Trains are large, very heavy, and often traveling at great speeds. Collisions between a train and anything else produce damage and injuries to any people involved. In Texas, railroad tracks crisscross the quarter of a million-plus square miles of land, with trains from many different railroads flying along those rails, and crossing publicly travelled streets and highway at an enormous number of crossings.
That’s a lot of opportunity for accidents, and for injuries to train crews, passengers, people, vehicles, bicycles, even buildings near the tracks. The injuries and property damage can be enormous, and recovering compensation for the injuries involves many different laws and, often, the technical details of railroading.
Types of Metrorail or Train Accidents
Railway accidents consist of several different types, which tend to have different causes and injury patterns:
- Derailments, which can involve any number of railroad cars (and may involve secondary collisions with buildings, vehicles, etc., depending on where the derailment occurs
- Collisions between trains
- Collisions between a train and a motor vehicle
- Pedestrians or bicyclists hit by a train
- In rare cases, trains hitting or being hit by rocks or other objects (landslides, trees, etc.)
Derailments and collisions between trains and vehicles or people at grade crossings are by far the most common. In 2015 alone, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reported there were over 2,000 vehicle-train collisions at grade crossing, resulting in 244 deaths and 967 injuries. Many of these accidents take place at crossings which lack safety devices like barrier gates, flashing lights, and bells.
Toxic Spills From Train Accidents
Most trains are hauling freight, and much of the freight consists of chemicals, fuels, and other substances that are toxic to some degree. When a train hauling a toxic material is involved in an accident, there’s always a chance that the toxin will spill or leak out into the environment. If the accident involves a fire, or the toxin naturally gives off fumes, the immediate surrounding areas where people live, work and shop may be in danger, as may the train’s crew, passengers if there are any, and the various rescue workers and medical personnel on the scene.
Who is Potentially Liable?
The railroad business operates with a great deal of cooperation between railroads. Different companies routinely use each other’s tracks, and all railroads intersect public streets and highways at multiple locations. The “rolling stock” is manufactured by, and may be repaired and maintained by, a different company than the one that owns and operates it. All of which can make it very difficult to even figure out who was responsible for the problem that caused the accident.
The list of potentially liable entities includes:
- The company that owns the train, like Metrorail actually involved in the accident (which is also responsible for hiring and training the crew, the equipment on the train, etc.)
- The company that owns the tracks, which includes safety and signaling devices along the track and at crossings, clearing brush and other obstacles to the line of sight
- The driver of any motor vehicle involved in an accident with the train (the vehicles manufacturer or seller may, in rare cases, also be liable)
- In relatively rare cases, the company that manufactured, repaired or refurbished the train may be liable for doing that job negligently, if that caused or contributed to the accident.
- In relatively are cases, the local government, if it has the responsibility for the public roadway where the accident occurred, and the condition of the roadway caused or contributed to the accident
Railroad Worker Injuries and FELA
There is a federal law, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), which sets the rules when a railroad worker has been injured by the negligence of the employer. These claims are similar to a workers’ compensation claim, but require additional proof by the injured worker that the employer was negligent and that negligence caused the worker’s injury. If successful, a FELA claim allows the injured worker to recover a wide range of damages.
Get Help from a Train Accident Injury Attorney
Whatever kind of railway accident caused your injuries, the Austin accident attorneys at Briggle & Polan, PLLC, in Austin, Texas, can help. We can figure out who, among the jumble of people and companies involved, is legally responsible, and we have a track record of success in obtaining the compensation our clients deserve and need in order to start putting their lives back together.
We know what to expect from the railroad’s lawyers and how to overcome the defenses they are likely to claim as a reason you shouldn’t be compensated, or should accept far less than you deserve. Give us the details as you understand them and if you have a case, we’ll take it from there. Call us today! 512-472-1926