Numerous freight, commuter, passenger, and excursion trains operate throughout the state of Kentucky. Unfortunately, the number of accidents involving trains in the state is increasing.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, of the 22 train accidents that occurred in Kentucky in 2022, human error led to $1,522,738 of reportable damages. As of August 21, 2023, 10 additional incidents have occurred, resulting in more injuries and fatalities. On July 25, a 25-year-old woman was killed after being hit by a train in Laurel County.
Although train accidents frequently happen for the same reasons as car or truck crashes occur, there are some reasons that are unique to trains, such as:
- Conductor negligence. Train conductors are frequently held responsible for accidents, sometimes due to operating the train while intoxicated, distracted, or tired. However, the train, railway company, or even a careless motorist might be held liable for crashes as well.
- Human error. If a conductor has not received the proper training or merely makes a careless error, their mistakes can lead to a severe train accident. Some examples of human error that might result in a train accident include failure to apply the brakes promptly, excessive speeding, and distraction.
- Driver or pedestrian mistakes. Motorists or pedestrians who do not obey traffic regulations or railway signs can lead to tragic accidents. For example, speeding to get through a crossing before a train or trespassing on the railroad tracks is risky behavior that can easily backfire.
- Faulty tracks. Because railways are complicated systems that involve massive pieces of equipment, they require frequent maintenance and repair – track or and switch failure can lead to a serious train accident.
- Speed. The speed at which trains travel depends on the track level. For example, track 1 classification limits travel to 10 mph, while level 4 tracks can only support speeds up to 60 mph or risk derailment.
- Stalled cars. Although automobiles usually don’t get stuck on railroad crossings, drivers may stall out as they slow down to cross rough grades. If this happens to you, remember that your life and safety are the first priority, and you should get as far from your vehicle as possible.
- Mechanical failure. Complex railway systems must be consistently maintained to remain operable and in safe working order. However, when companies and operators fail routine inspections or the train or its safety equipment become inoperative, the risk for a crash increases.
- Poorly maintained grade crossings. From bad brakes on trains and rail cars to overgrown vegetation obscuring railroad crossbucks and warning lights, improper maintenance leads to numerous accidents at railroad crossings.
- Inadequate warning devices. Many railroad crossings lack adequate warning devices such as lights and gates, and numerous railroad accidents occur at vulnerable crossings where visibility is poor, drivers become distracted and prone to reckless driving, traffic signals are broken or otherwise faulty, obstacles are present, and alarm systems fail.
But no matter what caused a train accident and the resulting injuries, liability will need to be determined so that the injured parties can recover fair damages. Since liability in a train accident case can be complicated, it’s prudent to enlist the assistance of an experienced Kentucky personal injury attorney to investigate and determine fault.
Liability for train accidents in Kentucky
The details of a train accident must be thoroughly examined to determine fault and ensure proper compensation for injured persons. According to the Department of Transportation Act of 1966, the Federal Railroad Administration has the authority (and responsibility) to oversee and promote railway safety regulations.
Railroad companies and commuter rail lines have a legal obligation to maintain the highest level of safety for all passengers and are required to install a black box – a device that records information that might be necessary to review in the event of an accident – on all engines.
To attain safety, railroad companies must ensure the protection of all passengers, operators, pedestrians, and the public. While the railroad company is ultimately responsible for train safety, they do not always live up to expectations; however, the company or conductor is not always entirely at fault. Because serious or deadly train accidents can occur for numerous reasons, it is critical to retain an attorney who is knowledgeable in railroad accident litigation.
Avoiding train accidents
While an experienced railroad accident lawyer can help an injured person obtain compensation for a serious personal injury or the death of a loved one, it’s always best to avoid injury and the need for a lawyer in the first place.
Here are some tips on how to evade a train accident and escape injury:
- Always assume a railroad track is in use and drive accordingly.
- Never stop on a railroad track.
- Avoid entering a train tunnel or crossing a trestle if there is a possibility of becoming trapped if a train enters.
- Never drive around lowered gates. If the gate appears to be stuck, take another route or call the toll-free number displayed at the crossing.
- Don’t walk or play on train tracks.
- Never race or attempt to beat a train.
- Look both ways before proceeding to cross a railroad track.
- Be aware that trains are always wider than the track they’re traveling on.
- For truckers: lift your trailer jacks in the up position so that your truck won’t get stuck on the tracks.
- Understand that a train traveling at 55 mph can take up to a mile to come to a complete stop.
The attorneys at Wilt Injury Lawyers understand that a train accident can lead to life-changing injuries, and we fight hard to obtain fair compensation for our clients. Call us or fill out our contact form to schedule your free initial consultation with one of our experienced lawyers today. If your injuries prevent you from traveling to our offices in Lexington and Louisville, we can arrange a phone or video conference, and make hospital visits if necessary.