Our country’s rail system is critical to our national economy and trains are a key mode of transportation for both passengers and freight. Our common impression is that they are generally a safer type of transportation than most others. But train accidents are much more common than you might think. Every year, thousands of passengers, drivers, pedestrians, and railroad workers are seriously injured or killed in railway incidents. Trains are massive and powerful machines and, when anything goes wrong, major damage and injuries can result. A train traveling at 55 mph takes 18 football fields to stop. And one railway safety advocacy group has compared a train hitting another vehicle to the force of a car hitting a tin can. No surprise, then, that trains are overwhelmingly destructive and the injuries they cause can result in life-altering disability or death. Train accidents happen for many reasons, but when they’re the result of another party’s negligence, you, with the help of an injury attorney, can recover damages for the losses suffered. But you’ll need the help of a Decatur train accident lawyer fighting for you to make sure you get what you deserve.
Train Accident Facts
On average, a train accident occurs about every three hours in the United States. Roughly 3,000 people per year are involved in some form of train accident, resulting in thousands of injuries and deaths. An occupant of a vehicle that collides with a train is about 40 times more likely to die than if they had collided with another vehicle of comparable size. And, about every two weeks a train carrying hazardous materials derails in the United States.
And, residents of Illinois have particularly high risk. There’s a great deal of rail traffic in our state — Illinois has over 7,300 miles of track, and only Texas has more rail crossings than Illinois. According to information provided by the Illinois Commerce Commission, Illinois had over 120 collisions between trains and motor vehicles or pedestrians at highway-rail crossings in one recent year. This resulted in 21 collision deaths, with another 32 seriously injured, and 49 pedestrian fatalities, with 29 more injuries. According to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) statistics, in 2019 Illinois was in the top five states for total railway collisions and for fatalities. On average, a rail-related fatality occurs in Illinois every five to six days.
Not surprisingly, FRA statistics for a recent year also indicate that more than half of all railroad accidents occur at unprotected crossings, and that more than 80% of crossings lack adequate warning devices, such as lights and gates. If you or a loved one, through no fault of your own, suffered a serious injury or a death as a result of a railroad accident, you’ll need the help of a skilled attorney to establish negligence and make sure that you are treated fairly.
Kinds of Railroad Injury Accidents
There are six main types of railway accidents that result in train-related injury:
- A train hits a pedestrian. Unfortunately, this happens frequently every year. It always results in serious injury and, sadly, the majority of train-related fatalities occur in this type of accident, where a person is killed while walking along or across a train track.
- A train crashes with another vehicle or with a cyclist. In some cases, the driver is to blame. But, sometimes a gate fails, a train fails to signal, or a train fails to stop when it should.
- A passenger is injured while traveling on a train. A passenger train is a common carrier and is held to a high standard of care to protect their passengers from any unsafe conditions or operation.
- A train derails. A derailment occurs when a train comes off the tracks. It can harm or injure not only railroad workers and passengers, but also nearby residents, by resulting in a toxic spill with the release of hazardous materials that can cause serious temporary or permanent injuries.
- A train collides with another train. This is one of the least common incidents, but when it happens, it often has catastrophic consequences because of the speed and size of each train.
- A railroad worker is injured. This kind of work can be extremely dangerous and there are numerous hazards working in and around trains. An unsafe worksite or unsafe railroad cars that lead to worker injury are the railroad’s responsibility and they can be held liable.
Of course, any of these categories of accident can result in many kinds of serious injuries, including broken bones, lacerations, burns, amputations, joint injuries, head and traumatic brain injuries, back and spinal cord injuries, lung injury and respiratory complications, and even death. When not fatal, the injuries have a devastating effect on your life and can result in temporary or permanent disability. Illinois law provides for recovery for the damages you or your family suffered, but you’ll need a compassionate and experienced attorney in your corner to make sure you are treated fairly.
Causes of Railroad Accidents
Railway accidents are almost always preventable. Sometimes the injured party is responsible. But, too often, sheer negligence on the part of another party is responsible for the accident. Depending on the type of accident, there are a large number of possible causes. The FRA investigates any train accident that results in a fatality or serious injury. They find that the six most common causes of train accidents fall into six categories: 1) human error, 2) equipment failure or defect, 3) heavy or shifting cargo loads, 4) signal or crossing failure, 5) track failure, or 6) obstacles on train tracks. Some common examples of negligence include:
- train operator error, fatigue, distraction, or intoxication
- failure to signal before coming to a crossing
- failure to brake
- excessive speed
- mechanical defects and malfunctions
- poorly maintained tracks or equipment
- failure to provide and maintain good visibility
- faulty signaling equipment
- debris or equipment left on the tracks
- badly designed and maintained crossings
- malfunctioning switches
- negligent hiring practices or inadequate training
- using outdated equipment to save money
- overloading trains
- lack of security and proper lighting at train platforms and crossings
- failure to install and implement advanced rail safety systems, such as Positive Train Control that can automatically stop a train before an accident occurs
You can see that it would be difficult to investigate all of the possible causes of your accident, and to establish the liability of the negligent party without representation by a well-versed and hard working train accident attorney.
Contact a Decatur Train Accident Attorney
Contact me for a free consultation. A Decatur train accident lawyer could provide an overview of your options and help you maximize your chances of recovery. The sooner you reach out, the faster we can get to work for you and help you.