About Passenger and Freight Train Injuries & Deaths
Trains in New York provide an inexpensive and swift form of travel for commuters. They also transport goods throughout the state and to and from New York and the rest of the U.S. Unfortunately, both passenger and freight trains may cause serious injuries or multiple deaths if they derail or are involved in collisions. A train may weigh anywhere from 44 tons to 500 tons or even more, depending on the type of train (passenger vs. freight), the number of cars and the amount of cargo it is carrying. When an object of such a great size and weight collides with another object, whether it is another train, a building, a person or a motor vehicle such as a car or truck, the results may be catastrophic. Serious injuries are likely and survival is questionable.
Take an example of a train accident that occurred in Westfield, New York on April 6, 2012. The cargo train was traveling over a trestle when it struck three men who were walking on the tracks. Two were pronounced dead at the scene and the third was flown to a medical center in Erie, Pennsylvania with head injuries and broken bones. This incident proves just how serious a train accident can be. The consequences are much more severe when two trains collide or a passenger train derails, as the number of injuries and deaths are likely to be far greater.
Derailment vs. Collision: Types of Train Accidents
There are two primary types of train accidents: derailments and collisions. Either type of accident may cause significant property damage as well as injuries to passengers on the train or people in the collision area. These are described in more detail below:
If part or all of a train leaves the tracks on which it is traveling, this is considered a derailment. It may occur as the result of a rail break, a defective rail, defective locomotive wheels, cold weather-related breaks in the tracks, misaligned tracks, excessive speed, poor train handling around tight curves and unevenly loaded cargo. A train may also derail if it strikes an obstacle on the tracks. This type of accident is fairly rare.
A collision occurs when a train strikes another train or any type of object on the tracks. Train collisions involving cars are one of the more common types of accidents, due to the large number of train crossings at highways, roads and streets across the nation. Pedestrians walking along or crossing the tracks may be in danger of being struck by a train, as in the example in Westfield, NY described above. These men were walking on the trestle (a type of bridge constructed for a train to cross) and when the train approached, they had nowhere to go. According to witnesses, they tried to outrun the train and reach the edge of the trestle where they could dodge to safety, but were unable to make it and were struck.
What causes these accidents?
A collision or derailment may come down to faulty or poorly maintained tracks, train parts or railroad crossings. Another potential cause is human error or negligence. Train conductors have an obligation to exercise proper caution when controlling the train, taking weather and track conditions into account. Train companies also have an obligation to properly train and perform background checks on their employees. Negligence by a conductor or train company may provide the basis for a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit if you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a train accident. You can learn more about this important topic by contacting our office for a free consultation.