Arkansas Personal Injury Attorney

Causes of Train Accidents in Little Rock

Train accidents are not uncommon in the United States. Unfortunately when these accidents occur, people are often seriously injured or even killed. Accidents involving trains are often the result of mechanical failures and human error, and often it’s a combination of both. There are a variety of different reasons that these railroad accidents occur, and some of these include:

  • Train conductor negligence
  • Train derailment
  • Improper maintenance of the train tracks
  • Faulty equipment
  • Collision with another train
  • Collision with a car, bus or truck trying to cross train tracks
  • Collapsed bridges
  • Faulty train crossings

3 Common Causes of Train Accidents

In February 2015, an oil train derailed in West Virginia, spilling nearly 400,000 gallons of oil, and forcing 1,000 evacuations.  In the months following the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the cause of the derailment to be a broken rail on the track.

Only months later, in May 2015, Amtrak 188 derailed in north Philadelphia, killing 188 people and injuring over 200 others.  In the months after the accident, the NTSB found that the that the train was going over 100 miles per hour in an area with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour.  The engineer was found to have been distracted at the time of the accident.  The distraction led to the excessive speed at the time of the curve, which should normally be taken at a much lower speed.  Human error, and speed in particular, continues to be a common cause of train accidents and derailments throughout the country.

While these two devastating accidents during 2015 seem to indicate a high occurrence of train accidents, the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) records indicate an overwhelmingly decreased trend of accidents. In 2007, nearly 2,000 train derailments occurred throughout the United States.  As of August 2016, 725 train derailments have occurred, indicating a substantial decrease. Unfortunately, train derailments and collisions still occur, and are often due by three primary causes.

Human Error

Human error also continues to be the leading cause in many train accidents throughout the country.  The umbrella term “human error” includes the following:

  • Engineer distraction
  • Excessive speed
  • Failure to timely brake

As was evident in the devastating Amtrak 188 crash, human error caused by driver distraction can have a terrifying impact on the victims of the accident.  But for the distraction of the engineer, the train would not have taken the curve at more than 100 miles per hour, and would not have derailed.

In 2007, human error accounted for over 1,000 train accidents throughout the country.  This number remains high (nearly 800 in 2015), although it has decreased slightly.  However, train accidents caused by human error must continue to be addressed through heightened requirements and increased penalties/fines.

Track and Roadbed Malfunctions

The condition of the tracks and rails on the more than 140,000 miles of railroads throughout the country play a large role in the number of train derailments.  Over the past ten years, privately owned Class I Freight Railroads have spent more than $200 billion to improve the condition of the networks. Unfortunately, broken rails and track issues still remain a common cause of train derailments, accounting for more than 25 percent of all train derailments throughout the country.  However, this is a decreasing factor which is best evidenced through the statistics provided by the FRA.  While in 2007, nearly 1,000 train accidents were caused by rail and track issues, only 524 accidents were due to trail and rail issues in 2015.  This substantial decrease has been due to the concerted efforts of many different organizations to tackle this ongoing problem and prevent the loss of life caused by train accidents.

Mechanical Failure

While not as common as train accidents caused by track malfunctions and human error, mechanical failure does play a large role in train accidents and derailments.  Train accidents caused by mechanical failure account for over 10 percent of the total number of accidents.   Trains must be regularly serviced to stay in working condition, and the failure to notice an obvious issue with the train performance could lead to a devastating accident in the future

Liability in Train Accidents

Just as there are many factors that can cause a train accident may occur, there are multiple parties who may be held liable for any pain and suffering, loss of income, medical costs and other costs associated with a train accident. Responsible parties may include the company that owns and operates the train, the employees of the train, manufacturers or suppliers of any defective parts of the train, or any other party that contributed to the train accident.

Train Accident Lawsuits

If you are considering filing a train accident lawsuit, it’s important that find attorneys that you feel comfortable working with and that you feel you can trust to help you make the right decisions involving your case.  When you hire a Little Rock injury attorney at the Law Office of Thomas G. Buchanan to handle your train accident case, you are working with a law firm that has a proven track record of obtaining excellent results for our clients. Caring, courageous, committed is our pledge to you when you place your trust in our law firm.  Call us today to discuss your train accident case and find out your legal rights and options.

Phone: 501.296.9820

Fax: 501.296.9823

217 W. Second Street, Suite 115

Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

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