Railroad and Train Accidents in Texas

Ins and outs of Texas train accidents and railroad injuries

Texas railroad cases are generally more complicated than other types of motor vehicle accidents. Damages are available, provided you know who to sue and what you need to prove.

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.

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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
Real Life Example: In August 2019, there was a massive train derailment near Itasca and Hillsboro, Texas. Approximately 30 cars on a Union Pacific train derailed. Fortunately, in this case, nobody was injured and there were no chemical spills. But this isn’t always the case.

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
  • Suicide
Enjuris tip: A train accident can involve any type of train, including freight carriers and passenger (both public and private).

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
In Texas, 14 people died in train accidents in 2018, and another 180 people were seriously injured. Tweet this

Are railroad accidents more complicated than car accidents?

The short answer is yes. Railroad accidents, like motor vehicle accidents, can cause a range of injuries: anything from broken bones to catastrophic injuries or even death.

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.

Enjuris tip: Rail lines can be public or private. If the government owns the rail line that caused your injury, then your personal injury claim becomes even more complicated. When suing the government, there are notice statutes you must follow and the time you have to file a personal injury claim is shortened dramatically.

If you’ve been injured in a train accident, you should reach out to an attorney sooner rather than later.

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
Enjuris tip: Although an employee of a railroad company may have caused your accident, the railroad company may ultimately be held liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior if the employee was acting within the scope of their employment. This is good news for your claim, as railroad companies tend to have deeper pockets than their employees.

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
Enjuris tip: Learn more about how damages are calculated in a Texas personal injury case.

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.

Real Life Example: In Florida, a jury ordered CSX railroad corporation to pay $50 million to the wife of a Miami police officer who died in the derailment of Amtrak’s Silver Star. The jury found that CSX inspectors had failed to repair a faulty track-switching mechanism, and this failure caused the accident.

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

Documents & Evidence Checklist
Checklist of 30 items to help you prepare for making a personal injury or accident claim
Download in PDF format

Damages/Expenses Worksheet
Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
Download in PDF format

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.

In Texas, railroad employees have the option to sue their employers under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA).
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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.

Enjuris tip: Learn more about how to find a great personal injury attorney in Texas.
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What does an injury lawyer do?

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

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