In June 2022, an Amtrak train traveling through Mendon, Missouri, collided with a dump truck crossing the tracks. The truck driver and three passengers died, and another 150 were injured. However, there were no lights, signals, or gates to warn of an approaching train at the crossing where the tragedy occurred.
A train accident has a devastating impact on the lives of those involved. Prior to the accident, residents and a federal traffic safety body expressed concerns about the crossing’s safety, characterizing it as excessively steep and inadequately equipped. But Amtrak and BNSF Railway Firm stated the train was clearly visible and the truck driver crossed the lines irresponsibly. Corporate entities on both sides filed lawsuits—including a wrongful death action brought by the truck driver’s widow.
What Causes Train Accidents?
According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), around 8,000 railway accidents occur in the U.S. annually, and injuries and deaths total in the thousands each year. Railroad accidents may occur as a result of a collision with another train, a collision with a vehicle or bus, or even a derailment or fire. Other causes can include:
- Mechanical or electrical failures
- Track, roadbed, and structural faults or maintenance issues
- Human error, including signal and communication difficulties, driver tiredness, or inexperience
More than one of these elements may have had a role in any specific incident. Individuals hurt in railway accidents, as well as surviving family members of those killed, must identify all liable parties and bring a claim against them before the statute of limitations runs out.
For example, if a government-owned train is at fault, the injured party may be required to provide the railroad particular notice of the claim within a certain length of time, perhaps as little as one or two months. As a consequence, victims of railway and railroad accidents must contact an attorney as quickly as possible for assistance with their claims.
Duty of Care by Common Carriers
Common carriers are organizations that carry people or products on predetermined routes and timetables. Railways, airplanes, cruise ships, trucking businesses, and other transportation-for-hire providers are among them. Common carriers have a legal obligation to ensure their goods and passengers arrive at their destinations safely.
Thus, they’re held accountable for passenger injuries that occur during transit if the carrier could have avoided the mishap by exercising more caution.
Congress has the ability to regulate common carriers that carry people or commodities across state borders under the Interstate Commerce Act. Federal railroad regulations take priority over state laws, although each state controls public transportation networks that operate inside its borders.
Meanwhile, the FRA is in charge of railroad operations as well as developing and enforcing rail safety rules. Specific common carrier requirements are also established by federal and state statutes. Typically, laws govern equipment requirements, licensing, and transportation processes. Violations of any of these prohibitions often result in what is known as liability per se. In other words, merely demonstrating that the railway company failed to comply with these laws would be sufficient to prove culpability, leaving only damages to be established.
When a Train Accident Lawyer Is Your Best Option
If a railway accident has had a consequential, devastating effect on your life, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Contacting an experienced train accident attorney in Kansas City right now makes a significant difference in achieving the justice you deserve. But these cases are extremely complex, and as the Mendon crash demonstrates, proving negligence is frequently complicated.
In establishing the value of a lawsuit, your attorney examines the kind and degree of the harm sustained. Accidents involving trains often result in catastrophic conditions such as:
- Face lacerations
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Settlements frequently involve an exchange of proposals in which parties submit the amount they believe would be sufficient to compensate for the damages. Settlement discussions may occur before, during, and even after the conclusion of a railway accident case. For your wellbeing, it’s best to have a legal partner you can trust to handle all the details of your case so you can focus on making a full recovery and caring for your family.