Liability in Railroad Accidents

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Trent Shuping with Warshauer Law Group, P.C..

Liability in Railroad Accidents
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Railroad accidents can occur with passengers, railway employees, vehicles, and bystanders, and have the potential to be devastating. Understandably, due to the weight and size of this transportation method, it can take more than a mile for a train to come to a complete stop. This reduced reaction time makes it difficult to avoid accidents and affords very little control to the train conductor if a person or vehicle is on the tracks ahead.

There are a variety of common railroad accidents, including wrecks at railroad crossings, crashes involving the train with a car or truck, exposure to toxic chemicals, train derailment, and mechanical failures. There are a variety of parties involved in railroad accidents and specific laws surrounding this industry that are not applicable to common automobiles, so it can be difficult to figure out who is liable in the case of a railroad accident.

The circumstances surrounding the railroad accident will determine if one or more parties are liable for damages resulting from the accident.

These parties could include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • The conductor. Train conductors are required to go through extensive training and hold themselves to a higher standard of safety than drivers of other vehicles. If a railroad accident occurs due to a violation of FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) guidelines, negligence on the part of the conductor, or incapacitation as a result of DUI or DWAI, the conductor can be held liable for damages resulting from the accident.
  • The railway company. When railway companies choose profit over convenience, the consequences can be dire. It is essential that railway companies maintain proper safety measures and enforce FRA regulations for all of their employees. It is also the railway company’s responsibility to hire reasonably safe employees and to attend to any necessary maintenance on the train or necessary parts.
  • The maintenance provider. Like with any product, when a maintenance provider’s failure to provide adequate maintenance or repairs results in an accident, the provider can be held responsible for ensuing damages.
  • The parts manufacturer. When a defective or faulty component in a train or railroad design results in an accident, the manufacturer of that component can be held responsible for any accidents it causes.
  • A pedestrian. In some cases, railroad accidents occur when a pedestrian jumps or steps in front of a moving train. Whether through intention or distraction, in these situations the pedestrian could be considered partially or even fully liable for the accident, depending on the type and quality of warning devices at the scene.
  • A driver. When a driver moves their vehicle onto the railroad tracks due inattention, negligence, or incapacitation due to DUI or DWAI, the driver could be held partially or fully liable for a resulting accident.

If a railroad worker is injured in an accident resulting from the railway company’s failure to abide by FRA regulations, that worker has the right to report their employer to OSHA and seek compensation. In situations where someone other than a railroad worker is injured, or if the accident did not occur due to a railway company’s negligence, the incident may need to be reported to alternate agencies and different kinds of legal action may need to be taken.

Due to the number of liable parties and the specificity of railroad legislation, it’s a good idea to talk to a railroad accident lawyer.

A railroad accident attorney will know what kind of evidence exists after a railroad accident, how to obtain it, and how to evaluate the liability of involved parties. If you or a loved one were injured or killed in a railroad accident, it’s important to talk to an attorney regarding you and your family’s eligibility for compensation. The majority of these attorneys offer free consultations and work on contingency, which means you won’t have to pay them anything unless or until they win your case. Liability in railroad accidents requires extensive investigation and expert evaluation to determine.

To learn more about railroad accidents and how to file a claim, seek legal counsel.

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