What Caused Train Derailment
What Caused Train Derailment
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What Caused Train Derailment
What caused the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio?
It has been more than one month since the February 3, 2023, train derailment, and the United States Department of Transportation still has not released the details describing how the Norfolk Southern train left the tracks to cause one of the worst environmental disasters in recent memory.
Freight trains move at relatively high speeds, and because of their considerable weight, can cause extensive damage if they leave the tracks and crash into the surrounding landscape. Although what caused the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio remains a mystery, the fact remains that one or more factors might have played a role in causing the train to derail. Factors such as operator negligence, poor track maintenance, and impact with a stationary object all could have played a role in derailing the Norfolk Southern Railway train that left behind an environmental disaster.
Train derailments represent events in which the wheels or bearings of a train detach from the tracks. Once a train loses contact with the track, the engineer loses control of the train, which can lead to a potentially devastating crash such as the one recorded on film in East Palestine, Ohio. Train derailments are not only potentially catastrophic, but they also occur more often than most people think. According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis, more than 1,000 train derailments happen within the United States each year. Of the more than 1,000 train derailments, track defects cause nearly 350 of the crashes and human error contributes close to 550 of the total train derailments.
If you are a victim of a train derailment, you might be entitled to receive compensation to recover from financial losses. To fight back against corporate and governmental negligence, you should work with an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in handling train derailment cases. An attorney conducts an exhaustive investigation to gather physical evidence, as well as interview witnesses that provide legal support for the physical evidence collected. Investigating a train derailment is a much more complex process than investigating a car accident or a slip and fall incident.
At Morgan and Morgan, our law firm has more than 35 years of experience litigating personal injury cases, including cases involving train derailments. We have recovered more than $15 billion in compensation for our clients by winning favorable lawsuits and negotiating settlements to avoid the costly and time-consuming litigation process. We recently filed a class action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern to join at least a half dozen previously filed class action lawsuits. The class action lawsuit addresses the cause of the train derailment, as well as the burning of chemicals that pose an extreme health threat to residents.
Schedule a free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney from Morgan and Morgan to discuss your legal options.
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What Causes Train Derailments?
To prove another party committed one or more acts of negligence, your attorney must first determine the cause of the train derailment. With more than three decades of experience, the personal injury lawyers at Morgan and Morgan have come up with a short list of the reasons why trains derail from railway tracks.
An inexperienced conductor can make one or more mistakes that lead to a train derailment. Even an experienced conductor can misjudge the signs of a pending derailment, and experienced conductors who do not follow the proper safety standards, such as knowing when to retire for the day, can make judgment errors that place a train on the course toward a derailment. As with truck drivers, fatigue plays a significant role in the human errors made by railroad conductors.
Another common bond between truck drivers and train conductors concerns reckless behavior. Both operators follow tight operating schedules to deliver their cargo on time. A reckless train conductor can commit acts of negligence that include moving past a red signal, speeding at a rate that far exceeds how fast the train should be traveling, and ignoring the manifest created as a blueprint for arriving at a destination on time. Reckless behavior also poses a problem when cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians take unnecessary risks, such as crossing a set of tracks when the barriers have come down for the passing of a train.
Poor Track Maintenance
Because of budget constraints, some sections of railway tracks in the United States do not receive proper maintenance. An improperly cared for section of railway tracks can become dangerous when spikes start to dislodge from where they secure the tracks. Corroded tracks and degraded foundation wood also contribute to the deterioration of railway tracks. The Department of Transportation partners with private sector railway companies to maintain the nation’s railway infrastructure, but sometimes tracks fall into disrepair, which presents a serious danger to nearby residents.
Until the East Palestine train derailment, much of the focus on train derailments in the United States concerned both freight and passenger trains hitting a stationary object on the tracks. Stalled motor vehicles typically are the culprits for stationary objects causing train derailments, but idle train cars also can present a serious safety risk for train conductors. Because of the speed at which freight and passenger trains travel, it is difficult to detect a stationary object in time to avoid a collision, especially at night when a train travels in a rural area.
What Should I Do if I am a Victim of a Train Derailment?
Whether you are a victim of a freight, commuter, or passenger train derailment, you should follow a series of steps right after the derailment to improve your case for seeking compensation.
Receive Medical Care
Victims of train derailments often develop severe, even life-threatening injuries. This means you might not have any choice but to seek medical care in the immediate aftermath of a train derailment. With the prompt activation of the local emergency response team, you should be moved quickly to a treatment center for emergency medical care. If you sustain less serious injuries, you should eventually have your injuries diagnosed and treated if you plan to file an insurance claim and/or a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages.
Take Photographs and Speak With Witnesses
For many train derailment cases, victims suffer more in financial losses from property damage than the monetary damages generated by medical expenses. This means you might feel healthy enough to remain at the scene of the train derailment to take photographs and speak with witnesses. When you speak with witnesses, you should ask for their names and contact information for your personal injury attorney from Morgan and Morgan to access during a detailed investigation. Although the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) conducts the official investigation into a train derailment, you should take photos of the accident scene for your attorney to review during a free case evaluation.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney From Morgan and Morgan
You need an advocate to counter the legal team representing the railway company. Your attorney reviews two case reports, with the first report coming from the law enforcement agency that responded to the train derailment. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issues the formal report presented by the federal government. Both reports should contain information that describes the cause of the train derailment, as well as the extent of the damage. The personal injury attorney that you work with from Morgan and Morgan also helps you file a persuasive insurance claim to recover financial losses.
Contact Your Insurance Company
You should contact your insurance company after you meet with a personal injury lawyer from Morgan and Morgan. Far too many insurance companies take advantage of policyholders that do not retain legal representation. If you do not hire a personal injury attorney before you contact your insurance company, your insurance company might try to get you to sign a waiver that reduces their financial obligations. Filing an insurance claim without the legal support of a personal injury attorney also can lead to the denial of a valid claim or the approval of a claim that is valued well below what you deserve in compensation.
What Are the Types of Compensation Awarded in a Trail Derailment Case?
If your personal injury attorney discovers another party committed one or more acts of negligence, you might receive up to three types of compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Also referred to as special compensatory damages, economic damages cover the tangible costs associated with your case. Economic damages cover the costs of diagnostic tests, treatment programs, and physical therapy sessions. You also have the right to request compensation to cover the costs of prescription medications and the use of an assistive device such as a pair of crutches. Your attorney also totals the value of property damage, which includes damage to your car and/or home. The extent of damage as the result of a train derailment is often widespread. If you missed time from work because of your injuries, you also should request compensation for lost wages.
Non-economic damages cover costs that are not easy to measure, such as pain and suffering. Victims of catastrophic events like train derailments frequently develop the symptoms that are associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can develop debilitating symptoms that irrevocably destroy personal and professional relationships. Your personal injury attorney calculates a fair value for non-economic damages by using a formula that factors in the value of economic damages.
High-profile lawsuits such as the class actions taken against Norfolk Southern Railway can generate punitive damages that exceed the combined value of economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages do not cover the cost of your financial losses. Instead, judges award punitive damages to punish the defendant for committing one or more acts of negligence, as well as deterring the defendant from committing the same acts of negligence again.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Each state has established a deadline for filing a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages, with most states opting to set the deadline between two and four years. However, as it is with a complex case like the East Palestine train derailment, the statute of limitations is not set in stone because of the development of delayed symptoms. Many of the victims of the East Palestine train derailment might develop debilitating illnesses and diseases years after the incident.
To determine how much time you have to take legal action after a train derailment, as well as receive the answers to other important legal questions, schedule a free case evaluation today with a personal injury attorney from Morgan and Morgan.