Kentucky Train Accident Lawyer
The railroad industry is regulated by state law, as well as by the Office of Railroad Safety, which is overseen by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The rules and regulations put in place by these agencies require railroads and train operators to take a number of steps to ensure passenger safety, such as inspecting railways regularly, properly training employees, repairing broken and worn rails, and properly maintaining the trains themselves. Unfortunately, not all railroad companies implement these practices, which can have deadly consequences for passengers, pedestrians, drivers, and bystanders. Although these entities can be held legally liable for their negligence, filing a claim can be difficult, so if you were involved in a train accident in Kentucky, please contact a train accident lawyer who can help you seek compensation for your losses.
What do Federal Regulations Require?
The FRA primarily focuses on the railroad industry’s compliance with regulations regarding:
- Transporting, loading, unloading, and storing hazardous materials;
- Motive power and train equipment;
- Safe operating practices;
- Signal and train control; and
- Track safety.
To help ensure that rails and trains are kept in good working order, the FRA requires railroads to inspect each switch, track crossing, turnout, and moveable bridge lift rail at least once a month and on foot, unless the track is used less than once a month. Some of the most common types of train accidents are those that involve train crossings. When trees and shrubbery are permitted to grow unchecked, they could obscure the railroad tracks and any approaching trains from crossing vehicles. For this reason, railroad companies are required to control the vegetation along their tracks.
Inspections are also intended to catch any rail defects before they became so severe as to create a risk of derailment. The most common types of defects are caused by wear and tear, repeated expansion and contraction caused by radical increases and decreases in the rail’s temperature, and stresses resulting from improper manufacturing. Regular wear and tear can manifest in a number of different ways, including as:
- Fissures or fractures in the rail heads;
- Cracks and breaks in the base of the rails;
- Bolt hole cracks;
- Flattened rails;
- Flaking or chipped steel; and
- Burned rails.
Regular track maintenance programs are critical to increasing the life cycle of a rail and deterring the growth of cracks and internal flaws. Failing to implement these types of programs is a violation of federal law and can also result in derailments, which are some of the most serious types of train accidents.
Common Accident Causes
Unfortunately, a lack of inspection and maintenance are not the only causes of train accidents, as these types of collisions often occur as a result of:
- A defective railway design;
- Negligent operation of the train;
- Engineer error, such as failing to maintain a proper speed or ignoring signals;
- Traveling at excessive speeds when approaching a crossing;
- Defective parts or mechanical failure;
- Excessive or unstable cargo loads;
- Inadequately maintained signals; and
- Insufficient warnings or barriers.
Although railroad and train companies are often responsible for train accidents, whether as a result of negligent hiring or a failure to inspect and maintain the tracks, many collisions can be attributed to drivers and pedestrians. Even when there are warnings and barriers in place and an engineer is using great care when operating a train, accidents can still occur if a driver or pedestrian decides to cross the tracks illegally and either gets stuck, abandons his or her car, or fails to get out of the way in time. Trains are extremely heavy and travel at high speeds so coming to a complete stop can take as long as a mile. In many cases, engineers are unable to see the obstruction until it is too late to stop the train. These collisions are often deadly for the individual blocking the train, but can also cause derailments, which endangers passengers and train employees as well. In these cases, the driver, and in some situations, the driver’s employer, can be held accountable for causing the crash.
Injured parties who can demonstrate that a driver, train conductor, railroad company, or employee was responsible for their accident may be able to collect compensation to cover not only medical bills, but also lost wages, pain and suffering, and wrongful death damages.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Kentucky Train Accident Lawyer
To speak with a train accident attorney about your own case, please contact the legal team at Pottroff & Karlin, LLC for a free consultation. Our Kentucky train accident lawyers are prepared to help you throughout each step of your case.