Back in the mid-1800s, Pennsylvania developed its railroad system that eventually surpassed all of the other states in total railroad mileage. Pennsylvania railroads have been in operation since then and today there over 60 operating railroads statewide. With all of this time to advance and streamline railroad technology, it is surprising that so many train accidents still occur and in fact, the Federal Rail Administration reports that train accidents have been on the rise over the past ten years.
Train and rail accident attorneys know that train accident injuries can be debilitating and financially crippling. There are many causes and contributing factors that can lead to train accidents and in order to seek financial recovery for injured victims, attorneys must conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the accident and liability. This is why only personal injury attorneys who are train accident experts should be entrusted with cases like these.
Causes and contributing factors in train accidents
Common causes and contributing factors that are often at the root of train accidents are described below.
- Poor train maintenance – trains have strict maintenance requirements in order to keep them running safely and properly and when that maintenance is compromised, accidents and injuries may occur
- Train defects such as faulty brakes
- Failure to comply with safety regulations such as failing to equip trains with federally required Positive Train Control to help prevent derailments due to excessive speed and train to train collisions.
- Excessive speed can cause trains to derail
- Distracted operation and operator inattention
- Driver inexperience leading to operator error
- Lack of safety training leading to operator error
- Broken or poorly maintained tracks
- Obstructions on the tracks may lead to collisions due to a train’s long stop time
- Unmarked railroad crossings that fail to alert pedestrians or motor vehicles of oncoming trains
Common train accident scenarios
There are a number of common train accident scenarios leading to injured people inside the track and outside of the train.
- Pedestrians or motor vehicle occupants injured when struck by a train on the tracks. This can happen in a number of different ways including a driver failing to cross the tracks before the train gets there, a car stalling or getting caught on the tracks, or a pedestrian walking across or on the tracks.
- Accidents happen when a train derails due to operator error, a collision, broken tracks, or broken wheels.
- Rail employees struck by a train when working on the tracks.
- Two trains striking each other on the tracks and injuring occupants in both trains.