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California Train Accident Lawyer

Although trains are not utilized nearly as much as they once were, thousands of Californians still use them on a daily basis. Unfortunately, while safety measures and technology have improved, train accidents still can and do occur at an alarming rate. In fact, the Federal Railroad Administration estimates that as many as 2,500 train accidents occur every year. Accidents involving trains tend to have especially devastating consequences, resulting in severe and often deadly injuries, so if you were involved in a train accident, it is important to contact an experienced California train accident lawyer who can help you seek compensation for your medical bills.s

Types of Train Accidents

The most common types of train accidents include the following:

  • Derailments;
  • Collisions with other trains or vehicles; and
  • Pedestrian accidents at unprotected railroad crossings.

These kinds of accidents are usually preventable, as they are often the result of conductor error, railroad negligence, mechanical failure, or a reckless driver. Other common accident causes include:

  • Improper track or crossing design;
  • Faulty equipment, such as a malfunctioning switch;
  • Regular wear and tear on the rails;
  • Damage to the rails caused by inclement weather;
  • Broken rails or cracks around the bolts; and
  • Overgrown foliage.

Although defective tracks cause hundreds of accidents every year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) estimates that around one-third of all train collisions are actually caused by human error.

Federal Regulation

In 1966, Congress passed the Department of Transportation Act, which gave the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) the authority to create and oversee rail safety regulations. The regulations put in place by the FRA have gone a long way towards preventing accidents, as they require railroad companies to maintain their tracks, keep trains in good working order, and conduct regular inspections. The Office of Railroad Safety was also put in place to ensure that railroad companies, safety inspectors, and managers enforce rules regarding signal and train control, track design, maintenance, and transporting hazardous materials. Unfortunately, these rules are not always adhered to, which can have tragic consequences for passengers.

Degree of Care

Common carriers, such as railroad companies, are required to use the highest degree of care to keep passengers safe, which involves ensuring that:

  • Tracks are properly designed and constructed with high quality materials;
  • Tracks are inspected for defects or potential hazards;
  • Rails are kept free of overgrown foliage;
  • Rails are maintained and repaired; and
  • Conductors comply with all safety regulations and undergo appropriate training.

When companies fail to exercise this level of care, they can be held accountable for resulting accidents. For instance, railroad companies can be held legally liable for accidents caused by a conductor who was not qualified to operate a train. Failing to hire crews to cut back vegetation from the rails, or to perform repairs of broken railroad ties, or to ensure that all warning signals are in working order are also violations of this duty of care, as a result of which, the following parties can be held legally responsible for damages:

  • The company or agency that owned and operated the train;
  • The government agency or company that owns the track where the accident occurred; and
  • The manufacturer of train equipment if it failed as a result of a production or design flaw.

In some situations, more than one party can be held accountable for injuries. If, for example, an engineer was under the influence when he was operating the train, his employer could be held accountable for a failure to supervise. However, if the tracks where the accident occurred were also overgrown with vegetation, which contributed to the accident, the injured parties could also file a claim against the owner of the railroad or the government agency responsible for maintenance.

Other parties who could be held liable for train accident-related injuries include:

  • Negligent railroad employees;
  • The company that designed the track itself;
  • The railroad maintenance crew that was responsible for inspecting and repairing a dangerous track; and
  • A construction crew that used inferior materials when installing the track itself.

Individuals and entities that are found to have violated a state or federal regulation or to have otherwise acted negligently can be required to compensate victims for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future income, pain and suffering, property damage, and emotional distress.

Contact a California Train Accident Lawyer About Your Case Today

If you or a loved one were involved in a train accident, please reach out to us to speak with one of the dedicated and compassionate train accident attorneys at Pottroff & Karlin, LLC. Our legal team is eager to assist you immediately.

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