Our nation’s massive network of railroads and train tracks winds through rural environments and populated urban areas, taking commuters to work and carrying people and goods great distances. Unfortunately, statistics reveal that a motorist or pedestrian is struck by a train every three hours in the United States. Many of these accidents cause severe injuries and fatalities when trains collide with passenger vehicles, buses, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
The statistics are sobering. In 2018, 271 people were killed nationwide in accidents at railroad crossings. A person is 40 times more likely to die in a collision with a train than in a car crash, according to Operation Lifesaver. Here’s another way of looking at it: It takes a freight train traveling 55 miles per hour the length of 18 football fields to come to a complete stop. And high speed is not necessary to inflict injury: Most rail-crossing collisions happen when the train is traveling under 30 mph.
Who Regulates the U.S. Railroad System?
Passenger trains and rail systems are common carriers that must follow federal and state regulations which require them to adhere to the highest standards of safety. If you can prove that a railway system failed in its duty to protect you while boarding, riding on, or disembarking a train, you can pursue a claim for any injuries you suffered.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the federal agency that has legal jurisdiction over the national railway system and accidents involving trains. NTSB routinely releases reports about railway safety problems and issues recommendations that focus on preventing accidents involving trains, railroad tracks, and rail crossings.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) might be called in to investigate a train accident to determine if an intentional criminal act, terrorism or sabotage contributed to the crash. However, the FBI rarely assumes jurisdiction over the case unless the investigation uncovers criminal activity.
Freight and passenger train crews, including light-rail transit systems, are legally obligated to ensure the safety and protection not only of their passengers but of the public crossing railroad tracks on foot or in vehicles. The train’s engineer, conductor, and brakeman must control the train and maintain a practical lookout when approaching and passing through public railway crossings. Train operators are required to slow the train’s speed under dangerous conditions such as snowstorms, heavy rains, fog, or any other condition that limits visibility.
What Causes Most Train Accidents
Train collisions at railroad crossings are common incidents and often occur because the crossing signal never warned drivers, pedestrians or cyclists of the approaching train. Other times, the signal tripped too late or the driver did not heed the alert at the crossing.
Our train accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers have represented hundreds of clients who were injured in accidents with trains. Most of these cases involve the following causes:
- Derailment caused by a speeding train or defective track
- Brake failure caused by a defective component or lack of maintenance
- Improperly loaded cars, merchandise, or freight
- Hazardous cargo
- Malfunctioning safety gates
- A person slipping and falling on a wet surface
- Electrical shock or electrocution
Train Accidents are Common in Illinois
Illinois is second only to Texas in its number of rail crossings, with 7,595 public highway-rail crossings and more than 7,300 miles of train track. According to Illinois Operation Lifesaver, approximately 80 people die each year on and around railroad tracks and property. There were 109 collisions between trains and motor vehicles or pedestrians at rail crossings in Illinois in 2018, killing 17 people and seriously injuring 34. This put Illinois in fifth place among states for numbers of casualties.
Let Our Experienced Train Accident Attorneys go to Work for You
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents people with severe injuries suffered in railroad accidents. Our team of train accident injury attorneys has compiled a series of frequently asked questions about railway crashes and crossing accidents and posted the answers below. We hope train crash victims and their survivors will find this information useful in making an informed decision about their legal options following an accident. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our firm for a free, no-obligation review of your legal rights.