Passengers ride trains in Northern Virginia on a daily basis, never thinking their safety or even their lives could be in jeopardy because of a train accident. However, train accidents are relatively common events. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are about 5,800 of them every year. Most of these occur at railroad intersections, and many of them are fatal.
When train operators, workers, and other parties are not careful in how their trains operate, innocent people can be injured and even killed. How do you hold the responsible party liable for your injuries? Where do you get started? Turn to the seasoned personal injury lawyers of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP.
Why Do Northern Virginia Train Accidents Happen?
Understanding why a train accident happened is one of the first steps to establishing liability and demanding the compensation that victims deserve. Common causes of train accidents include:
- Poor maintenance of the train, train tracks, and other components of the rail system
- Train operator error, which can be due to a number of reasons (e.g. under the influence of drugs)
- Inexperience and inadequate training of operators and other employees
- Inspection violations and oversights that allow unsafe conditions
- Speeding and other reckless operations of the train
- Wet, oily, or slick train platforms
- Slick conditions that cause slip and fall accidents on the train
- Accidents caused by vehicles and pedestrians on the train tracks or at railroad crossings
- Faulty train crossing signals and gates
- Passenger or employee misbehavior
After an accident, it’s important to retain an attorney who is prepared to conduct an independent investigation and coordinate with the necessary state and federal agencies involved in train safety. These agencies will have records such as inspection reports, maintenance logs, and other documents which can help prove negligence was to blame.
Different Types Of Train Crashes
A train crash can involve multiple parties both inside and outside the train, and therefore cause a number of victims to be seriously hurt. Our firm has experience handling these and other types of train accidents:
Accidents between trains. These are among the most serious because of the sheer number of victims involved. When two trains collide, people on both can be hurt. So can pedestrians and motorists in the immediate vicinity
Establishing fault in these cases can be difficult. Both trains may be destroyed, making it difficult (though not impossible) to recover valuable evidence. It’s also possible that errors on both trains made the accident unavoidable.
Collisions with automobiles. Train crashes with automobiles typically happen at railroad crossings. Not only can the vehicle passengers be hurt or killed, but passengers on the train might be injured when the train attempts to stop.
Railroad crossings are supposed to have adequate safety measures such as signals and gates that alert drivers and prevent automobiles from crossing when a train is coming through. If these fail, a vehicle might get struck by a train.
Collisions with pedestrians. Numerous pedestrians are hurt and killed trying to cross railroad tracks. Although the pedestrian’s negligence is often to blame, this isn’t always the case. Faulty crossing signals or failure of the train to sound an alert whistle could be partially to blame.
It should never be assumed that one party or the other is completely responsible for these accidents. As with other types of crashes, a thorough examination must be conducted.
Derailments. When a train derails, the consequences can be fatal. But they may not be limited to passengers or those in the immediate vicinity. If a train is transporting hazardous chemicals, scores of individuals near the crash may be harmed.
These types of accidents often occur because of defects with the rails or an obstruction on the track. There may have also been a problem with the train itself such as poor maintenance.
Who Can Be Held Liable For A Northern Virginia Train Accident?
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, liability may be assigned to a person or corporation if it can be proven that the party was negligent. Rail companies in particular can be forced to pay substantial sums of money to compensate victims. These businesses are governed by a number of federal regulations and are responsible for safely conducting their trains. They can also be held liable if their engineers or employees acted negligently.
These and other parties might be accountable to a train accident victim:
- Train passenger
- Train engineer or operator
- Employee of the train company
- The train company itself
- Maintenance or repair company
- Train manufacturer or parts supplier
How A Northern Virginia Train Accident Attorney Can Help
Train accidents are exceedingly complex and may involve more than one responsible party. It’s not uncommon for multiple defendants to be brought into a lawsuit. Your attorney will work to uncover the necessary evidence to hold as many parties liable as possible. This is a crucial step because there may be multiple victims, but only a finite amount of money to compensate them.
Insurance companies often try to settle these claims to avoid going to court. But again, with numerous victims, on top of insurers’ natural inclination to minimize their losses, you can expect the settlement offer to be insufficient to compensate you. What some victims overlook is that they may suffer future damages that are not yet apparent. For instance, you may have future medical bills that can cost you money down the road. An attorney can help calculate a fair amount of compensation and then get to work negotiating with the insurers.
When victims are killed in train accidents caused by negligence, eligible survivors can file a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties. These lawsuits are similar to personal injury claims and our law firm handles them.
Contact Our Northern Virginia Train Accident Attorney Today
Were you or a loved one injured or killed in a train accident? You have only a limited amount of time to file a claim, so let the team at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP explain your legal options. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.