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Train Accidents Leave Victims Helpless
When you think about traveling by train, as opposed to any other mode of transportation, do you normally think that it is a safer option than the car or the airplane? If you are like most people, the answer is probably "Yes." Many people are afraid of airplanes, and we all know that the highways can be very dangerous, but when a train wreck happens, we are genuinely shocked. How could this have happened?
Our preconceptions aside, train accidents are far more common than we would like to think. Train crashes happen when cars and trucks stall or are left purposely on railroad tracks. Train accidents occur when their locomotive operators get distracted, or when equipment problems occur. Other train crashes are caused by confusing signals at road crossing over rail lines.
The numbers tell the story. In 2007, there were 13,236 train accidents or incidents nationwide, including train crashes, derailments and motor vehicle/train collisions.
In California alone, there were 199 train accidents in 2005, 189 train crashes in 2006 and 152 train accidents in 2007. These numbers, which seem high, do not even include incidents such as train crashes involving motor vehicles at road crossings.
In the first half of 2008, while there were 62 train accidents in California, none of them were fatal. Then, in September 2008, the Chatsworth Metrolink train wreck happened and the vulnerability of train passengers, workers and crewmembers to injury and death from train wrecks became glaringly apparent. The number of train deaths in that incident made it the deadliest American train crash in 15 years.
When a train crash happens, the emotional and financial toll on victims and their families cannot be overestimated. Fortunately, the law offers some recourse for those who were injured in train accidents, so that the parties at fault for the train wreck bear the costs of their actions rather than the innocent train passengers and employees.
If you or a loved one suffered property damage or injuries following a train wreck or other train accident, you may have a valid claim for your losses. The right train crash attorney can determine if you have a good case, and can increase your chances of receiving the highest possible recovery from those responsible for those losses. The time to get started is now.
In the hours or days after your involvement in a train accident, the shock of being involved in such a catastrophic event may still not have worn off. You might be confused and wondering what you should do now.
The public and newsworthy nature of most train crashes makes one thing almost certain; if you were injured, somebody probably saw to it that you received medical attention. With that most immediate of concerns taken care of, perhaps you could use a roadmap for what comes next.
Here are some things you can do to ensure you will get the best possible recovery for your train-crash-related injuries and property damage:
As with all transportation accidents, each train wreck is unique. The train accident may have a single cause or multiple, interlinking causes. A good train accident attorney - often with the help of train accident reconstructionists, engineers and other experts - can look at the facts surrounding your train crash and decipher all those parties and entities that had a hand in causing your train accident injuries and property damage. Some parties who may be held responsible for your train crash could be:
Like other transportation accidents, common causes for train accidents can include driver inattention, excessive speed, lack of adequate training and equipment breakdowns. In California, for example, about 48% of all train accidents that occurred in 2007 were caused by human factors, while approximately 5% were attributed to equipment defects. But train accidents are sometimes also caused or made worse by problems unique to the train industry.
For one, the sheer size and weight of locomotives and a string of rail cars makes braking a train to avoid a train crash a very slow process. As evidenced by the high number of train accidents after which an engineer says something like, "I saw him on the tracks ahead but I just couldn't stop in time," the difficulty of stopping a fast-moving train makes some train accidents seem almost unavoidable. Couple a train's slow braking capabilities with the fact that so many roads used by cars and pedestrians bisect train tracks and you have a recipe for disaster.
Fatigue in drivers and other train personnel is also widespread. These workers are sometimes asked to work long shifts in order to get a train turned around and back to its starting point in time for another run. Although there are regulations in place defining how long train workers may remain on the job at a single stretch, these rules are not always followed. When people are tired they are more likely to make mistakes, or even to fall asleep while working.
Some train cars, like the Metrolink commuter trains used in Southern California, may be pushed from behind instead of pulled by an engine out in front of the cars. When cars that are being pushed are involved in a train crash, the likelihood of train derailment increases because the engine continues to push the cars forward after impact.
Some rail crossings are only infrequently used, and the fact that they are remote means that their maintenance may be neglected. Although plants and other obstructions that could interfere with a car driver's view of the tracks are supposed to be kept clear, the likelihood of a train wreck involving a road vehicle increases substantially when this is not done.
These are just some of the things unique to the train industry that can lead to a train crash or worsen the effects of a train accident. Some of these factors can be easily controlled, while others cannot. Those that are capable of being controlled may become a basis for a train-accident victim's recovery when those in charge failed to take the precautions that might have avoided a train accident.
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When a train wreck happens and you are injured, or a loved one is maimed or killed, money damages may not seem adequate to compensate you for your losses. Still, such damages can help to ease the pain and pay for the services and living needs of the train accident victim and his or her family.
Because each train crash is different, and every train accident victim's injuries or other losses are unique, the types of damages available in each train crash case will vary. Your California train accident lawyer can help you decide if you should seek damages for:
Your claims against those whose actions contributed to your train crash (the defendants) will probably be brought as state-law-based claims for negligence. For a person, business or government entity to be found negligent, the defendants need not have intended to harm you. Instead, with the help of your lawyer, you will need only to prove that the defendants failed to act in a prudent and careful manner when they had a duty to do so, and that the resulting train crash caused you injuries and/or property damage.
Legal complications may emerge in train accident cases, however, because federal law controls much of what goes on in the U.S. passenger and freight train systems. Many state laws that protect the innocent from the negligence of others may be preempted by those federal laws.
What is federal preemption? It is the principle that says that if the federal government has imposed a law that conflicts with a state or local law, the federal law is superior and "preempts" application of the state or local law.
What this means for the train crash litigant is that some claims that would be available against most other defendants may not be brought against companies operating trains. For example, the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970 (FRSA) controls such things as the duration, decibel level and sound patterns required of warning horns at road crossings. If your car was hit by a train at a road crossing because the train's horn did not give you adequate warning of its approach, the railroad may escape liability to you if it complied with federal rules governing the use of train horns. There are some exceptions to this, however, and a good train accident attorney will be able to identify them.
Sometimes, the person injured in a train accident will be an employee of the train operator. In these cases, the Federal Employer Liability Act may control questions of liability, rather than state law.
With these and other federal laws in place, it is obvious that the intricacies of federal regulation of the railroads can complicate the train crash claim. That is why the average lawyer may not be qualified to deal with such cases. If you are represented by an attorney firm that thoroughly understands the interactions between state and federal law in the context of train accidents, you will have the best chance of recovering for your train-crash injuries and property damage.
Because crucial evidence may be lost if too much time passes following a train crash, it is highly important that you find the right kind of attorney as soon as possible following the train accident. A plaintiff firm with a proven record of success is your best bet.
The Reeves Law Group has litigated or settled thousands of personal injury claims on their clients' behalf, and they can put their expertise to work on your train crash case. Our California train accident lawyers will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries and property damage.
When you engage the services of a Reeves Law Group attorney, you are hiring someone who knows:
If you or a loved one have been injured in a train accident, please contact The Reeves Law Group at (800) 644-8000 as soon as possible for a free consultation with an attorney. Our train accident lawyers can help you to get what you are entitled to, allowing you to recover as fully as possible from the physical, financial and emotional trauma you and your loved ones have endured in the aftermath of a train accident.