Los Angeles Train Crash Attorney
An Overview of Train Accidents, How They Occur, Statistics &Types of Train Accidents
Train Accident Overview
The Chatsworth Metrolink train accident of September 2008 was at the time the deadliest American train crash to occur for 15 years. As a result, Los Angelinos are far more aware of their vulnerability, both as railroad passengers and train workers in the event of a railroad crash.
Although traveling by train is one of the safest modes of transport, approximately 1,000 individuals die annually as a result of train accidents. Both passenger trains and freight trains share hundreds of thousands of miles of tracks traversing the United States, and as the price of gasoline encourages the shipping industry and the population at large to use alternate modes of transport, the numbers of trains traveling on these tracks will grow. This increases the likelihood of train-to-train collisions, which are highly serious and cause tremendous property damage, massive deaths and huge numbers of life-threatening injuries.
In the city of Los Angeles, commuting by train is becoming more and more popular. Although train travel is significantly less dangerous than traveling by car, when train accidents do occur the consequences are dire.
How Train Accidents Occur
Train accidents are usually a combination of human error and mechanical failure in which multiple parties may be at fault. Immediate and long-term medical costs to those injured in train accidents, as well as the costs of property damage can seem insurmountable. Fortunately, personal injury claims and lawsuits may be filed in the event of a train accident to ensure that all of the victims receive appropriate compensation to enable them to move on in rebuilding their lives.
Human error and mechanical defects are the leading causes of train accidents, both in railroad crashes and derailments.
Train conductors are responsible for many aspects of operating of a moving train. They must perform mechanical inspections and test equipment, coordinate train movements, communicate with other trains and people involved with operating the train, remain aware of outside signals and other situations, give signals to inform others about the movement, speed and direction of the train and attend to the passengers. Within these tasks there is significant opportunity for human error.
Human error involved in train crashes is normally due to negligence of the train operator, conductor or signal master, although it may also be due to improper or inadequate training. Similar to negligent driving in motor vehicles, negligence in train operation can include speeding, texting or talking on cell phones while on the job, working under the influence of drugs, alcohol or fatigue or leaving one’s station for an excessive period of time. In some cases, human error is not egregious negligence but simply a miscalculation of train functions such as stopping time and distance.
Types of Train Accidents
Train accidents include derailment, railroad crossing collisions, and collisions with other trains and in some cases on-board explosions. Each type of train accident has the potential for massive and deadly consequences and most result in fatal or life-threatening injuries.
Derailment is a serious type of train accident that occurs when some or all of the train cars leave the tracks on which they are traveling. Derailment causes a sudden stop which can lead to multiple train car pileups, the complete malfunction of the train system and collisions with trains traveling on other tracks. Excessive speed is the most common cause of a train derailment; however obstructions on the tracks, faulty train wheels and misaligned or broken track rails may also cause a derailment.
Some train accidents are the result of damage or failure of the bridges upon which they travel. Train bridges have many moving parts, and when the bridges rise or lower unexpectedly they may cause a collision with oncoming trains. Train bridges may also collapse due to faulty construction or poor maintenance as well as natural disasters. In either case the resulting railroad accidents are devastating and commonly lead to multiple fatalities.
In some cases, a small minority of steam-powered trains experience on-board explosions which are caused by the steam boiler. Although passenger trains of this sort are rare, an electric or gas-powered train may collide with or be affected by a steam-powered train explosion.
Railroad crossing collisions occur between trains and motor vehicles or pedestrians traveling over the train tracks. In some cases these sorts of collisions are due to the negligence, destructive intentions or misjudgment of the motor vehicles or pedestrians, but railroad crossing accidents can also be caused by a lack of safety gates or a lack of effective gates at the crossing, or unmarked and improperly marked railroad crossings.
In some or all cases of these types of accidents the catastrophic collisions are compounded by train company negligence. Railroad company negligence can include cutting costs on safety and mechanical upkeep or repair, failure to hire competent and experienced train operators, and a failure to adequately train or prepare railroad operators and signal masters for their task.
Train Accident Statistics
- A train accident involving pedestrians or other vehicles occurs on average every 2 hours in the United States.
- The Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis reports between 12,000 and 15,000 train-related accidents each year.
- Train accidents result in over 850 deaths annually in the United States.
- Over 8,500 non-fatal injuries occur as a result of train accidents each year.
- Nearly half of all train accident-related deaths occur at highway/railroad crossings.
- Slightly more than half of all train related accidents are the result of trespassing on railroad property or failure to yield to train rights-of-way.
- Track defects are responsible for nearly 35% of train accidents.
- Human error causes approximately 40% of all train accidents.
- Equipment defects are responsible for slightly more than 10% of train accidents.
- Signal failures or defects cause less than 2% of all train accidents.
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