Trains have been a primary mode of transportation in the United States for many years, and continue to provide a means for people and goods to move across country and within each state. Sadly, there are also many train accidents that happen each year. Some train accidents destroy property, while others seriously injure people or cause death.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in 2020, there were 215 train accidents in Georgia, some of which included passenger train and railroad crossing accidents. Derailments account for 151 of these events, many of which were caused due to human error rooted in negligence.
How human error causes so many Georgia train accidents
Human error can encompass several factors: conductors and engineers who lack experience make fatal errors that can end in the wrongful death of crew, pedestrians, and drivers of other vehicles near the tracks. Area residents can even become critically injured if hazardous materials are involved in a collision.
Working long hours causes exhaustion-related impairment that can result in details being missed such as:
- The correct switches being thrown to send a train in the proper direction.
- Causing damage to tracks by mishandling heavy equipment during rail maintenance.
- Improper maintenance of railroad crossings and safety mechanisms due to negligence.
- Conductors forgetting to turn on the signal warning to alert drivers that a train is coming.
Human error can be rooted in negligence, whether the fault lies with the railroad employee or the company. Railroad company policies can put their employees in the position of cutting corners to meet maintenance deadlines or budgets. In January of 2020, Norfolk Southern cut 3,500 jobs, leaving one person to do the job of three. Being short-staffed can mean overworking individuals until exhaustion sets in, or critical things aren’t getting done. Either one of these options can make being anywhere near trains a dangerous environment.
Passenger trains and freight trains frequently share tracks, making crashes and derailments even more of a risk when freight companies charged with maintaining those rails fail at their job to keep railways safe.
Some of the worst train accidents have lasting effects
The 2005 catastrophic train accident in Graniteville, South Carolina – located just over the Georgia state line – was the result of failure to throw a switch. The train was directed toward a warehouse and hit a parked locomotive spewing chlorine gas over the area. Ten people were killed and hundreds more experienced varying degrees of injury due to the chlorine gas.
Some of the complications victims suffered in that train accident included:
- Blurred vision
- Burning pain, redness, and blisters on the skin
- Burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes
- Coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing
- Pulmonary edema
- Nausea and vomiting
Another train accident occurred in 2018 when a malfunctioning signal system was forced to be manually operated by CSX, which owns and operates the tracks. An Amtrak train was improperly directed into a freight train sitting on the rails, causing the deaths of Amtrak’s engineer and conductor and injuring more than 100 passengers.
Also in 2018, 30 rail cars fell off a bridge onto a road below in Byromville, Ga., entirely blocking the street as propane fuel spilled into the area. Had any vehicles been traveling on the road below, victims would have been sure to face catastrophic injuries, if not certain death. Just a week later, another train derailment involving phosphoric acid occurred on the exact same tracks.
Inhaling propane can cause injuries such as:
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and collapse
- Coma and death
- Permanent damage to organs including the brain and heart
- Nervous system damage
Because of their size and speed, trains have the capacity to cause mass casualties and destruction with the slightest bit of carelessness. Victims may include train car passengers, drivers crossing over or underneath tracks, or train employees themselves.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a train wreck, schedule your free case evaluation today with one of our experienced Georgia public transportation accident attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP. We invite you to call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or to reach out to us through our contact page to tell us your story.
Steve Lowry is an award-winning litigator who has secured record-setting jury verdicts on behalf of his clients. A passionate advocate for individuals who have been harmed by the actions of others, Steve has won numerous top 10 verdicts in Georgia.
Read more about Stephen G. Lowry here.