Every year thousands of people are injured or killed in accidents involving passenger and freight trains. Some are injured or killed when two trains collide, while others are injured by a train while they are crossing the tracks in a motor vehicle or on foot.
A passenger train owes its passengers the highest degree of safety and can be held legally responsible (“liable”) for all injuries and damages to a passenger caused by even the slightest carelessness. This is because, in respect to its passengers, the railroad is considered a “common carrier” and as such owes its passengers a higher degree of safety (“due care”) than to non-passengers. As to non-passengers, such as cars or pedestrians crossing the railroad’s tracks, the train owes them the ordinary standard of safety, that is, the duty to act with due care so as not to expose the non-passenger to an unreasonable risk of harm.
Some of the worst disasters occur when two trains collide. This may occur because the engineer or conductor fails to pay attention to signal lights warning of an approaching train or the lights are inoperative, the engineer or conductor’s fails to pay attention, or a railroad employee or computer fails to divert the train to another set of tracks to avoid a collision. There is a higher risk of being severely injured or killed when the passengers are sitting in the front car while the train is being operated in the “push” mode, when the engine is at the back of the line of railroad cars and the front car is unprotected.
The vast majority of accidents involving trains occur at intersections when a train collides with a motor vehicle or a pedestrian crossing the tracks. An accident at a railroad crossing can be due to a number of factors, such as inoperative gates and warning lights and bells, the train traveling too fast for the conditions or failing to sound its horn to warn vehicles and pedestrians that it is approaching, or the negligent design of the crossing.
If you have been injured or a loved one killed in an accident involving a train, it is vital that you obtain the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer will be able to start his or her investigation of the accident immediately, sending out his or her investigator to inspect the scene of the accident as soon as possible before conditions have changed, take pictures of the train and car before they are repaired, and interview witnesses while the events of the accident are still fresh in their mind.