Railroads revolutionized life in the United States as the first form of transportation that made it feasible for people, goods and services to move with relative speed and ease around the country. Today, there are still more than 200,000 miles of railroad track throughout the United States carrying passengers and cargo from place to place.
The vast majority of railway journeys are uneventful; unfortunately, sometimes accidents occur. Because of the sheer size and force of a train, these accidents often cause serious injury or even death to those involved. This is always devastating, but especially so when the train accident could have been avoided if those responsible for the operation and maintenance of the train and railroad had been more careful.
If you have been injured in a train accident, it is important that you understand your legal rights under Missouri law. The Cagle Law Firm is here to help. Our St. Louis train accident lawyers have extensive experience representing parties injured in train accidents throughout Missouri and southern Illinois. Let us put our experience to work for you. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more by contacting us at 1.800.685.3302 or using our online form.
Train Accidents in Missouri and Illinois
According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, 11,116 train accidents took place throughout the United States in 2009, causing 709 fatalities and 8,047 non-fatal injuries. In Missouri alone, The Railroad Safety Statistics 2011 Preliminary Annual Report indicates that there were 65 train accidents and an additional 42 highway-rail crossing accidents in 2011. Of the 65 Missouri train accidents, only four did not lead to fatalities.
Across the United States, a full 95.20 percent of total train accidents involved highway-railway accidents and trespassing incidents. Of the remaining accidents that occurred, passenger trains were involved in 5.39 percent of incidents. This means that most people who were hurt by a train were not even individuals who made a choice to ride the rails. In other words, train accidents can happen to almost anyone — and they can be devastating.
Common Causes of Train Wrecks in Missouri and Illinois
Train accidents can happen for many different reasons, most of which could be avoided if people closely followed safety rules. Some of the most common factors in train accidents include:
- Human error, such as conductor or operator error. Twenty-six of the 65 accidents in Missouri in 2011 were caused by human error.
- Maintenance issues, including lack of maintenance or improper maintenance.
- Communication issues, such as a miscommunication about which train tracks are operating.
- Mechanical failure of the tracks or train parts. Four of the 65 accidents in Missouri in 2011 were caused by equipment failure on the tracks, with an additional 20 accidents caused by problems with the track itself.
- Adverse weather conditions, which can lead to train derailment if not handled properly.
- Failure of drivers to yield to trains or obey traffic signals
- Trespassing on railroad tracks
The statistics show that most train accidents happen because people operating or maintaining the trains and railroads aren’t doing what they are supposed to do. This means that you or a loved one might suffer serious injuries, or even death, because someone was negligent in doing his or her job.
Legal Liability for Missouri/Illinois Train Accidents
In Missouri, people and companies that are negligent in ways that harm others can be held legally responsible for the consequences of their actions. This means that if you or a loved one has been injured in a train accident that was caused by something done by the conductor or others involved in operating the train, you have the ability to use the court system to get fairness. Railroad workers who are injured in train accidents while on the job could be able to recover damages for their injuries under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
At The Cagle Law Firm, our experienced St. Louis train accident lawyers know what your rights are under the law, and we can help you to enforce those rights. When you file a personal injury claim, you could be entitled to recover compensation for your medical costs associated with the train accident, as well as for lost wages if you missed any work or if you are unable to work due to your injuries. You could also be able to recover monetary payment to compensate you for your pain and suffering and emotional distress caused by the train accident and resulting injuries. Finally, if your loved one has been killed in a train accident, you could have the right to wrongful death damages.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim after a Railroad Accident
There are a number of possible defendants who might be held responsible and who may be made to pay your damages after a train accident. These include:
- The train’s conductor, engineer or operator
- The rail company operating the train
- The company responsible for maintenance of the train or of the railroad tracks
- The manufacturer of the train and its parts
- The government responsible for road design, if there were flaws at the highway/rail crossing that led to the accident
There are different legal theories used to hold these different parties responsible, depending on what occurred in your train accident case. For instance, the rail company who owns and operates the train might have been careless in hiring operators and could thus be sued for their negligence. The actions of the train conductor and engineer are also, in the eyes of the law, seen as the virtual equivalent of the actions of the company. In other words, when a conductor or engineer is careless, it is legally the same thing as the rail company itself being careless. The railroad company can be held responsible for what its employee did.
If there were faulty parts, on the other hand, you can sue the manufacturer of the train or its parts under product liability laws. Under these laws, there is no requirement that the manufacturer was even negligent. If they had faulty parts or bad design that caused an accident and injury, they can be held responsible no matter how careful they were.
Because there are many different defendants and many different legal theories to hold these people and companies responsible, it is extremely important that you talk to a train wreck lawyer. Sometimes, insurance companies may try to get you to settle and waive your rights before you fully understand who you can sue and what you are entitled to. You don’t want to give up the opportunity to impose liability on anyone who was responsible for hurting you.
Get Help from Our St. Louis Train Accident Lawyers Today
Railroad accidents are devastating, and you should not have to bear the financial cost of the injuries or loss you endured. At The Cagle Law Firm, we fight for the rights of people who were injured in rail accidents, and we work to get you the compensation you deserve.