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5 Things You May Not Know About Train Accidents

Because train accidents involving passengers are uncommon compared to those transporting goods, there are things people may not think about or know regarding train wrecks. If you are planning to travel by train, it’s a good idea to know as much as you can. If you have recently been in a train accident and are struggling with recovery, our lawyers are here for you.

Train derailments are more common than you may realize.

There were 1,625 train accidents across the country in 2017. The Bureau of Transportation reported the accidents in three categories: derailments, collisions, and other. Nearly 1,200 of the accidents were deemed derailments. Only 86 were collisions and 356 were categorized as other.

Fortunately, most of the derailments did not result in injury or death. Property damage was found to be the main consequence. This is because only a slim minority of US trains carry passengers. Also, most railroad tracks are in rural and relatively unpopulated places.

Derailments happen for a number of reasons. Most often, human error, equipment failure, and track or signal errors are the cause – all of which can be prevented with proper maintenance and training.

The majority of train crashes are caused by human error.

The Federal Railroad Administration reports on the causes of train accidents. While wrecks are often the result of a sequence of events, they fall into one of the following categories:

  • Track, Roadbed, and Structure
  • Signal and Communication
  • Train Operation – Human Factor
  • Mechanical and Electrical Failures
  • Miscellaneous Causes Not Otherwise Listed

The category Train Operation – Human Factor sees the highest numbers. Accidents related to human error are attributed to improper use of brakes, an employee’s physical condition, speeding, improper signaling, failure to flag or follow the established train operating rules, and improper train handling. It’s important to remember that accidents resulting from human error are almost always preventable – which means legal action can be taken to hold the negligent party accountable for their actions.

Most train accident injuries are reported as work-related.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, rail engineers, conductors, and yardmasters have a higher rate of work-related injuries when compared to the national average. Some railway workers develop occupational diseases as a result of exposure to dangerous chemicals and materials.

Some of the most common injuries and conditions railroad workers are likely to suffer from include the following:

  • Broken bones
  • Brain injuries
  • Crush injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Amputation
  • Cancer
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Wrongful death

If you’ve experienced a work-related injury, you can take legal action. Train companies are supposed to ensure their employees have the training they need and are able to work in environments that do not increase the risk of injury or death.

There are ways you can reduce the chance of injury or fatality during a train crash.

If you know you’re going to be traveling by train, you may be considering the risk of an accident. While the statistics show that passenger trains do not get into as many accidents as freight trains, there are precautions you can take to avoid injury or death in the event the train you are on does derail or collide with an object.

  • Sit in the middle. Sitting in one of the middle cars of a passenger train is a good idea. These cars are less likely to derail when compared to the front or back cars.
  • Sit facing backward. If possible, sit in a seat that faces the back of the train. If the train stops shorts or crashes, you’ll be pushed back into your seat instead of being propelled forward.
  • Use the emergency window. After a train crash, you should try to get out of the train as quickly as possible. The crew should provide instructions for how best to exit; however, if that is not happening and you need to get out quickly, removing the emergency window may be your best option. There should be instructions by the window that will tell you how to remove the frame.
  • Know how to manually open the door. If you can get to a door, you may be able to open it manually. Every train has emergency signs. If you are able to locate the panel next to the door, you should be able to lift the lock, pull open the ring, and push down a handle. This will open the door enough that you can push it open the rest of the way.

As with any accident, it’s best to remain as calm as possible. Listen to the crew around you for instructions on how to proceed. Even if you feel okay when everything is over, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention.

There is an established investigative process after a train wreck. 

The National Transportation Safety Board conducts investigations of all major accidents in various modes of transportation in the United States. The Safety Board Go Team, which can consist of anywhere from three or four members to a dozen, investigates the accident scene and assembles the expertise needed to solve complex transportation safety problems. They investigate the following areas:

  • Operations
  • Engines
  • Structures
  • Weather
  • Human Performance
  • Survival Factors

An official investigation report can act as a major piece of evidence in the event you are in a train accident and choose to file a lawsuit.

If you’ve been in a train accident and are looking to hold the negligent party responsible for your injuries and expenses, we can provide you with the legal representation you deserve.

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