Rhode Island Train Accident Lawyer
With the exception of the occasional news story regarding a major accident, many of us do not hear about train accidents on a regular basis. However, the reality is that train accidents actually occur at an alarming rate across the country. In fact, the Federal Railroad Administration reports that on average, more than 3,000 train accidents leading to a death, injury, or property damage occur every year. These types of accidents tend to have especially devastating consequences for passengers and employees alike, resulting in catastrophic injuries that are painful, difficult, and expensive to treat, so if you or a loved one were injured in a train accident, it is critical to speak with an experienced attorney who can help you seek compensation for your medical expenses and other losses.
Types of Train Accidents
Train accidents fall under a number of different categories, including:
- Head-on crashes with other trains;
- Explosions and fires;
- Railroad crossing collisions with pedestrians or vehicles; and
- Cargo spills.
Although these types of accidents can be the result of a driver or pedestrian error, most can be traced to the negligence or recklessness of a train company or its employees. Many railroad crossing accidents, for instance, are the result of a failure to properly install or maintain signals and gates at the crossing itself. Other common causes include:
- Mechanical or electrical failure, such as signal errors;
- Faulty equipment and inadequately maintained signals;
- Excessive or unstable cargo loads;
- Insufficient warnings or barriers;
- Railway obstructions;
- Roadbed or track problems, including wear and tear on the rails themselves or improper track design;
- General maintenance problems; and
- Human error, including negligent operation.
Because common carriers, such as trains have a higher duty to ensure their passengers’ safety, they can be held accountable in court for failing to use the level of care required by law.
Track defects are some of the most common causes of train accidents, especially derailments. Broken rails, in particular pose a serious risk to passengers and train employees alike, as do the following problems:
- Bolt hole cracks;
- Damage caused by inclement weather, such as rain and snow;
- Fractures in the railheads;
- Chipped or flaking steel;
- Burned or flattened rails;
- Cracks in the base of the rails;
- Worn rails; and
- The growth of foliage and vegetation across the tracks.
Most of these problems are the result of normal wear and tear caused by the rapid expansion and contraction of the rails themselves, which is especially common in areas with extreme temperatures. To help prevent these types of issues, the FRA requires train companies and railroad owners to conduct regular inspections and ensure that all repairs are made correctly and with the proper materials. Companies that fail to take these steps can be held liable for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, but only if the injured party can provide evidence of the company’s negligence.
Although mechanical, electrical, and track failure all play a role in causing train accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) estimates that around one-third of all train accidents are actually the result of human error, which in turn can often be traced to:
- Inadequate employee training;
- Engineer/conductor distraction or fatigue;
- Negligent hiring;
- Improper supervision; and
When one or more of these causes can be traced to an accident, the at-fault individual and his or her employer can be held liable for damages. Examples of human error that could lead to accidents include:
- Speeding when approaching a crossing or failing to brake appropriately;
- Ignoring signals;
- Failing to sound the train’s horn at a crossing; and
- Failing to utilize proper lighting.
Engineers and conductors are not the only individuals whose mistakes can result in an accident. For instance, a construction crew’s failure to use proper materials when constructing the tracks themselves could cause a serious accident. Additionally, railroad employees who fail to comply with federal regulations when loading cargo can be held liable for resulting accidents if their actions led to a cargo spill and subsequent injuries. The company itself could also be held accountable if it failed to properly train employees on proper loading procedures.
Demonstrating Negligence and Collecting Compensation
Before an injured party can collect compensation, he or she will need to demonstrate that another entity’s negligence was responsible for the accident. Fortunately, railroads must install black boxes in their trains, which record a train’s speed, as well as whether a horn was used, how and when the brakes were engaged, and what direction the train was traveling prior to the derailment or collision. Train signals are also monitored and controlled in dispatch centers across the state and information from these entities can help prove who was responsible for an accident.
Plaintiffs who can demonstrate that another party was at fault for a train accident can recover damages to compensate them for the following costs:
- Medical bills and home health care expenses;
- Property damage;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering;
- Wrongful death; and
- Funeral and burial expenses.
Although collecting these types of damages may not be able to return an injured party to his or her pre-accident state of health, it can go a long way towards helping victims and their families begin the long process of recovery.
Call Today to Speak with an Experienced Train Accident Attorney in Rhode Island
If you or a loved one were injured in a train accident, you may be eligible for compensation. To learn more, please call 785-539-4656 and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule a free initial consultation with one of the experienced and compassionate train accident attorneys at Pottroff & Karlin, LLC. These types of accidents can take an enormous physical, emotional, and financial toll on victims and their families, so please don’t hesitate to call with your accident-related questions or concerns. A member of our legal team is standing by to help you throughout each step of your case.