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Were You Injured As A Train Passenger?


train station accident lawyersOur Experienced Train Accident Attorneys Explain Some Important Things You Need To Know If You Were Injured As A Passenger On A Train

New York has several train systems that carry passengers throughout the state including, the New York City Transit Authority; Metro-North Commuter Railroad, Long Island Railroad and Amtrak.  Together, these common carriers serve millions of passenger each and every day.  As a result, they have an important duty to keep their equipment in good working order, and their personnel appropriately trained. Here are some important things you should know if you were a train passenger hurt in a train accident.

What Are Some Common Types of Train Accidents?

As a train passenger, you have absolutely no control over the operation or condition of the train you are riding in.  Instead, you rely on the railroad to exercise reasonable care to provide properly trained employees and reasonably safe equipment.  Unfortunately, however, sometimes railroads fail in this basic obligation.  When this happens, passengers can be at serious risk.  Some common train accidents that can cause train passenger injuries, include:

  • Train Derailments;
  • Train Crashes;
  • Doors closing on a passenger’s leg or arm;
  • Sudden stops

What is a Train Derailment?

One of the most common train accidents that can cause serious injury to a train passenger is the train derailment.  A train derailment simply means that the wheels of the train, or rail wheels, have run off its rails or tracks. When this happens, the train can violently throw passengers, causing chaos inside of the train.  At times, passengers are ejected from the the train during these violent accidents, resulting in serious injury and even wrongful death.

There many circumstances that can cause a train derailment, including:

  • a train traveling at excessive speeds;
  • defects in the rails; or
  • operating a train through a curve at too high a speed.

Recent technology that can dramatically reduce the instances of certain types of train accidents, including train derailment is slowly being implemented.  This technology, called Positive Train Control, automatically stops a train before certain types of accidents occur.  It uses a series of GPS signals to monitor the train’s speed and location.  The system will send a signal to the the train engineer, the person who “drives” the train, if the train is going too fast, or too close to another train.  If the train engineer fails to react, the system will take over the operation of the train and avoid the potential problem.

This type of technology would have saved many lives in the tragic 2013 train accident that happened in New York when a Metro North Commuter train derailed at a left hand turn while traveling 82 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone.   The investigation revealed that the train was traveling at this excessive speed because the train engineer fell asleep as a result of an undiagnosed medical condition.  This deadly train accident would not have happened if the train had Positive Train Control.

How Are Train Accidents Investigated?

Local police or the common carrier itself can investigate train accidents. However, these types of investigations have limitations. A police report, for example, usually only contains basic information about the parties involved and how the incident occurred.  Rarely, do police reports reach conclusions about the cause of a train accident.   Additionally, common carriers also investigate accident claims, although they are usually not required to disclose the results of their investigations.

Perhaps the most reliable and thorough investigations of train accidents are conducted by independent governmental agencies like the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) or the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”).  While the NTSB investigates accidents involving planes, boats and other types of transportation, FRA investigations focus only on accidents involving railroads.

Both of these agencies have powerful authority and resources to conduct extensive train accident investigations.   These agencies do not, however, investigate every train accident.  Instead, they each have guidelines as to the types of accidents that are investigated.   Train accidents that result in death or serious injury to passengers are usually investigated.

The investigations conducted are extensive.  They can include document reviews, scene investigation and witness interviews, including railroad employees.  Upon completion of the investigation, a comprehensive report that details the relevant evidence gathered during the investigation is prepared.  These reports are available to the public at the FRA’s website or the NTSB’s website.  These reports will also include a section that explains how and why the accident happened.

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If you or a family member was a train passenger who experienced an injury, contact our experienced train accident attorneys for more information by email or calling (800) 762-9300.  You can also fill out a case intake form, and we will have one of our attorneys get right back to you.

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