HOUSTON TRAIN ACCIDENT ATTORNEY

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Train Accident Lawyer in Houston, Texas

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Transport by train is among the safest forms of transportation. Yet, that doesn’t discount that they are also among the largest and most powerful. As safe as trains may be, it is often catastrophic when an accident does occur. Injuries to passengers can be life-altering, and the property damage overwhelming. A train accident attorney is an excellent source of help after a train collision in Texas. Several parties may be responsible for a train accident. Figuring out who carries the blame is time-consuming and often complex. That’s because trains fall under the federal government. The state also regulates them. Train accidents can be lengthy and complicated. Victims need help getting the compensation to which they’re entitled. At Reich & Binstock, our Houston train accident lawyers are ready to take on your case and maximize your damages.

The Power and Danger of Moving Trains

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Most trains have between 5000 and 7000 horsepower. When a train first begins to move, the engine pulls the other stationary cards. All the cars are traveling at speeds comparable to that of a motor vehicle. The forward movement of all the cars makes it very difficult for a train to stop fast. Think of a train slamming on the breaks like a set of dominoes. The cars linked to the engine keep their forward momentum even as the engine slows. These train cars will begin slamming into each other and leaving the tracks if they stop abruptly. Federal regulations set train speeds according to signaling methods. 59 mph is the max speed for passenger trains. Freight train speeds are 49 mph. That’s on tracks that don’t have block signal systems. Also, if a train doesn’t have an automatic cab signal, automatic train control system, or an automatic cab signal, it may not travel faster than 79 mph.

Train Accidents & Safety

There are not as many train accidents as motor vehicle accidents, but it is big news when one happens. That’s because the wide-ranging damage occurs to the train itself, tracks, and surrounding area. The railroad industry has made railroad safety a priority. Stricter regulation and more in-depth training for train operators are incorporated. Additionally, the Federal Railroad Commission (FRA) exercises implemented more regulations. The FRA exercises more oversight of track and equipment inspections, train operation speeds, signaling, and ensures employees’ certifications. Railway safety and regulations are enforced by the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. New and evolving technology is increasing train safety. Unique detectors and vehicles point out flaws in the tracks and the ground under them. The capability exists to flag individual cars for repairs as well.

Damaged or poorly maintained tracks and malfunctioning wheels can cause derailments. These are the most common type of train accidents and can be catastrophic.

Train derailments and train collisions are the most common types of train accidents.

Texas has more than 11,000 miles of track. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, Texas was ranked first in the nation for train collisions and deaths in 2020.

First, call 911. Then document the accident scene and preserve or document any evidence. Seek medical attention even if you don't think you are hurt. Finally, retain an experienced Houston train accident attorney.

Multiple parties may be legally liable for your accident, depending on the circumstances. These include the train operator, the train maintenance company, manufacturers of any defective parts, the railway track system maintenance company, and other drivers involved in the wreck.

What Causes Train Accidents?

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There are several ways a train accident occurs. But, many of these events are preventable.

Damaged or under-maintained tracks and malfunctioning wheels can cause derailments. These are the most common type of train accidents and can be catastrophic. Factors contributing to the severity of the derailment include the kind of track the train was on, the track’s length, how many cars came off the track, train speed at the time of the incident, and the first car’s location when the train derailed.

Train crashes also occur because of human error. This happens while operating the train and communication or signal issues.

Train accidents are usually caused by:

  • Under-maintained or malfunctioning rail crossings 
  • Not moving or clearing derailed cars from an area 
  • Latches or broken switches that are not functioning 
  • Excessive train speeds 
  • Cargo not secured and objects protruding from the sides of a train 
  • Poor train maintenance 

Common Types of Train Accidents

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports 1,606 train accidents in 2020. These break down by type of accident – derailments, collisions, and others. Of these accidents, 1,089 had a train go off the tracks, 97 were due to collisions, and another 420 had other causes.

There are many causes for a train derailment, though most link to defective tracks. These defects include broken rails or welding, buckled tracks, malfunctioning switches, and flaking/chipped steel. Most of the issues trace back to lacking maintenance. Federal regulations require railroad companies to conduct inspections in person at least once monthly.

Train Derailments

During a derailing, the train leaves the track and keels to the side. The after-effects of a train derailment are what cause a significant problem. It can be catastrophic if a train carrying hazardous materials or waste overturns and spills. The material can soak into the surrounding landscape. This leaves behind more than the mess visible.

Passengers do not travel on trains carrying hazardous materials. A derailment doesn’t injure those aboard. It’s the community residents where a derailment and spill occur who suffer.

But, passenger train accidents leave many train occupants with injuries. Trains, like buses, don’t have basic safety features. A notable missing safety feature is seatbelts. The reason for this is that seatbelts are most effective in the case of rapid deceleration. Trains have so much forward momentum that an immediate stop is not possible.

The thought is that seatbelts cause more harm than good in the event of a train or bus accident. If a passenger wears a seatbelt, removing them from the crashed train can be more difficult.

Also, passengers walk around while the train moves, rest in sleeper cars, and stand and socialize in dining cars. Railroad workers also walk or stand while performing their job duties. 

The size of windows on trains also plays a part. Passengers can be thrown from the train if a window comes out during a railway accident. Unsecured baggage, as well as passengers, can collide with each other.

Collisions

Collisions with smaller motor vehicles happen at a grade railroad crossing. This is a crossing where a railroad and a road meet at the same level. This occurs when vehicle drivers ignore warning signs or train signals. They may stop on the railroad tracks or cross when a train is approaching. This type of train accident is the most common in Texas. It’s essential never to try to beat a train.

Pedestrians also cause accidents. This happens if they stand on or cross the tracks at the wrong time or trespass on railway property. Trains cannot stop quickly. It takes a great distance and much time for a train to come to a safe stop.

Remember that railways are highway systems with their own rules and regulations. If you are on a track without permission from the railroad company, you are trespassing. And that means you are not owed as many duties of care by that company.

Some exceptions do exist. These include line-of-sight. Drivers must be able to see if a train is approaching. This is for their protection and according to regulations set out by both federal and state law. Foliage and inclines must not obstruct motorists’ views.

Warning system failure is another exception. Railroads require several types of warnings at intersections. These include blasting the train’s horn, lights, and arms that come down at the crossing to stop traffic.

These and other accident causes, such as train operator negligence, can place liability for a railroad intersection accident on the train company.

Why Are Train Accidents So Common in Texas?

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Texas ranked first in the nation for train collisions and deaths in 2020. That’s according to the Federal Railroad Administration. There were 1,901 railroad crossing collisions in 2020. In Texas, there were 191, which included 11 fatalities and 69 injuries.

Texas has more than 11,000 miles of track. Train accident fatalities rose in the state over the past decade. As a result, the state was one of several ordered to create safety actions for railroad crossings.

When a smaller vehicle collides with a train, injuries often include internal bleeding, broken bones, burn injuries, traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, amputations, cuts, paralysis, and wrongful death.

What To Do After a Train Accident in Texas

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You will need to prove that the other party was at fault for the accident.

To gather the proof you need, first call 911. The police visit the accident scene, take down the details, and file an accident report.

If you can do so, document the accident scene. Take video and photos. Pay close attention to any hazardous conditions that contributed to the event.

Whatever your injuries may be, you need medical attention. You may not realize that you are badly hurt. Some injuries aren’t immediately apparent. Plus, the surge of adrenaline from being in a wreck can mask any pain you feel for a few days. Seeking treatment gets you the medical help you require. It also provides documentation of your injuries and how they happened. Make sure you get a copy of your medical records.

Finally, hire a Houston railroad accident attorney. They’ll investigate the accident and gather more evidence. This includes security camera footage, black box data from the train, and witness statements.

Who Is Liable?

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Train accidents involve multiple parties, and it takes time to establish fault. In Texas, train accidents are investigated by the Federal Railway Administration. A knowledgeable railroad accident attorney conducting an independent investigation is beneficial.

Depending on the circumstances, many parties may be legally liable for your accident. These include the train operator or other railroad employees, the train maintenance company, manufacturers of any defective parts, the railway track maintenance company, and other vehicle drivers.

Reich & Binstock train accident attorneys investigate your accident to determine responsibility for the incident when you are hurt in a train accident. We’ll figure out who bears the blame for your injuries. Then work to get you the most compensation for your pain and suffering and emotional distress.

So Where Does This Leave You?

Train derailments that cause injuries or passenger deaths are uncommon. But, train accident injuries can be severe when a wreck happens.

The degree of severity determines the amount of damages in a train accident claim. However, many elements also come into play, such as the railroad’s responsibility or train operator negligence. Sometimes the injured party played a role in the accident, so their amount of fault is also a factor. Each case is unique due to the many circumstances of a train accident.

Like car accidents, insurance companies, claims adjusters, and attorneys play a role in a train accident lawsuit. But lengthy federal accident investigations and numerous victims complicate train accidents.

Parties hurt in train accidents include passengers, motorists, pedestrians, and injured railroad workers. A railroad or train accident is wide-reaching. They cause physical damage and mar the surrounding landscape.

It would be best to have an attorney experienced with train accident cases. You shouldn’t have to fight different entities to get the compensation you need. Let Reich & Binstock’s Houston legal team do that for you while you heal.

Call An Experienced Texas Train Accident Attorney Today

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A Texas train crash can result in serious injuries or even loss of life. The compassionate Houston personal injury lawyers at Reich & Binstock are here to help you. A Houston train accident lawyer looks over the facts of your case and provides advice. 

The experience and technical knowledge we have, allow us to guide you in making the best decision for you and your family. Contact us right away at 713-622-7271 for a free consultation. We are eager to establish an attorney-client relationship with you to help you get your life back on track.