Charlotte Train Accident & Derailment Lawyers
Representing victims and survivors of North Carolina train accidents
With thousands of miles of track, and trains visiting cities like Charlotte, Durham, and Raleigh every day, North Carolina is home to much train activity. In addition to serving train lines like Amtrak, our state also sees freight rail traffic, moving tons of freight back and forth across North Carolina on a regular basis.
Trains, just like all mass transit, have a duty to transport its passengers safely – without harming them or anyone else. Sadly, train accidents happen more often than we might think, and in serious train accidents, the number of injuries and fatalities can be high. The Federal Railroad Administration reports 11,760 train accidents in 2017, with 824 fatalities and about 8,700 injuries.
The Charlotte personal injury attorneys at Warren & Kallianos, PLLC are committed to seeking justice for victims of train accidents and collisions. If you or a loved one suffered injury or wrongful death in a train accident, contact us today for help.
Common Causes of Charlotte Train Accidents
In our practice, we typically see three kinds of rail and train accidents:
- Collisions with other trains
- Collisions with passenger vehicles
Often, collisions happen at railroad crossings. Operation Lifesaver, a website promoting railroad crossing safety awareness, reports more than 2,000 collisions in 2017. In these collisions, there were 807 injuries and 274 fatalities. When a passenger vehicle or pedestrian is on the tracks, it can take a train operator more than a mile – about 18 football fields – to come to a complete stop. Often, this is too late.
In the wake of several high-profile rail accidents in 2017 and 2018, safety experts have been scrutinizing accident data and safety policies. Following are some common reasons train accidents occur.
Negligence or Human Error
In cases like these, responsible parties could be the train or railroad company, the operator/engineer, or the crew on the train. Examples of human error or carelessness include:
- Mistakes behind the controls. One terrible instance of a likely human mistake is the devastating CSX and Amtrak accident in South Carolina, in February of 2018. Two people were killed and more than 100 injured when a switch in the wrong position on the track sent the Amtrak train down a side track, where it collided with a parked CSX train.
- Failure to follow safety standards. Once again using the CSX/Amtrak crash as an example, when safety standards aren’t followed, or followed improperly, tragedy can occur. Lawsuits against CSX claim gross negligence and disregard for safety. CSX had not yet installed a technology called “positive train control,” and had removed signals on the CSX line in preparation. It is alleged that the lack of signaling and the wrong switch position led to the crash.
- Speeding. A 2017 train derailment in Washington killed three people and injured 100 others. The train had been traveling 80 mph, more than twice the allowable speed of 30 mph. It was the inaugural run of the Amtrak train’s new line between Seattle and Portland.
- Drowsiness and fatigue. Two train accidents in recent years – one in New Jersey in 2016 and one in New York in 2017 – involved fatigue and untreated sleep apnea. One person was killed in New Jersey, and hundreds were injured. In both instances, the engineers were suffering from fatigue and failed to stop their trains at the end of the tracks. Unfortunately, at this time, the Federal Railroad Administration does not mandate that train companies screen their operators for sleep apnea.
- Distraction. When an engineer is operating a train while distracted, disaster is sure to follow. In 2008, a commuter train and freight train collided in California, killing 25 and injuring more than 100. After an investigation, the NTSB determined the engineer (who was also killed in the crash), had been texting on his phone, causing him to run a red light signal.
Improper Maintenance or Defective Machinery
Trains, just like any other vehicle, require consistent, thorough, and proper maintenance. When trains and tracks are poorly maintained – or not maintained at all – or machinery is faulty or defective, collisions and derailments are sure to follow. Maintenance and upkeep must also be performed on train equipment, like signals and gates at railroad crossings. This includes keeping vegetation under control to ensure drivers and pedestrians can see gates and signals properly.
Passenger and cargo trains can occur for all of the reasons above, plus issues like obstacles on the tracks, or excessive/unbalanced cargo.
Injuries and Damages from Train Accidents
Anyone can be a victim of a train accident, not just passengers on the train. Accident victims can be drivers of other vehicles, pedestrians, bicycle riders, or railroad employees. Common injuries from railway crashes and collisions include:
- Broken bones
- Head and spine injuries
- Amputations or disfigurement
- Traumatic brain injury
- Respiratory injuries
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Wrongful death
Both commuter rail lines and railroad companies are considered common carriers, meaning they’re an entity that transports people and goods back and forth for a fee. They offer their services to the public and are under the authority of regulatory bodies that set safety standards. Common carriers are generally held to heightened liability standards by the government.
In North Carolina and throughout the United States, train companies should be following these safety rules consistently. Common carriers owe a special duty of care to their passengers, workers, and bystanders. Breaking any safety or maintenance rule, resulting in an accident, can be considered negligence and grounds for legal action. Talk to a train accident injury attorney to find out more.
Charlotte’s main train station can be found at: 1914 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28206. For more information, visit Amtrak.
Charlotte Area Transit System can be found at: 310 E Trade St, Charlotte, NC 28202. For more details, visit CATS.
Strong Advocacy from North Carolina Train Accident Attorneys
Train accidents, collisions, and derailments appear to be happening with more frequency. These accidents can be devastating in terms of injuries and fatalities. When you or a loved one suffer injury in a train derailment or accident, the negligent party or parties must be held accountable. Here at Warren & Kallianos, we fight aggressively to secure the compensation you’re owed for your injuries. To schedule a free initial consultation at our office in Charlotte, please call 704-377-7777 or fill out our contact form.