train accidents

Common Injuries Resulting from Train Accidents and Legal Options

NTZ Editor

Train Accidents in America: Everything Passengers & Railroad Workers Need to Know

Train accidents, while less frequent than other types of transportation accidents, can result in severe and sometimes catastrophic injuries. Victims of train accidents may face a range of injuries that may alter lives — or even cause tragedy.

In the aftermath of such an accident, it’s crucial for victims and their families to understand their legal rights and options. Depending on the circumstances, they may be entitled to financial compensation for their injuries and the expenses associated with healing and lost wages.

Legal claims in train accidents can be complex, involving multiple parties like the train operator, rail company, or even government entities. Therefore, it’s often advisable for injury victims to consult with a legal professional who specializes in this area to navigate the intricacies of transportation law and to ensure their rights are fully protected. Your personal injury lawyer can be of tremendous value when seeking justice for accidents involving train collisions that result in injury or death.

Top 3 Causes of Railroad Accidents in the U.S

Human Error:

This is one of the most common causes of railroad accidents. It includes mistakes made by train operators, such as speeding, ignoring signals, or operating the train while fatigued or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Errors by other employees responsible for maintenance, signal operation, or track inspection also fall under this category.

Track Defects:

Poorly maintained or defective tracks are a significant cause of train accidents. Issues such as broken rails, improper alignment, or inadequate track bed support can lead to derailments or other accidents. Another common source of accidents are railroad crossings. Missing or broken safety lights and barriers contribute to hundreds of cases of serious personal injury each year. Regular maintenance and inspections are crucial to prevent track-related incidents.

Equipment Failure:

Malfunctioning equipment, including issues with the train’s mechanical parts like brakes, wheels, or axles, can lead to accidents. Although modern trains are equipped with various safety features, mechanical failures can still occur due to manufacturing defects, wear and tear, or inadequate maintenance. Many train accidents are preventable if factors like equipment negligence and neglect are addressed before they can harm passengers or railroad workers.

It’s important to note that while these are common causes, each railroad accident has its unique circumstances and contributing factors. Regulatory bodies like the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in the U.S. continuously work to monitor and improve railroad safety to reduce these types of accidents.

Types of Train Accident Injuries

The most common types of injuries associated with train accidents can vary in severity, ranging from minor to life-threatening. These include:

  1. Whiplash and Soft Tissue Injuries: These injuries are common in less severe accidents, especially for passengers. Whiplash occurs due to the sudden jerking movement of the head and neck, while soft tissue injuries involve damage to muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
  2. Broken Bones and Fractures: The impact and force of a train accident can easily cause broken bones and fractures. These injuries can range from simple fractures that may heal with time to more complex ones requiring surgical intervention.
  3. Head Injuries and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs): These are among the more serious injuries and can occur from a direct blow to the head or a violent shake. TBIs can range from mild concussions to severe brain damage, potentially leading to long-term cognitive and physical impairments.
  4. Spinal Cord Injuries and Paralysis: Spinal cord injuries can result from the traumatic impact of a train accident, potentially leading to temporary or permanent paralysis, depending on the area and severity of the injury.
  5. Cuts and Lacerations: Shattered glass, metal debris, and other sharp objects commonly found in train wrecks can cause cuts and lacerations, which may range from minor to severe.
  6. Internal Injuries: These include internal bleeding and damage to internal organs. They can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.
  7. Psychological Trauma: Beyond physical injuries, victims of train accidents may also suffer from psychological trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.
  8. Burns: In cases where fires or explosions occur as part of the accident, victims may suffer from burns, which can range in severity.

It’s important for victims of train accidents to seek immediate medical attention, as some injuries, particularly internal ones, may not be immediately apparent.

Human Error: Train Accidents Caused by Conductor Negligence

Human error or negligence plays a crucial role in causing train accidents, often with serious outcomes. Operator errors, such as fatigue, distraction, or operating under the influence, can lead to speeding, misjudgment of distances, or improper brake application. Poor maintenance of trains and tracks can also lead to critical failures. Inadequate training of operators and railway staff is another contributing factor, as it can result in misinterpretation of safety protocols and emergency responses.

Additionally, signal and communication errors, often due to misreading signals or equipment malfunctions, can cause collisions and derailments. Negligence in following safety protocols, as well as improper loading of freight trains, further contribute to these accidents. Distractions, especially from electronic devices, also pose a significant risk in modern railway operations. Thus, a combination of these human-related factors can significantly increase the likelihood of train accidents.

Railroad Crossing Accidents: The Most Common Type of Train Collision

Accidents involving railroad crossings are often serious and occur when vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists intersect with an oncoming train. Common causes include failure to observe warning signals, misjudgment of the train’s speed and distance, or malfunctioning crossing signals.

Visibility issues, such as obstructed views or poor lighting, also contribute. These accidents can be particularly severe due to the train’s size and speed, often resulting in significant injuries or fatalities. Prevention efforts focus on improving crossing safety features, public awareness campaigns, and enforcing laws related to railroad crossing usage.

Federal Railroad Administration Responsibility

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is the federal agency responsible for regulating the railroad industry. Its core function is to help prevent railroad track issues, railroad related deaths, and human error from causing serious injury or death.

  1. Regulation and Oversight: The FRA establishes and enforces safety regulations for the nation’s railroad industry. This includes rules regarding track maintenance, train operation, signal systems, and equipment safety standards.
  2. Inspections and Monitoring: Regular inspections of railroads, equipment, and infrastructure are conducted to ensure compliance with safety standards. The FRA also monitors railroad operations and maintenance activities.
  3. Research and Development: The FRA invests in research to advance railway safety technology. This includes developing safer train cars, improving track integrity, and enhancing signaling systems.
  4. Training and Education: The FRA provides training programs for freight railroad employees to promote safety awareness and ensure workers are well-informed about safety practices and regulations.
  5. Data Analysis and Risk Reduction: The FRA analyzes accident data to identify trends and areas of risk. Based on this analysis, they implement targeted safety initiatives and campaigns to address identified issues.

Even with these protections in place, and stringent restrictions followed by railroads, railroad companies, and workers, injuries can and do occur. When they do, they can alter lives permanently.

Advocating for the Rights of Railroad Passengers

A train accident lawyer acts as an advocate for victim rights in several key ways:

  1. Legal Representation: They provide legal representation to victims, ensuring their rights are protected throughout the legal process. This includes negotiating with insurance companies and rail companies, and representing clients in court if necessary.
  2. Expertise in Railroad Laws: Train accident lawyers possess specialized knowledge of railroad laws and regulations, which is crucial for understanding the complexities of train accident cases and determining liability.
  3. Investigation and Evidence Gathering: They conduct thorough investigations to gather evidence, including witness statements, train and track inspection records, and accident reports. This helps in building a strong case for the victim.
  4. Assessment of Damages: Lawyers assess the full extent of damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future care needs. This ensures that victims receive fair compensation that reflects the true impact of the accident on their lives.
  5. Negotiation Skills: Train accident lawyers are skilled negotiators, often securing settlements from the insurance company or other parties that adequately compensate victims without the need for a lengthy trial.
  6. Guidance and Support: They provide guidance and support to victims and their families throughout the legal process, helping them understand their rights and the steps involved in pursuing a claim. This is especially true if surviving family members wish to file a wrongful death lawsuit against whoever is responsible.
  7. Advocacy for Safety Changes: Beyond individual cases, train accident lawyers often advocate for broader safety changes in the industry to prevent future accidents. From preventing hazardous materials aboard trains, more strict regulations for freight railroads, or lessening the risks of derailment, lawyers may petition the state or federal Department of Transportation to create change.

In essence, a train accident lawyer is crucial in navigating the legal complexities following a train accident, ensuring that victims’ rights are upheld and they receive the compensation and justice they deserve.

Who Do I Contact If I Was Injured in a Train Accident?

If you were involved in a train accident, it’s important to take certain steps to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights:

First, seek medical attention: Medical care is the critical aspect that can help people get the treatment they need as soon as possible. This helps to establish a record of injuries, which may be used later by an attorney representing you in a lawsuit or settlement with the railroad company or other responsible party.

Next, contact a Train Accident Lawyer: Consider consulting with a lawyer who specializes in train accidents. They can provide legal advice, help you understand your rights, and guide you through the process of seeking compensation.

If you or someone you love, like a family member or spouse, is injured through no fault of your own, and local authorities are proving less than helpful, your personal injury attorney can help you restore what was lost to you. This can include financial compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

Call a qualified train accident attorney today to learn more about your rights when you or someone you love has been injured in a train crash.

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