Trains are a common way of getting around, from subways and passengers trains to commuter rails, trams, and more. Although train accidents aren’t as common as traffic accidents, they can cause serious injuries and fatalities when they do occur.
In 2019, the United States recorded a total of 1,835 train accidents, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Over 900 people died as a result of a train accident or incident on the railroads.
Many train accidents result from human error or other acts of negligence. If you were injured in a train accident, or someone you love was killed, you can hire a lawyer to help you collect compensation for your injuries or loss.
Victims Of Train Accidents
Train accidents can damage entire communities, groups of people, or a single individual. If a passenger train carrying loads of passengers derails or is in an accident, then hundreds of people could be injured or killed. These accidents can affect people both on and off the train.
Some examples of train accident victims include:
- railroad workers
- drivers or passengers of automotive vehicles
- pedestrians or other bystanders
- train passengers
Types Of Train Accidents
The Federal Railroad Commission collects data on the types of train accidents. According to recent facts, derailments, railroad crossings, and collisions comprise the majority of train accidents in the United States.
Train Derailment Accidents
A derailment occurs when the train comes off its tracks. These sorts of accidents can cause severe damage and can be the result of faulty tracks, obstacles, poorly maintained equipment, too much cargo weight, or other safety standard failures.
Railroad Crossing Accidents
This type of accident involves vehicles or pedestrians who are hit at a railroad crossing. The National Safety Council reports that 168 fatalities involving motor vehicles and railway crossings occurred in 2017. There were 86 pedestrian railway crossing fatalities in the same year.
Collisions can occur in any type of train accident. A car could collide with a train at a railroad crossing, or two trains could collide on the tracks. A collision with a high-speed train can be catastrophic, and any passenger (on the train or otherwise) can be severely injured or killed.
Common Causes Of Train Accidents
Train accidents can be caused by a wide variety of reasons, whether it’s a derailment, railroad crossing incident, or collision. Every train accident is unique, but patterns emerge about what’s behind the most common railroad accidents.
Human error is one of the major causes of train accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The train operator could lack experience, or experienced operators could make a mistake that causes an accident.
Other examples of operator error include:
- being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- poor judgement
- vision issues
- impaired reaction times
- other mistakes
Trains are machines, and mechanical or equipment failure can occur over time or because parts were poorly maintained. While this is a less common cause of a train accident, parts can fail and cause the train to malfunction. If one part fails, like a rail switch or a rail signal, then a deadly accident may occur.
Vehicle Driver/Pedestrian Negligence
Negligence or reckless behavior on the part of drivers or pedestrians is the root cause of many railroad crossing accidents. A pedestrian might get too close to the tracks or cross at the wrong time. A car, truck, or motorcycle may try to get past the train before it crosses.
A driver’s vehicle could also stall in the middle of the tracks, blocking the path of the train and likely causing a collision.
Defective tracks could cause a train to derail and crash. There could be a mechanical track failure or poor track repair that could lead to derailment. A defective track could also include obstructions or foreign objects on the tracks. Although operators are trained to avoid obstructions, it could be too little, too late.
Traveling Too Fast
While this could also be chalked up as operator error, several recent train accidents have been the result of traveling too fast. If a trail derails or collides with something while traveling at high speeds, the results of the crash can cause severe damage and may be fatal.
Poorly Protected Railroad Crossings
Railroad crossings must provide warning devices like gates or lights. However, numerous railroad accidents occur because crossings are not properly marked or protected. For example, an intoxicated driver could miss inadequate warning signs, or signals or gates could malfunction.
List Of Recent Train Accidents In The U.S.
It may seem like train accidents aren’t a major concern with so many more modern forms of transportation available, but multiple accidents occur each year.
Consider the following train accidents that occured on commuter trains in the last few years:
- Metrolink accident, 11/22/2019: A California commuter train collided with a camper van that was stalled on the railroad tracks. The crash caused a fire and four people were injured.
- Long Island Rail Road accident, 2/26/2019: A pickup truck was hit at a railroad crossing by two separate trains traveling in opposite directions, killing three people and resulting in numerous injuries.
- Amtrak Silver Star accident, 2/4/2019: This train was traveling from New York City to Miami and collided with a freight train in South Carolina. Two people died, 100 people were injured, and thousands of gallons of fuel spilled out at the scene.
- Amtrak accident, 1/31/2018: An Amtrak train traveling from Washington D.C. to Virginia collided with a garbage truck at a railroad crossing. One person died and six were injured.
- Amtrak accident, 12/18/2017: An Amtrak train traveling on a new route in Washington state traveled too fast and derailed on a bridge over an interstate highway. Three people died and more than 80 were injured.
- SEPTA accident, 8/22/2017: A Norristown High Speed Line ran into an out-of-service train in Pennsylvania, injuring 34 people, including at least four severely.
- New York City Subway, 6/27/2017: An NYC subway train derailed as the result of improperly secured replacement rails. This crash resulted in 39 injuries.
Train Accident Settlements And Verdicts
Following a preventable train accident, several passengers and victims have filed personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits to collect damages, or monetary compensation, for injuries, losses, and overall pain and suffering.
Many train accidents are settled out of court, including the following high-profile accident settlements:
- $6.65 million: An employee at O’Hare International Airport was awarded $6.65 million after being seriously injured when a commuter train derailed. Due to her injuries from the accident, she could no longer work for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and was compensated for it.
- $32 million: Several passengers were injured and killed when a Metro-North train in the Bronx derailed. This settlement helped pay for legal costs and was awarded to injured passengers and family members of the deceased. The final settlement amount may be subject to change.
- $265 million: This massive settlement was the result of a 2015 Philadelphia Amtrak train derailment that injured more than 200 people.
Train Accident Lawsuits
Train accident lawsuits are filed as personal injury or wrongful death claims. There may be many injured parties who file a lawsuit because of the potential for several victims to be involved in the accident, including passengers or bystanders.
The goal of train accident lawsuits is to collect damages for injuries caused by the accident. The type of lawsuit that’s filed will depend on the victim of the accident and who is at fault.
Liability In A Train Accident
Liability, or fault, in a train accident is determined by who was legally responsible for protecting the victim from their injuries. Commuter trains and railroad companies are both considered common carriers, which collect payment for transporting passengers.
While a common carrier cannot guarantee rider safety, they are held to strict standards of liability to protect their passengers from harm.
Like airliners, railroads are also mandated to install a device that records information that could be helpful to determine the cause of the crash. This information is crucial for a personal injury lawyer trying to prove negligence on the part of the operator or railroad company.
Train Passenger Injury Claims
If the train operator, or railway owner, fails to provide a reasonable standard of care to protect their passengers, then the injured passenger can collect compensation or damages for these injuries.
Compensation may include:
- medical expenses
- lost income
- general pain and suffering
- other out-of-pocket expenses
Bystander Injury Claims
Bystanders can be hurt in railroad crossings, derailments, and other accidents. Railroad companies could be found negligent if the railroad crossing arm or gate is faulty or if warning signals fail.
A train operator’s negligence could also result in liability for the railroad company, especially if the company failed to hire a qualified operator. If the bystander’s negligence played a role in the accident, such as crossing over the tracks when warning signals were functioning properly, it may not be possible to recover damages.
Railroad Worker Injury Claims
Railroad workers are protected by federal law when a railroad provides interstate commerce between multiple states. The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) requires railroads to be safe for workers by following safety guidelines and conducting routine safety inspections.
An injured railroad worker can recover damages if they show that an act by the railroad company, or a failure to act, caused the worker’s injuries. Family members of killed railroad workers can also receive compensation if the company’s negligence played a role in the death.
Why Hire A Lawyer After A Train Accident?
Victims of train accidents may be severely traumatized or injured, which can result in expensive medical attention or time away from work. A qualified train accident lawyer can help you determine liability in an accident and collect compensation to help cover your losses.
Federal and state laws that govern railroad safety are complex. Different government agencies may investigate the scene of the crash. It takes an experienced lawyer to sift through these complicated laws and investigations and put your mind at ease.
Train Accident Lawyers Serving The U.S.
At Florin|Roebig, our team of qualified and experienced train accident lawyers can represent any victim in an accident, from a railroad worker to an innocent bystander. Our mutli-state law firm accepts cases from all over the country.
At Florin|Roebig, our team of train accident lawyers includes:
- Wil H. Florin, B.C.S.
- Tommy D. Roebig, B.C.S.
- Michael L. Walker, B.C.S.
- Chase P. Florin, B.C.S.
- Shaun M. Cummings
- Luca G. Esposito
- Chad K. Florin, M.B.A., LL.M.
- Nicholas S. Costantino
- Jordan A. Kolinski
- Matthew L. McMullen
- Michael A. Ossi, O.C.
- Lawrence J. Najem, O.C.
- Andrew M. Leone, O.C.
- Nollys R. Solarte, O.C.
- Brian R. Dettman, O.C.
Contact Florin|Roebig To File A Train Accident Claim Today
Train accidents occur with alarming frequency. These accidents are usually avoidable, and a skilled lawyer can hold liable parties responsible for their negligence. If you’re unsure if you should take legal action, we offer a free case evaluation to help you decide.
To learn more about train accident lawsuits, or to get started with your free case evaluation, contact the offices of Florin|Roebig today.