New Mexico Train Accident Attorneys

Like car crashes, train accidents are almost always the result of at least one party’s negligence. This could include negligence or recklessness on the part of the conductor, the railroad company, another driver, a railroad employee, or even the manufacturer of a defective train part. Because there are so many potentially negligent parties in these types of cases, it is especially critical for those who have been injured in a train accident to contact an experienced New Mexico train accident lawyer who can help them seek compensation from the responsible parties.

New Mexico Train Accident Statistics

There were 15 train accidents in New Mexico between January and September of this year alone. Of those accidents, 13 were derailments and the remaining two involved rear end and raking collisions. The former term refers to accidents where a second train strikes the rear of the train in front of it and are almost always the result of hardware or software failures or human errors. The latter type of accident also involve derailments and occur when a derailed car drags along the side of another train. In this way, the derailed train can be said to be “raking” the side of the second train.
Although derailments, rear end collisions, and raking accidents are the only kind of train accidents that have occurred in New Mexico so far this year, they are by no means the only types of train collisions. In fact, in prior years, accidents in the state resulted from all of the following:

  • Fire or violent rupture;
  • Obstruction impacts;
  • Side collisions;
  • Head-on collisions; and
  • Other impacts.

Like the previously mentioned types of train accidents, these kinds of collisions can almost always be traced to someone’s negligence.

Causes of Train Accidents

Although train crashes are most often attributed to human error and technological malfunction, specifically, the most common reasons for train accidents are:

  • Failing to comply with a restricted speed;
  • Improperly lined switches;
  • Extreme wind velocity;
  • Electrical fires;
  • Taking inadequate precautions to prevent cars from detaching;
  • The presence of a vehicle on the tracks;
  • Improper instructions to train yards and crews;
  • A settled or soft roadbed;
  • Brake defects;
  • Worn treads;
  • Failing to apply or secure hand brakes;
  • Failing to comply with train signals;
  • The improper use of independent brakes; and
  • Shifting cargo loads.

Many collisions, especially derailments, are caused by a problem with the railroad tracks themselves, such as:

  • Defective or missing cross ties;
  • A worn or broken switch point;
  • The presence of snow, mud, gravel, or ice on the tracks;
  • Track vandalism;
  • Irregular track alignment;
  • Problems with spikes and other rail fasteners;
  • Track geometry defects;
  • Breaks or cracks in bolt holes;
  • Broken rail bases;
  • Non-insulated or broken joint bars;
  • Broken or missing joint bolts; and
  • Fissures in the rails.

Accidents caused by these types of problems are particularly aggravating because they are so easily prevented. In fact, under federal law, railroad companies are required to regularly inspect their rails to ensure that none of these problems exist. Unfortunately, despite this legal obligation, many railroad companies fail to inspect their rails for defects or potential hazards and ensure that rails are maintained and repaired and that the tracks are generally kept free of foliage, especially at crossings. In these situations, the negligent railroad company can be held liable by victims who were injured in an accident caused by their lack of action.

Human Error

Aside from negligent maintenance, human error in the operation of the train itself also comes into play in these types of cases. In fact, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) estimates that approximately one-third of all train accidents are the result of human error, which could be caused by:

  • Inadequate employee and crew member training;
  • Employee distraction or fatigue;
  • Negligent hiring;
  • Failing to properly supervise employees; and
  • Intoxication by conductors and other crew members.

When accidents can be traced to this type of conduct, the responsible parties or their insurers can be held liable for damages in court. In most cases, more than a single party contributes to and can be held accountable for a crash. A distracted conductor, for example, may fail to reduce his or her speed as required when going through a railroad crossing, but a driver on the tracks could also be held responsible if he or she failed to heed crossing signals. Other liable parties could include:

  • Railroad companies if they failed to properly train employees, did not conduct inspections as required by federal law, or did not ensure that safety equipment was kept on the train;
  • Railroad employees if they failed to load cargo appropriately;
  • Government bodies or construction companies if they used improper materials when building the track or used a negligent track design;
  • Railroad employees if they were tasked with inspecting and repairing a part of the track, but failed to do so;
  • Companies that own or operate trains if they did not adequately train employees or failed to provide supervision;
  • Drivers who unlawfully obstruct the tracks; or
  • Manufacturers of defective train parts or railroad materials.

Plaintiffs who are able to prove that one or more of these parties caused or contributed to a crash may be eligible to recover damages, including compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of future income, property damage, emotional distress, and funeral or burial costs.

Call Today to Discuss Your Case with a Dedicated New Mexico Train Accident Lawyer

At Pottroff & Karlin, LLC, we dedicate ourselves to helping our clients achieve the legal outcome that is best for them. In most cases, this involves resolving a claim through an out of court settlement, although in some situations this is not always possible and it will be necessary to go to court. Whatever your situation, we will assess the facts of your case and then map out the best course of action for your individual circumstances, so if you were injured in a train accident, or lost a loved one in a collision, please call 785-539-4656 to speak with a member of our legal team who can help you schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced New Mexico train accident attorneys.

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