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.
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;
New York Train Accident Lawyers
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, approximately 824 train accidents occurred across the country in 2016 alone. Tragically, 8,231 people were injured in these accidents and 792 lost their lives. Although nothing can compensate the families of these victims for their loss, collecting damages from the at-fault parties can go a long way towards enabling them to cover mounting medical debt or other expenses and so allow them to grieve without this financial burden. Unfortunately, train accident claims are notoriously complex, as they almost always involve the negligence of more than one party. Furthermore, insurers and railway companies can make it extremely difficult to gather evidence, so those whose loved ones sustained an injury in a train collision are strongly encouraged to retain an experienced New York train accident attorney who will aggressively represent their interests, whether in settlement proceedings or in the courtroom.
Types of Train Accidents
Although there are a variety of types of train crashes, the most common occur at crossings with vehicles or pedestrians or involve derailment. Both situations are almost always the result of at least one party’s negligence. For example, if a railroad crossing was unprotected and a driver had no warning that a train was approaching, the city or railway company responsible for designing the crossing could be required to compensate the victims of the accident. The other most common causes of train accidents include:
- Conductor error due to intoxication, lack of training, fatigue, or distraction;
- Mechanical failure resulting from a defectively designed or manufactured part or a failure to properly maintain the train’s equipment;
- Driver negligence in failing to acknowledge warning signals;
- A railway company’s failure to maintain the tracks themselves by conducting regular inspections as required by federal law, clearing foliage at important crossings, and replacing all worn or damaged rails, bolts, and cross ties;
- A railroad owner’s failure to keep crossing guardrails, lights, and signals in working order;
- A company’s failure to ensure that emergency and safety equipment are kept on-board all trains;
- The government agency or contractor responsible for designing an unsafe route or using inferior materials during construction;
- A railroad company’s failure to ensure that employees and crew members were properly trained and supervised; and
- A train owner’s failure to update equipment and train parts as necessary.
Determining who was at fault for a crash can be an extremely difficult process, especially if multiple parties were negligent, as it then becomes necessary to assign percentages of fault. Fortunately, our firm has the experience and resources necessary to conduct a thorough investigation of your accident, which includes an in-depth look at the railroad’s maintenance record, hiring practices, training requirements, and work hours. This will help us determine whether the workplace was promoting safety by ensuring that employees were not only well rested, but also properly trained. If this analysis uncovers evidence that the train company was negligent, we will attempt to hold those parties responsible for your losses.
Train Accident Injuries
Trains weigh as much as 400,000 pounds and can extend as far as three feet beyond the rails of the tracks themselves. For these reasons, train accidents tend to result in especially devastating injuries, although their severity will depend on the specific type of collision. Head-on crashes, for example, usually result in the tragic deaths of multiple employees and passengers. Derailments can also be extremely dangerous, especially if they occur at high speeds and the train tips over during the crash. Crashes where hazardous cargo was spilled also put not only train employees at risk, but also anyone in nearby communities who could be exposed to dangerous and often deadly chemicals or gases. The severity of injuries also depends on how fast the train was traveling prior to the crash, as well as the age and general health of the victim. However, there are certain types of injuries that are especially common and occur in most severe train accidents, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, severe burns, crushed or broken bones, severe lacerations, and amputations.
These types of catastrophic injuries are prohibitively expensive to treat. Even broken bones could require hospitalization, multiple scans, surgical repair, and physical therapy, all of which can quickly overwhelm a victim’s finances. This is doubly true for those who sustain traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries, as these types of injuries, even if they fully heal, often leave victims suffering from side effects for years to come. Many spinal cord injuries, for instance, result in permanent partial or total paralysis, meaning that an injured party will require specialized medical equipment even when able to return to the hospital.
Paying these types of medical bills on top of household expenses can quickly drive a family into debt, especially if the injured party was the sole source of income for a family or contributed a significant amount to providing childcare services. In the tragic event that an injured party passes away as a result of his or her injuries, the surviving family members will be required to pay funeral and burial costs on top of medical bills, while also suffering from lost income. No family should have to bear these burdens on their own, especially in train accidents when their loved one was not at fault for causing the crash. Filing a claim against the negligent parties is often the only way to recoup financial losses and begin the long process of recovery, so if you were injured in a train accident or lost a loved one in a collision, please contact our firm today for more information on your legal options.
Get the Legal Representation You Deserve
To schedule a free case evaluation with a dedicated train accident attorney who is well-versed in both New York and federal law, please contact Pottroff & Karlin, LLC today. A member of our legal team can be reached by calling 785-539-4656 or by sending an online message that includes a brief description of your case and your contact information. We are standing by and eager to help you through each step of your case. 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.