Train accidents can have serious consequences, impacting not just the people directly involved but also the surrounding community. Whether it’s due to human error, missing signage, mechanical issues, or other factors, these accidents can lead to severe injuries and financial hardships. When you’re up against the train companies or even the government, filing a lawsuit may be a complicated issue. That is why having an experienced Savannah railroad and train accident attorney is critical to being awarded the compensation you deserve.
The United States Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration reports that Georgia saw the most train accidents throughout the years of 2019-2022 of any state, with a recorded 290 accidents. From 2019 to 2022, there was an overall 36% increase in the number of accidents. With these staggering statistics, let’s look at how these accidents occur.
Railroad crossing gates
Defective or missing railroad crossing gates are a serious threat to public safety, putting drivers, pedestrians, and train passengers at significant risk. These gates are critical in preventing collisions between vehicles and trains at intersections where roadways and railways intersect. When these safety mechanisms are compromised, the consequences can be dire. Defective gates might fail to lower when a train is approaching, leaving drivers and pedestrians unaware of imminent danger. Similarly, missing or damaged gates deprive individuals of a crucial visual indicator that a train is nearby. There are multiple videos online that show the many ways in which these gates fail including video of a gate failing to lower, to a gate failing to raise back up. Individuals have even made entire playlists of malfunctioning railroad crossing gates.
There are many dangers associated with defective or missing railroad crossing gates. The absence of proper warning mechanisms increases the likelihood of accidents, as drivers and pedestrians may not have sufficient time to react to an approaching train. This can lead to catastrophic collisions, causing severe injuries or even fatalities. Furthermore, impaired visibility due to defective or absent gates hinders individuals’ ability to accurately gauge the distance and speed of an oncoming train, heightening the risk of misjudgments and collisions.
Human error stands as a leading cause of railroad collisions and accidents, underscoring the critical need for comprehensive safety measures and vigilant adherence to protocols. The complexities of operating trains and overseeing rail systems demand precision and utmost attention, making human errors particularly perilous. Mistakes in communication, judgment, and execution can lead to catastrophic consequences, affecting the safety of motorists, passengers, crew members, and nearby communities.
From the perspective of train operators, lapses in attention, misinterpretation of signals, and failure to respond promptly to changing conditions can all result in collisions or derailments. Similarly, dispatchers and maintenance personnel play pivotal roles in ensuring the smooth functioning of rail systems. Errors in dispatching or routing trains can lead to potentially deadly collisions, while inadequate maintenance or incorrect repairs can compromise the integrity of tracks, trains, and signals.
Passenger and driver actions at railroad crossings are also susceptible to human error. Disregarding warning signals, attempting to beat a train, or misjudging the speed of an oncoming train can all lead to dangerous situations. Pedestrians and motorists may underestimate the time it takes for a train to approach, failing to clear the tracks in time.
Defective tracks can lead to derailments, collisions, and other catastrophic incidents. The integrity of railway tracks is critical for the safe and efficient operation of trains, and any deficiencies can result in life-threatening situations for passengers, crew, and drivers. Defects in tracks can manifest in various forms, including misalignments, broken rails, weakened ties, and compromised fasteners.
Derailments are a primary concern arising from defective tracks. A misaligned or broken section of track can cause a train to veer off its intended path, potentially leading to a catastrophic derailment. Such incidents can result in substantial damage to trains, infrastructure, and surrounding areas, as well as severe injuries or fatalities to passengers and crew members. Moreover, defective tracks can lead to train collisions if they compromise the proper functioning of signals or switches, preventing trains from safely navigating junctions or intersections.
Defective equipment can also lead to catastrophic failures, derailments, and collisions. The safe operation of trains relies heavily on the functionality of the various components that make up the rolling stock, including brakes, wheels, couplings, and engines. When any of these elements are compromised due to defects, wear and tear, or inadequate maintenance, the consequences can be severe, impacting the safety of passengers, crew members, and surrounding communities.
One of the primary risks posed by defective equipment is the potential for derailments. Malfunctioning brakes or worn-out wheels can hinder a train’s ability to slow down or come to a complete stop, particularly when descending inclines or navigating curves. This compromised braking system increases the likelihood of derailment, causing the train to veer off the tracks and potentially leading to substantial damage, injuries, and loss of life. Additionally, defects in couplings or faulty connections between train cars can compromise the train’s stability, heightening the risk of jackknifing or collisions.
Infamously, the massively destructive train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio that happened earlier this year was caused by defective equipment. According to NPR:
The operators of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals near East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month tried to stop the train after a wheel bearing overheated to a dangerous degree, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
But by the time an alarm rang to alert the crew of the danger, the bearing was already so compromised that it failed as the train was still coming to a stop, officials said — a revelation that raised questions about whether Norfolk Southern’s safety sensors and procedures were sufficient to prevent a catastrophic failure.
The derailment of about 38 cars, led to expansive fires, evacuation orders, a chemical scare, and a federal investigation. A reported 11 cars out of the 38 that were derailed were carrying hazardous chemicals.
The safe operation of trains requires adhering to established speed limits, which are determined based on factors such as track conditions, curvature, and proximity to intersections. When trains exceed these limits, they compromise their ability to navigate curves and respond to unexpected obstacles, elevating the potential for disastrous consequences.
One of the primary hazards of speeding trains is the heightened likelihood of derailments. Traveling at excessive speeds on curves or uneven tracks can cause train cars to lose contact with the rails, resulting in derailments that can lead to extensive damage and injuries. Moreover, the impact of a collision at high speeds is far more severe than at lower speeds, making it challenging for trains to come to a complete stop in time to avoid collisions with obstacles, other trains, or vehicles at crossings.
Who is responsible for your Savannah railroad accident?
Determining liability in a railroad accident involves a complex analysis of various parties depending on the unique circumstances. The railroad company that owns and operates the train and tracks might be held liable if their negligence led to the accident, including issues like inadequate maintenance, faulty equipment, or insufficient employee training. Similarly, the train operator’s actions, such as speeding or disregarding signals, could render them liable for the incident. Additionally, drivers who ignore warning signals at railroad crossings might share liability, as well as manufacturers of defective train equipment that contributed to the accident. Government entities responsible for maintaining roadways and crossings could be liable if inadequate upkeep or inadequate warnings played a role. Lastly, third parties engaging in reckless behavior or tampering might also be implicated.
Proving liability requires a comprehensive investigation and an understanding of the legal system. It’s important to consult with attorneys who have extensive experience in railroad accidents to accurately identify the liable parties and take appropriate legal steps for seeking compensation. Often, multiple parties could share responsibility for the accident, making it crucial to have a thorough understanding of the nuances in order to build a strong legal case.
With a wealth of knowledge encompassing all facets of these cases, Harris Lowry Manton LLP holds comprehensive experience in handling train and subway accidents. If you or a family member has suffered injuries in such an incident, the accomplished Savannah train accident attorneys at HLM are here to provide assistance. Leverage our exceptional negotiation and trial skills in navigating your train or subway accident case. Reach out to our Savannah offices, or simply fill out our contact form to arrange a free initial consultation.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.