Traveling by rail, whether on commuter trains to subways or metro systems to high-speed trains, is necessary for many Americans to get to and from work or other destinations. Commuter and cargo trains are both essential parts of public transportation and the U.S. economy. Locomotives serve a dual function, as a method of economically moving cargo and passengers. However, crashes and derailments can be devastating and fatal, causing passengers and bystanders serious injuries.
Unfortunately, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has identified human errors and track flaws as two of the main causes of train wrecks. These two factors account for more than 70 percent of all train accidents.
Train Crash Lawyers
Motley Rice transportation attorneys represent injured passengers and the families of those who have suffered tragedy as a result of train incidents or accidents. Our catastrophic personal injury attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources to investigate and resolve cases involving railroads in order to represent people who have suffered from serious injury and wrongful death.
Motley Rice attorneys Mary Schiavo, former Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Jim Brauchle work together to seek accountability and compensation for victims of rail crashes.
If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a public transportation accident you may have a potential claim. For more information you may call 1.800.768.4026 or send us an email.
Representing Train Crash Victims
Most train operations are regulated by the FRA and have been heavily scrutinized following a number of deadly commuter and cargo train crashes, including:
- Macdona, Texas – 2004 Union Pacific Railroad Derailment involving crew fatigue and chlorine gas inhalation
- Graniteville, South Carolina – 2005 Norfolk Southern train collision and chlorine gas exposure
- Glendale, California – 2005 Metrolink commuter train and on-track vehicle collision
Motley Rice Train Crash Experience
In the Graniteville, S.C., incident, Motley Rice attorneys achieved a settlement for those injured when two Norfolk Southern trains collided in January 2005, resulting in a massive chlorine spill that injured dozens and killed eight people. The settlement provided compensation for personal injury claims associated with the crash and chemical spill. Read more about this case.
Subways, metros and other forms of passenger rail are essential elements in America’s transportation system, supporting economic development, connecting rural communities to urban areas and reducing roadway congestions. However often times inadequate funding makes it difficult for railways to comply with safety requirements.
Freight railroads offer the most economically efficient way to transport large volumes of goods over land. A single train can potentially haul 220 to 280 containers.
However, safety standards for shipping crude oil have been under high levels of scrutiny after a cargo train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed and rolled down a hill killing 47, and forcing more than 2,000 to evacuate their homes.
Train Collision Contributing Factors
In 2015 more than 11,000 train accidents or incidents occurred in the U.S. In an attempt to reduce human factors resulting in train accidents or incidents, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) identified the top eight human errors that could result in an accident, including:
- Improperly lined track switches (switch left in incorrect position)
- Failure to latch and or lock a track switch
- Lack of point protection (shoving or moving rail cars without a person in front of the move to monitor conditions ahead)
- Shoving rail cars with point protection but failing to properly control the movement
- Failure to determine the track ahead is clear before beginning a shoving movement
- Leaving rail cars in a place that fouls or obstructs train movements on an adjacent track
- Operating over a track switch previously run through (damaged or broken)
- Failure to apply or remove a derail (a precautionary safety device)
These contributing factors can lead to various incidents requiring investigation by the FRA including any collision, derailment or passenger train incident resulting in serious injury or death, any railroad accident resulting in death to an on-duty railroad employee or railroad contractor, any railway crossing accident, accidents with damages over $1 million, accidents involving toxic or nuclear materials, runaway equipment, considerable public interest and most Amtrak related accidents.
The Federal Railroad Administration is responsible for regulating the safety of the nation’s railroad systems including passenger rail, freight rail, implementing federal environmental laws and rail planning.
High numbers of accidents as a result of human errors and track flaws, led to the current safety initiative, the Positive Train Control (PTC).
PTC is a safety feature designed to stop train-to-train collisions, trains going onto the wrong tracks, derailments caused by speeding and other unauthorized actions. PTC was supposed to be on all trains by December 2015, but the railroad industry lobbied for an extension to this deadline. PTC is considered a necessary safety technology and is set to be installed in all U.S. locomotives by 2018. The FRA is accepting applications until May 19, 2016 for $25 million in funding for Positive Train Control implementation.
Reuters (April 4, 2016): Investigators probing cause of deadly Amtrak crash
Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aug. 6, 2015): Back on Track: Bringing Rail Safety to the 21st Century
Progressive Railroading (April 2014): Positive train control implementation chugs along, despite challenges