Railroad Accident Lawyers in Birmingham, AL
When anything comes into contact with a moving train, the results are nearly always tragic. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there are more than 14,000 train accidents in the United States each year. As many as 1,000 people are killed in train-related accidents, and thousands more are injured annually in this country. If you have been injured in a railroad accident or a loved one killed, the experienced and knowledgeable Alabama railroad accident attorneys at Burge & Burge, PC will fight for your rights and just compensation.
Major Causes of Railroad Accidents
One of the most heartbreaking things about railroad accidents is that most of them are preventable. When these tragedies occur, property damage is a given, but there is also often serious injury and death. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) keeps track of railroad accidents in the United States, and they tell us that the most common causes of railroad accidents are:
- Human Error – According to the FRA, human error is the most common cause of railroad This can include such things as excessive speed, improper braking, ignoring orders, and falling asleep on the job. Anything that prevents a person from seeing an oncoming train is a hazard and an invitation for a crash. These can be both permanent and temporary impediments. For example, overgrown vegetation and trees can obstruct the view of drivers. Also, a train that is parked too close to a crossing can obscure the view of an oncoming train.
- Track Defects – Track defects are another common cause of train crashes. These include worn and misaligned tracks, broken switches, and breaks in bolt holes. When there are defects in the track, it can lead to dangerous train derailments at or near a railroad crossing.
- Miscellaneous Causes – Miscellaneous causes might include severe weather conditions or improperly loaded freight cars.
- Faulty Equipment – Mechanical failure, such as a failed switch or faulty brakes are also causes of train crashes.
- Signal Errors – A functioning crossing gate should have gates that lower, lights that flash, and alarms that sound. If any of these functions are not working, this could lead to an accident.
- Train-Vehicle Collisions – Unfortunately, even when a signal works on a roadway, there are drivers that choose to ignore the warning, causing train-vehicle collisions.
Train Derailment Accidents
There are several reasons why a train can derail. If you’ve been involved in one of these railroad injuries, it’s important that a thorough investigation of the facts is conducted to properly establish negligence. The leading causes of train derailments include:
- Track Geometry– Problems with the track are the leading cause of train derailments. This includes issues with track alignment, track elevation, and rail gauge. When tracks aren’t aligned properly, the train can’t travel safely.
- Bearing Failure– This issue accounts for 5.9% of train derailments. Wheel bearings fail due to lack of lubrication, wear and tear, or when objects on the track are struck. When the train’s wheels don’t function properly, they will “skip” the track and cause the train to derail.
- Broken Wheels– Trains are heavy, and thousands of pounds of pressure on a train’s wheel can cause the wheels to crack and eventually break. Broken wheels account for more than 5% of train derailment accidents.
- Train Handling– When trains aren’t operated properly or operated at excessive speeds, accidents happen. This type of operator error is the cause of 4.6% of derailed trains.
- Collisions– Collisions with other trains or even vehicles on the road can cause a dangerous train derailment.
In some train derailment accidents, there is more than one cause. For example, an operator might have been operating the train too fast, which caused a derailment when the train hit a defect in the track.
Railroad Accidents Involving Motor Vehicles
After train derailments, one of the most common types of train accidents involves trains hitting motor vehicles or trucks at railroad crossings. Statistics show that a railroad crossing accident happens every 90 minutes in the United States. If your car stalls on a set of railroad tracks, it would be a mistake to believe that a train will be able to stop. A 150-car train traveling at 50 miles per hour could take up to one mile to stop. Whether the crossing was malfunctioning, there was a breakdown, or the vehicle driver attempted to beat the train, the results of these train accidents can be tragic.
Employees Injured in Railroad Accidents
If you were a railroad employee injured in a train accident, your rights are protected under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA). This legislation provides the only remedy for railroad employees and their families to collect damages due to an injury or death of a railway employee. Unfortunately, FELA benefits are not easy to obtain, and often require the assistance of a skilled attorney. If this is your situation, please contact our experienced Alabama FELA accident and injury claims lawyer for assistance.
Railroad Accident Injuries and Damages
If you have been injured in a railroad accident, you have the right to sue for such things as past and future medical expenses, loss of wages, and even punitive damages. If a loved one has suffered wrongful death from a railway accident, their survivors are entitled to just compensation as well.
Who is Responsible for a Railroad Accident?
Depending on the nature of your railroad accident, one or more parties could be held responsible for your injuries and damages. A majority of these train accidents are caused by unsafe conditions or failure of the railroad company to exercise the proper care in operations.
If you or a loved one is injured in a railroad crossing accident, it is essential that you hire an attorney who will investigate your case and get to the bottom of who was at fault for your crash. In many cases, liability for a railroad crossing accident falls on the shoulders of:
- Rail company. A rail company may be liable for a railroad crossing accident if their negligence or the negligence of one of their employees (through the theory of vicarious liability) causes the accident. For example, a rail company may be liable if the operator of the train was intoxicated, causing the accident, or if the accident occurred because the rail company failed to properly maintain is train.
- In some cases, a railroad crossing accident may be caused as a result of a mechanical or equipment failure. For example, a train engine may fail due to a part defect, or rail may break prematurely due to defective manufacture. In either case, the manufacturer of the defective part may be to blame.
- Local government. Depending upon the cause of the accident and the duty of a local government to prevent against accidents, a municipality or other government agency may be to blame for a railroad crossing accident. For example, when it comes to railway warning signs and crossing arms, both the railway and the local government may share responsibility for installation and maintenance of these warning mechanisms. As such, if a railroad crossing warning is broken – i.e. the lights do not flash or a warning gate does not descend when a train is approaching – a local government may be to blame for an accident that results.
- A driver. In some cases, railroad crossing accidents are the fault of the driver of the motor vehicle that is involved in the railroad crossing accident. This may be the case when the driver tries to beat the train, is speeding, is intoxicated, or is distracted.
Railroad crossing accidents can be complicated cases to prove. Railroad companies are responsible for making sure that all train crossing are safe. Unfortunately, when an accident occurs, it’s not uncommon for one of these companies to try to obscure their role in the negligence that led to the accident and its resulting injuries.
While the railroad company is an obvious choice for negligence, they may not be the only party at fault in your accident. Other parties might include equipment manufacturers, train traffic controllers, mechanics, track owners, and other contractors or shipping clients. We will thoroughly investigate your case and uncover every piece of evidence necessary to identify the negligent parties and pursue the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Major Recent U.S. Railroad Accidents
- March 7, 2017: Four people were killed in Biloxi, MS when a CSX freight train hit a charter bus that was stuck on the tracks at a grade crossing.
- April 3, 2016: Two people were killed and 31 injured when an Amtrak train collided with a backhoe on the tracks in Chester, PA, causing a train derailment.
- May 13, 2015: Six people were injured in East Point, GA when a CSX freight train collided with a bus that was blocked in by traffic at a railroad crossing.
What to Do if You’ve Been Involved in a Railroad Accident
If you’ve been involved in a train accident, seek immediate medical attention. Even if you just feel shaken up after the incident, these are traumatic events that can leave victims feeling disoriented. Many times, the aches and pains from such a collision will emerge days later. It’s important for your case that you document these medical visits and your resulting injuries. All railroad accidents are reported to government authorities and thoroughly investigated. Participate in any investigation, but avoid signing releases or making agreements without first consulting with an attorney that has extensive experience with railroad accident cases.
Get Help From an Experienced Railroad Accident Attorney
Train crash cases are often complicated matters that involve substantial property damage, serious injury, and even death. The railroad companies are not on your side, despite their statements to the contrary. These companies will attempt to minimize their liability and any payments to you for medical care and lost wages. A skilled and experienced Alabama railroad accident attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and fight to protect your rights. We understand the struggles experienced by victims of train accidents and will work hard to get you just compensation for your injuries. Contact the knowledgeable and aggressive railroad accident attorneys at Burge & Burge at 205-251-9000 or 800-633-3733 to schedule a free consultation.
We also handle railroad accidents in Cullman