According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, train accidents cause around 600 deaths each year in the United States, the majority of which occur at railroad crossings. Statistics reveal that about every four hours a person or vehicle is hit by a train. Highway-rail crossing incidents account for one-third of all rail-related fatalities.
These extremely dangerous accidents are caused by a number of factors, all of which potential carry deadly consequences. Railroads could be at fault for accidents whether they occur due to human error, equipment malfunction, track issues, or defective safety devices.
Joe Lyon is an experienced workplace negligence attorney. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving trains and railways, do not hesitate to contact the Lyon Firm for effective legal representation.
Causes of Railroad Accidents
Human error is the highest contributing factor in all railroad accidents. Train operators may have a lack of proper training, and railroad personnel has a history of causing accidents when distracted.
Defective infrastructure and safety equipment also cause many accidents each year, typically not discovered until after an incident already occurs.
Many American trains and railroads are quite old and utilize outdated mechanical technology that is prone to failure. Even so, railroad companies are responsible for ensuring all equipment and rail lines operate safely. The most common causes of railroad accidents include:
• Equipment failure
• Obstructions on track
• Track defects
• Signal malfunctions
• Switch failures
• Malfunctioning crossties
Occupational Railroad Injuries
Railway workers regularly suffer serious injuries while on the job, and often develop occupational diseases from exposure to dangerous chemicals and materials. Industrial jobs like rail-related occupations are some of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. The U.S Department of Labor has reported that rail yard engineers have much higher rates of occupational injuries than other jobs.
Rail engineers, conductors and yardmasters have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Railroad workers can be seriously injured in several capacities of their position, including on the railway yard, on the tracks, or on a train. Employee accidents range from train derailment to developing occupational cancer.
Some of the more serious injuries may include the following:
• Head and Neck injuries
• Broken bones
• Crush Injuries
• Neck & Spinal Injury
• Burn injuries
• Wrongful death
Common Dangers for Railroad Workers
Aside from common accidents and injuries, railroad workers may develop serious illnesses related to toxic chemicals around the workplace. Toxic hazards in the railroad industry are rather widespread. Workers may be exposed to the following dangerous materials:
• Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
Benzene and asbestos are particularly toxic substances, now heavily regulated by the federal government. Exposure to these materials may cause certain types of cancer.
Legal Action for Rail Workers and Train Accident Victims
Many victims of train accidents, both passengers and railroad employees, have filed claims against Amtrak and other train operators. Any passenger can file a lawsuit if an injury occurs when a train company is potentially at fault.
For employees of rail companies, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) states that train and railroad workers have workers comp from their employers when they are placed in unsafe working conditions that cause injury or death. Under this act, any rail worker can hold their employer liable for the following:
• Unsafe work conditions
• Faulty equipment
• Defective safety devices
• Lack of safety inspections
• Inadequate training
• Lack of enforcement of safety rules and regulations