Most train accidents occur at railroad crossings, and in many cases, result from an impatient driver trying to beat the train. However, some train accidents are caused by factors directly related to the train or the company that owns the train.
Negligence represents one of the most frequent causes of train accidents that do not involve an inpatient motorist trying to beat a train at a crossing. When we investigate train accident cases, our team of personal injury lawyers considers many different factors that lead us to discover which party should assume legal liability for causing this type of personal injury incident.
The conductor, railroad company, or railroad maintenance employees can all be negligent in a train accident case. For example, the conductor of a train might have fallen asleep or missed a red signal that requires the train to stop until the tracks were clear for movement. A railroad company might be found guilty of negligence for operating a defective train. Employees that perform maintenance on railroad tracks have a legally binding duty of care to protect motorists and passengers against the devastating injuries that often develop after a train accident.
One of the major contributors to train accidents is the antiquated, decades-old infrastructure.
An inexperienced conductor can make a wrong decision or perform a risky maneuver that puts motorists in harm’s way. As a form of negligence, human error is a separate category because it represents a significant percentage of the reasons why train accidents happen. Human error includes poor judgment, vision problems, impaired reactions, and basing decisions on outdated operational guidelines.
Proving human error requires the legal expertise of an experienced personal injury attorney. If you sustained injuries as a result of a train accident, your legal counsel conducts interviews with witnesses, as well as the conductor of the train to determine whether human error caused your injuries.
The conductor and railroad employees might be absolved of negligence. However, mechanical failure can cause a train to hit a motor vehicle. Railway companies are responsible for ensuring every train operates with fully functional parts. One of the priorities of investigators from the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) after a train accident is to determine if the train contained defective parts.
Trains operate with hundreds of moving parts, as well as under the guidance of a computer system that monitors the development of safety issues. The entire system must coordinate seamlessly to prevent train accidents from occurring.
Improperly maintained railroad tracks can force a train off the tracks. Although conductors must be aware of their surroundings at all times, it is difficult sometimes to spot defects in railroad tracks. Another issue is the objects left on railroad tracks. A derailment near a crossing can lead to several fatalities. Once a train loses its grip with railroad tracks, its powerful momentum makes it impossible to bring the train to a stop.
More than 80 percent of the railroad crossings in the United States do not have enough warning devices, such as gates, lights, and audio warnings. A driver of a motor vehicle might not detect an oncoming train because a crossing does not have the proper warning devices. Another problem at crossings is warning signals that malfunction or gates that fail to descend to the proper height. The responsibility for ensuring full protection at a railroad crossing can fall on one of several different public and private sector organizations.
Working with a train accident lawyer from Morgan & Morgan helps you discover which public or private sector entity should shoulder the blame for an unprotected railroad crossing.