Because trains are so dangerous, even seemingly minor railroad accidents can result in catastrophic injuries or death. A railroad accident is especially tragic when it could have been prevented if not for someone or a company’s negligence.
What causes train accidents?
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, human error ranks as the primary cause of most train accidents. For example, a fatigued operator might wait too long before applying brakes or miss throwing a track switch. Other common causes of railroad accidents include:
- Track and structure problems
- Signal and communication failures
- Mechanical and electrical breakdown
- Miscellaneous factors such as loading procedures or environmental conditions
Quite often, a combination of factors lead to a train accident. Regardless of the cause, the sad truth is that most railroad accidents are preventable.
What are the most common train accidents?
Train accidents may involve only railroad equipment or they might include outside factors. Accidents involving pedestrians walking along or crossing railroad tracks are some of the most common fatal railroad accidents. Train accidents also frequently involve cars or other vehicles struck while crossing train tracks. Warning signals sometimes do not deploy properly, or drivers may fail to heed signals if they are not fully visible.
When a train comes off the track, the derailment can lead to severe injuries and fatalities. Derailment may be caused by improper maintenance or other factors within the railroad’s control, or it could be due to debris on or damage to tracks from an outside source. CCN Law handled has handled two of South Carolina’s most catastrophic train derailments in the last two decades, the Graniteville chlorine gas train derailment in 2005, and the CSX train collision and derailment in Cayce in 2018.
Although not as common as other train accidents, when trains collide with other trains, these multi-train accidents often lead to severe or deadly injuries. Train accident attorneys also work with victims injured by toxic spills and other railroad disasters.
How does negligence contribute to a railroad accident?
Negligence refers to a person or company’s failure to handle something responsibly. For instance, if a railroad should have trained employees to apply the brakes when the train reaches a certain speed and an accident occurs due to improper braking, the railroad may be negligent for improperly training or supervising an employee.
Negligence in railroad accidents could involve:
- Failure to maintain equipment
- Failure to sound horns or flash lights when approaching crossings
- Improper training of railroad employees (including subcontractors)
- Overloaded or poorly-loaded train cars
- Improperly maintained railroad tracks and crossing areas
- Poorly secured train cars
Railroad companies might not necessarily be the only party at fault in an accident. Equipment manufacturers, track owners, maintenance contractors, and other third parties could also be held liable.
How does an injured person recover damages in South Carolina?
After a train accident, injured passengers and employees may be able to recover damages if they can demonstrate that someone’s negligence caused the accident. An experienced train accident lawyer could collect and prepare evidence to demonstrate liability and fight for fair compensation for accident victims. Railroad passengers, employees, and bystanders affected by an accident may be eligible to recover damages if they can prove how negligent conduct caused physical, emotional, or economic harm.
Work with Knowledgeable Railroad Accident Attorneys
At Chappell, Chappell and Newman, our Columbia injury lawyers have extensive experience defending the rights of those injured in railroad accidents. Call our firm or contact us online to set up a free, no-obligation consultation to learn how we could fight to maximize your recovery.
From our office locations throughout South Carolina, our attorneys provide the highest quality legal services to injured people and families in Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout South Carolina.