Every year, thousands of train derailments and accidents occur in the U.S. with many happening in the Chicago metropolitan area. Derailed train accidents often cause serious life-threatening injuries and death to passengers, along with innocent bystanders, pedestrians and motorists.
Many of the injuries occur because of a lack of safety devices including seat belts in the train cars and compartments. Often times, drivers and pedestrians near the train tracks also suffer injuries or death in a derailed train accident. These injuries are usually severe because of the catastrophic impact of a train leaving the rails while traveling at high speeds. Many common injuries include:
- TBI (traumatic brain injury) and concussion
- Broken bones
- Crush avulsions
- Paralysis due to spinal cord injuries
When a train carrying loads of toxic chemicals derails, many individuals in the community can be exposed to toxic spills. The hazardous chemicals often include phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid and others. The exposure often causes significant injuries and death.
Explosive chemicals including fuel and methanol often result in catastrophic railroad fires. Many times, the toxic chemical spill produces long-lasting environmental damage to the community. Any toxin-compromised water, land and air in the areas surrounding the spill can create a contaminated environment for decades.
Commuter Train Derailment Causes
There are numerous reasons why trains come off the track. Often times, a thorough investigation is necessary to determine the cause of the train derailment accident. Typically, investigators will prove the accident was caused by negligence involving one or more responsible parties. Common derailment causes often involve equipment failure or human error. Some of those causes include:
- Colliding with another train
- Tracks that are poorly or improperly maintained
- Improper switch alignment
- Mechanical failure of a rail car or train engine
- Failure to install necessary signaling devices including gates and lights
- Hazardous railroad crossings that increase the potential of a collision with trucks and vehicles
- Tired and overworked train crews
- Conductor negligence or inexperience
- Failure to remove any debris or obstruction near or at railroad crossings
- Trains moving at excessive speed during poor weather conditions
Any train derailment can be catastrophic. Because of that, railroad companies and maintenance crews are held to a high standard of liability. In fact, both state and federal governments regulate the railroads as a recognized common carrier. It is the common carrier regulations that hold the railroads liable and responsible for even a slight act of negligence.
A Legal Remedy Available To Passengers Injured In Train Derailment Accidents
Many victims of a derailed train accident seek legal remedies to hold the common carrier, maintenance crews and operators liable for their negligence. Often times, the victims will hire a reputable personal injury attorney that specializes in train accidents. Typically, the lawyer will investigate the accident to determine if adequate compensation can be obtained for their client that has suffered injury or death.
Laws governing the railroad require the common carrier take reasonable action as a preventative measure against serious injuries and wrongful death. Because of that, attorneys will usually investigate the accident thoroughly to determine if there was any failure in providing reasonable care. This could include negligence caused by the engineer or conductor, defective train parts, a mechanical failure, or defective railroad track.
Mechanical failures that would hold the engineer and the railroad company liable could include:
- Malfunctioning brakes
- Malfunctioning gates, sounds and lights
- A faulty communication system and/or equipment
- Broken or defective handrails on rail cars and locomotives
- Defective hand brake
- Broken or defective rails leading to a derailment
Crew member negligence could include distractions of the engineer caused by another worker or cell phone. Other negligence actions could include operating the train under the influence of alcohol or drugs, workers improperly switching tracks, or employees pushing trains without following specific safety guidelines and precautions.
Filing a claim for financial recompense in a train accident usually requires the skills of legal counsel. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC at (888) 424-5757 handle personal injury cases for victims suffering injury or wrongful death in a railroad accident. The law firm works on contingency, meaning no upfront fees are paid out of pocket by the victim or the victim’s family. The attorney’s fees are paid out of the award at trial of a successful lawsuit, or in an out-of-court settlement negotiated between the attorneys and the insurance companies providing insured coverage for the railroad company.