Ins and outs of Texas train accidents and railroad injuries
Long before personal injury lawsuits were filed because of car accidents, court cases were fought over train accidents. At one time, Texas operated more than 16,000 miles of trackage.
While trains aren’t the most popular mode of transportation in Texas anymore, the Lone Star State still has roughly 10,000 miles of trackage for trains carrying freight ranging from chemicals to agriculture.
What happens if you’re injured in a train accident in the Lone Star State? Do your legal options change if you’re a rail employee as opposed to a passenger?
Let’s take a look.
Train accident types and causes
When you think about a train accident, you might first think about a train derailment. This makes sense, as derailments are more commonly in the news. But, many different types of accidents affect both the public and railroad employees, including:
- Train derailments
- Train-vehicle collisions
- Train-train collisions
- Accidents at railroad crossings
- Pedestrians or workers falling onto tracks
Train accidents and railroad injuries can be caused by a number of different factors. These causes can include:
- Mechanical failure
- Track problems or lack of maintenance on tracks
- Track obstructions
- Human mistake or negligence
- Distracted drivers (both vehicle and train)
- Unmarked or unprotected railroad crossing
- Stalled cars on tracks
Train accident statistics
Every year in the United States, there are hundreds of train accidents. Here are some eye-opening statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration:
- In 2018 there were 14 fatalities caused by train accidents in Texas
- In 2018 there were 180 non-fatal injuries caused by train accidents in Texas
- More than half of railroad accidents happen at unprotected crossings
- The risk of fatality is 20 times higher in a vehicle-train collision than in a vehicle-on-vehicle collision
Are railroad accidents more complicated than car accidents?
What really makes railroad accident cases more complicated, though, is the number of players that may be involved. There are a number of parties involved in a train’s day-to-day operations, and each of these parties could be held liable depending on the situation.
What’s more, due to a train’s size and inability to stop as quickly as a car, the physical and emotional damages are often greater than those in a car accident. The higher damages can mean that the railroad’s commercial insurance company is less willing to accept your settlement offer, and things can become contentious quickly.
When can I sue for my railroad injuries?
Any time you’re injured as a result of someone else’s actions or inactions, you have the right to sue for damages. In the case of train accidents, sometimes negligence must be proven, and other times, strict liability applies.
Negligence means that someone has breached their legal duty of care. For example, railroad companies have a responsibility to properly instruct their conductors and engineers. If corners are cut and a train conductor causes an accident because of their lack of training, the company may be negligent.
Strict liability, on the other hand, doesn’t require you to prove that someone breached their legal duty of care. Rather, the action or product itself is sufficient proof of liability.
When it comes to train accidents, strict liability may apply when a defective product caused your injury. For example, if a defective rail tie causes an accident, the manufacturer of the defective rail tie may be strictly liable for your injuries (assuming you can prove that the rail tie was actually defective and the defect caused the accident).
Who’s liable? What damages can I collect?
Depending on the nature of the accident, one or more of the following parties may be responsible:
- The railroad company
- The train operator
- The manufacturer of the train or train components (if the accident was caused by a defective train or train component)
- Track or train maintenance workers
- A government entity that owns or operates the railroad
Determining the responsible party (or parties) in a train accident is difficult and generally requires an extensive investigation overseen by an experienced attorney.
As far as damages, you may be able to receive compensation for:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Damaged property
If you’ve endured the loss of a family member because of a train accident, you may also be able to collect compensation for funeral expenses and loss of companionship. This is done by filing a wrongful death claim.
How can I help my train accident case?
The best thing you can do to improve your train accident case and raise the chance of receiving compensation is carefully documenting your case.
This means you should keep copies of all documents that share details of your injuries or the case’s details including:
- Police reports
- Any communication with an insurance company
- Medical records
- Witness statements
- Any personally written details that you remember from the accident
What if I’m a railroad employee?
In 1908, the United States Congress passed the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA). This law was enacted due to the high number of railroad workers who were killed on the job around the turn of the century.
Because of FELA, railroad employees can sue their employer for their injuries (unlike Texas employees subject to workers' compensation laws). Railroad employees, in order to receive compensation, must prove that they were injured because of the negligence of another employee, their employer, or due to faulty equipment.
Railroad worker injury claims aren’t limited to physical injuries, but also can include injuries resulting from exposure to asbestos, silica, creosote, and other harmful chemicals.
What to look for in an attorney for your railroad accident case
Railroad accidents are often accompanied by serious and expensive injuries, and many parties could be held liable.
With a complicated situation and high stakes at hand, you’ll want to make sure you work with an attorney who truly understands the local and federal regulations that can surround railroad accident cases.
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more