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Every day, people use rail travel to get where they need to go. Freight trains are essential to the economy, and commuter trains are critical sources of public transportation. As vital as these services are, when something goes wrong, trains can quickly become deadly for passengers, rail workers, and bystanders.
Train and Rail Safety
The deadly crash of Amtrak Train 501 in Washington serves as a reminder of how quickly rail accidents can occur. The train was on its first run carrying passengers on a new high-speed line when it derailed on a curve outside of Tacoma. Cars fell from a bridge above a highway, pinning vehicles underneath. Several cars were left dangling from the bridge. Almost 100 passengers, workers, and vehicle occupants were injured, and several people were killed. As always, the victims of this tragedy paid the price for the actions and behaviors of someone else. Most people are unaware of the safety record of popular railways. But statistics and accident reports published by the Federal Railroad Administration suggest that traveling by rail may not be as safe as you think.
In one year alone, thousands of train accidents occurred killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands more. Between January and September, 2017 more than 8,000 train accidents were reported resulting in the deaths of 699 people, though these statistics do not include any accidents that occurred at railroad crossings or that happened after September.
Our Train Accident Attorneys Fight for the Rights of the Injured
Our train accident lawyers represent injured rail workers and train passengers as well as the families of those who die as a result of train and rail accidents across the nation. Our fierce dedication to protecting the rights of victims has earned us national recognition. Our skills, resources, and experience have helped us get the redress the injured and their families need. Across the country, those who are injured and the families of those who died from the injuries depend on our firm to help them get the compensation they need and deserve for their injuries and losses.
Causes of Train Accidents
The most common types of railway accidents involve train derailments, train collisions, railroad crossing accidents, railroad worker injury, and rail employees suffering toxic or hazardous materials exposure. Surprisingly, human factors are behind most train accidents. In fact, the FRA reports that of the five top reasons for train accidents, human factors were the leading cause and responsible for more than 36 percent of the accidents that occurred in 2017.
The most common human factors involved in rail accidents are:
- Failing to have point protection to monitor movement and conditions
- Failing to properly control movement when shoving cars
- Operating over a previously damaged track switch
- Rail cars left in areas that interfere with adjacent tracks
- Mispositioned track switches
- Failing to lock a train switch
- Not ensuring the track is clear ahead before starting
- Not applying or removing a derail safety device
Other factors commonly involved in train accidents that year include:
- Defective equipment – involved in 169 accidents
- Track defects – involved in 338 accidents
- Defective signals – involved in 234 accidents
Between track defects and human error, it was evident that better protections were needed to increase the safety of railway work and travel. The FRA pushed for improved safety with the Positive Train Control System. PTC systems work with GPS systems, track sensors and radar to allow a train to be controlled remotely by computer. PTC can prevent train collisions, stop trains from traveling into work zones, and can keep a train traveling on the correct track even if a switch is not in the correct position.
Basically, PTC removes many of the human factors that can lead to accidents. But these systems are expensive, and even though all trains were to have PTC installed by 2015, the industry received an extension on the deadline until 2018.
PTC UPDATE: As of January 1, 2019, only 4 of the 41 rail systems that were required to implement Positive Train Control to prevent train derailments, collisions, and crashes. All other rail systems applied for extensions, including Amtrak. Originally, the deadline for PTC implementation was set in 2015 by Congress, however, Congress extended that deadline until 2018. Federal regulators were told to allow further extensions to railways that were showing progress towards implementation. Regulators granted 10 extensions and are considering 27 applications for extensions from rail systems that failed to meet the 2018 deadline. The extensions give these railways up to an additional two years to get the safety system completed.
The four railroads that self-reported that PTC was fully implemented on all required main lines include:
- Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH)
- North County Transit District
- Portland & Western Railroad
- Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink)
The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that about 71 percent of the required 58,000 route miles are in PTC operation. According to the NTSB, about 150 train accidents have been identified that could have been prevented by PTC over the last 50 years.
When Negligence Leads to Accidents
If a passenger, bystander, or railway worker suffers serious or fatal injuries because of the negligence of a railroad company, the law says the company may be held liable for any injuries or deaths caused by that negligence.
Railways have a high duty by law to provide safe working conditions for employees and provide safe travels for passengers. This means that everything from the track to tools and equipment to boarding platforms must be regularly inspected and maintained in good working order and workers must be properly trained. If a railroad company fails this duty, anyone who suffers injury may be entitled to hold the company responsible and seek compensation for their injuries or losses.
When an Amtrak train derailed outside of Chester, Pennsylvania in 2016, 39 people sustained injuries, and two railroad workers died. The accident occurred when a backhoe being used on the track was struck by the train. The National Transportation Safety Board determined the derailment was caused by poor safety management and toxicology reports found that at the time of the crash, the track supervisor had codeine and morphine in their system, the engineer tested positive for marijuana, and the backhoe operator tested positive for cocaine.
While the NTSB did not list drug use as a causal factor in the incident, the agency’s findings do show significant safety problems with the top passenger rail line in the country. However, according to statistics by the Federal Railroad Administration, more than 3,133 rail workers were injured, and 10 died in railway incidents.
Anyone who is injured or the family of someone who was killed in a train accident can file an injury claim or a wrongful death claim with the company. A railroad claims adjuster will reach out to you and liaise with the company and you or the family. The adjuster reviews the case, analyzes your injuries or losses, and evaluates the awards typically given for similar injuries, and reports their finding to you and the company. A final benefits determination is then made, and you are compensated.
But the fact is, railroad companies are in the business of making money not paying money, and they will often do whatever it takes to limit the amount of liability they have in accident cases. Wrongful death claims and injury claims can be very costly for the company, so they will enlist the aid of a team of lawyers to protect their bottom line. You need a team of attorneys fighting for your best interests.
Contact Us Now – We Can Help
For decades, we have fought to hold negligent companies liable for the losses and injuries they cause. We don’t let negligent parties short-change your pain, suffering, or grief, and we ensure you get the justice you deserve.
Contact us today to learn more about how we handle railway accident claims, including how we-
Analyze the evidence, black box data, eyewitness testimony, and expert testimony to see exactly what caused the crash
Determine the scope of your injuries and losses, so you know exactly how to file your claims.
Estimate the cost of damages and loss with medical and railroad experts who know how to estimate the true cost of train crash injuries and deaths.
Advocate on behalf of train crash victims and their families to ensure you get the most compensation possible for your injuries and losses.
Negotiate with the responsible entitles on your behalf to reach the best settlement possible.
When necessary, litigate your case in court and use every lawful measure to obtain the compensation you need and deserve.
If you were injured in a train accident or if someone you loved died in a railway accident, contact us now to learn more about how we can help protect your rights after a train accident and whether you are eligible for financial compensation for your injuries and losses.