Train Accidents Information Center

Frequently Asked Questions about Train Accidents and Injuries

Q: What determines the legal responsibility a railroad owes someone injured on or around a train?

A: The rules governing a railroad's legal responsibility for accidents on and around a train depend upon the relationship of the injured person to the railroad. The duty or degree of care the railroad owes the injured person differs depending on whether he or she is an employee, passenger or unrelated third party, like a motorist or pedestrian.

Q: What legal responsibilities do railroads have to their passengers?

A: Because railroads are common carriers they owe their passengers the highest degree of care and vigilance. This increased responsibility of a railroad to its passenger for his or her safety may make recovery for injuries suffered while a passenger on a train easier to obtain than in other personal-injury situations, even if another passenger or some other third party was partially responsible for causing the injury.

Q: What legal responsibilities do railroads have to their employees?

A: The Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) establishes a railroad's legal responsibilities to its employees for work-related injuries and diseases due to railroad fault. FELA is a broad federal statute that was passed by Congress in 1908 to provide for fair and just compensation for most railroad employees injured or killed on the job due to negligence, hazardous working conditions or dangerous equipment.

Q: What legal responsibilities do railroads have to motorists and pedestrians injured by trains?

A: A railroad's legal responsibilities to an injured motorist or pedestrian will depend upon the factual circumstances of the particular train accident. Often pedestrian and motorist claims against railroads will be decided under the negligence laws of the state where the accident occurred, but increasingly these lawsuits are preempted and governed by federal regulatory safety standards. Because these cases can depend on complex questions of state and federal law, you should quickly contact an experienced attorney if you have been injured in a train accident.

Q: Why do most train accidents occur?

A: In the new millennium the rate of rail accidents has been dropping, at least in part due to new technology. The most frequent type of railway accident is at railroad-roadway crossings with the collisions of trains and motor vehicles, most commonly caused by motorists trying to beat trains through intersections. A crossing accident happens about once every 90 minutes in the US. Other mishaps include derailments and train-pedestrian accidents. The Federal Rail Administration (FRA) has identified human error and track problems as the top two reasons for train accidents.

Q: Do I need a lawyer to help me with my train-accident lawsuit?

A: Train accident suits often involve complex questions of law and it is in your best interest to retain an attorney with experience trying train-injury cases. In addition, knowledgeable train-accident lawyers are familiar with the intense investigation of the incident that should be undertaken by the injured party. You should see an attorney as soon as possible after the accident to assist you in securing evidence at the scene, in interviewing witnesses and in preserving other relevant evidence. Your attorney may also work with railroad experts to help understand what happened in your accident. Time also may be of the essence because you do not want to miss any legal deadlines.

Q: What if the victim of a train accident dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?

A: If you are the surviving relative of a train accident victim, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of your loved one. Additionally, if the decedent had a personal injury claim against the railroad or other responsible parties for the accident before death, the personal representative or executor of the victim's estate may be able to bring that lawsuit on behalf of the estate for the benefit of heirs or beneficiaries. An experienced personal injury attorney can advise you about the law in your jurisdiction.

Q: What can I receive if my lawsuit against the railroad is successful?

A: When a railroad is liable for an injury, it or its insurance company is usually responsible for compensatory damages that can include medical care and related expenses; income lost because of the accident; permanent physical disability or disfigurement; loss of family, social and educational experiences; emotional damages, such as stress, embarrassment, depression or strains on family relationships; decreased enjoyment of life; damaged property or other possible losses. Depending on the law of your jurisdiction and the severity of the circumstances, you also may be eligible for punitive damages designed to punish the wrongdoer.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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