ABOUT TRAIN ACCIDENTS
Advancements in railroad and train safety measures have made the industry safer than ever, but accidents persist, and injuries can be severe when they do. Per preliminary FRA statistics, there were nearly 2,200 vehicle-train collisions at railway crossings in 2022, causing 274 fatalities and 777 injuries. While crossing collisions have decreased approximately 83% from an early 1970s high of roughly 12,000 annual incidents, highway-rail grade crossing collisions and pedestrians trespassing on tracks account for more than 95% of all railroad fatalities.
Several parties may be liable for train accidents depending on the incident’s circumstances. Potential defendants could include the train operator or company, the entity responsible for maintaining the tracks, the manufacturer of the train or its components, or even a third party that may have contributed to the accident.
Train Operator Responsibility
Generally, a train operator may be held responsible if their negligence or wrongful conduct directly contributed to the accident and subsequent loss of life. Here are a few situations where a train operator may be considered responsible:
Negligence or reckless conduct: If the train operator acted negligently or recklessly, such as by speeding, disregarding signals, operating the train under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or failing to follow established safety protocols, they might be held responsible for the accident.
Failure to exercise the duty of care: Train operators have a duty of care towards their passengers, employees, and others who may be affected by their actions. They may be considered responsible if the operator fails to fulfill this duty by not taking appropriate measures to prevent accidents or breaching safety regulations.
Failure to respond to warnings or hazards: If the train operator received warnings or notices of potential hazards but failed to respond appropriately, resulting in an accident and loss of life, they may be held accountable.
Equipment failure or maintenance issues: In some cases, a train operator may be held responsible for an accident if they failed to properly maintain the train or its equipment, leading to a malfunction that caused the death.
Train Manufacturer Responsibility
The manufacturer of a train or its components may be held responsible for injuries causing death under certain circumstances. Here are a few situations where the manufacturer could be considered liable:
Defective product: If a train or its components have a manufacturing defect, design defect, or inadequate warnings or instructions, and these defects directly contributed to the accident and subsequent death, the manufacturer may be held responsible. For example, the manufacturer could be liable if a braking system fails due to a manufacturing defect, leading to a fatal collision.
Failure to warn: If the manufacturer fails to provide adequate warnings or instructions regarding the safe and proper use of the train or its components, and this failure contributes to the accident and resulting death, they may be held responsible. An example could be if a manufacturer fails to warn about a known safety issue with a particular component that later causes a fatal accident.
Negligence in design: If the train or its components were designed negligently, and this design flaw directly leads to the accident and resulting death, the manufacturer could be held liable. This might occur if the design does not meet industry standards or if reasonable safety precautions are not taken during the design process.
Breach of warranty: If the manufacturer provides warranties or guarantees regarding the safety or performance of the train or its components and those warranties are breached, resulting in an accident causing death, the manufacturer may be held responsible.
Automobile Driver Responsibility
Determining the responsibility of a car driver for injuries causing death to passengers in a train accident depends on the specific circumstances of the incident. Here are a few situations where a car driver may be considered responsible:
Failure to obey traffic signals or warning devices: If a car driver disregards traffic signals, such as crossing a railroad crossing when the barriers are down, or the warning lights are flashing, and this results in a collision with a train causing death to passengers, the driver may be held responsible.
Negligent driving behavior: If the car driver acts negligently while crossing a railroad crossing, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, distracted driving, or failing to exercise reasonable care, and this directly leads to a collision with a train causing death, they may be considered responsible.
Failure to yield right-of-way: If the car driver fails to yield the right-of-way to an approaching train when required, and this failure leads to a collision causing death, they may be held accountable.
Reckless driving: If the car driver engages in reckless driving behaviors, such as racing with another vehicle near a train track or deliberately attempting to beat a train at a crossing, resulting in a collision causing death, they may be held responsible.
Any railroad-related accident requires a full investigation, and Montross Miller’s experienced team of attorneys uncover all of the facts to completely assess the circumstances and damages or losses suffered by victims and their families.
If you’ve been injured in a train accident, or a loved one is suffering following a railway crossing collision in which they were an innocent passenger, connect with the legal experts at Montross Miller today.
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