trade association organized specifically to serve the needs of railroad contractors, suppliers, and the entire railroad and rail transit construction industry. NRC's primary objective is to advance the mutual interests of its members and the railroad and rail transit construction industry by: Promoting, developing and protecting the railroad and rail transit construction industry; Promoting continuing education, and improvement of railroad and rail transit construction methods; Promoting and supporting high ethical standards and combating unfair practices; Promoting and improving communication between contractors and railroads, owners, public agencies, rail transit systems, engineers, and suppliers; Promoting and supporting legislation that furthers the railroad and rail transit construction business climate; Promoting safety by offering Roadway Worker Protection Training (FRA Approved, ASLRRA accepted) free to our members.

Publications Related to Railroad Accident Law

  • Confidential Close Call Reporting System - C3RS ó Identifying Safety Risks in Railroad Operations

    A Confidential Close Call Reporting System to improve railroad safety: C3RS is a partnership between railroad carriers, railroad labor organizations, and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

  • Railroad Safety Publications

    Includes Federal Railroad Administration regulations, safety bulletins, etc.; the Principles of light rail system safety; and Highway-Rail Grade Crossing safety materials.

  • Railroad Safety Publications, Studies, and Reports

    As a Federal safety regulatory agency, the FRA is continually collecting and analyzing data, conducting research, and producing reports dealing with the railroad environment. Some publications are mandated by Congress, others are the product of joint ventures between different levels of government (e.g., Federal and State), and still others may be the result of earlier safety initiatives or research efforts.

Articles on HG.org Related to Railroad Accident Law

  • Railroad Accident Expert Witness Describes Cause of Accidents
    Many accidents that harm persons when working or performing job duties may be severe. This often depends on the industry and the equipment or tools used. For railroad workers, these incidents could end in death with the heavy and sharp items most readily available.
  • Railroad Intersection Dangers
    The dangers of crossing railroad tracks is a very real threat for some individuals. Pedestrians and vehicles sometimes wander into the railroad intersections, causing pedestrians and occupants to become grievously injured or lose their lives. It is always important to follow safety procedures when crossing the road, when traffic poses an issue and when dealing with potential rail cars.
  • Lack of Safety of Crude Oil Trains
    Crude oil trains are responsible for transporting this important resource across the country. Given the flammable nature of the product and the high demand, transporting this product can be dangerous.
  • 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.
  • Legal Steps to Take After a Public Transit Accident
    Many forms of public transport are used each day in various cities around the world. They allow faster travel and easier convenience than cars on many occasions. Just as cars and trucks encounter damage through collisions, trains, buses and even light rails may encounter the same issues.
  • Train Accident Cases
    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.
  • Legal Considerations in Train and Railroad Accidents
    According to the Federal Railroad Administration, approximately 3,000 train accidents occur each year in the United States, and nearly 1,000 people die each year as a result. Railroad accidents may be in the form of a collision with another train, a car or bus, or even a derailment or fire.
  • Injured While Commuting? What You Need to Know
    Millions of people in and around Chicago commute to work each day. Most commuters use public transportation or drive in their own car to get to their jobs, but some Chicago area workers also bike to work or carpool. When commuters are injured on their way to work, complex issues can arise regarding liability.
  • Train Accidents and Injuries
    Speaking with a personal injury attorney in Denver is crucial if a train accident leads to injuries. A lawyer may help determine if negligence was the cause of the incident, which may lead to compensation.
  • Will Positive Train Control Save Lives?
    After the horrific train accident of 2008 in Chatsworth, CA, Congress passed an act that would require all passenger trains to be outfitted with the Positive Train Control system (PTC) by 2015. The city of Los Angeles on the other hand has taken further initiative to make that requirement come true much earlier.
  • All Motor Vehicles Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Motor Vehicles Law including: auto dealer fraud, automobile accidents, automotive, bus accidents, lemon law, motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accident, railroad accidents, rollover accident, traffic violations, trucking accident.




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