Railroad accident lawyers often have to take on multiple parties at once, as there are many people involved in the manufacturing and maintenance of a train, as well as the maintenance of safety equipment, and the track itself. What causes the wreck will determine who is at fault, and because companies are reluctant to take the blame for any injuries, there may be a great deal of confusion when putting together a demand letter and naming defendants in the case. This is where an attorney can be a major help to a victim.
How do railroad accident lawyers determine who is at fault when a wreck happens?
Incidents involving a train are almost always terrible events, as the incredible difference in size and mass can obliterate passenger vehicles and instantly kill pedestrians. Because they possess so much damaging potential, companies that operate trains and train tracks are held to strict safety standards. However, rail transport is one of the largest freight industries in the world, so there are usually several parties involved in every crash. They include:
- The company operating the train – transport companies are often the liable party in the event of an incident. They are responsible for training the people in charge of operating the train and ensuring they are not fatigued by excessive work hours. Operating companies must also ensure their conductors and engineers are drug tested regularly, that the crew is sounding the warning whistle and horn as it approaches a crossing, and that the train is always obeying speed limits. Finally, operating companies have to maintain their fleet of trains and rolling stock to prevent mechanical failure.
- The company that owns the track – transport companies own stretches of track, but it’s common for trains to have to travel by another company’s track when making long trips. The track owner has to maintain the track and provide safety measures at crossings. This usually includes lights and gates. Also, track owners must provide a clear line of sight both ways at a crossing, clearing vegetation if necessary to open up the view.
- The train manufacturer or designer – of course, a mechanical failure may have nothing to do with the train’s operation, but how it is built instead. Manufacturing and design companies must ensure that warning equipment, lights, brakes, coupling devices, and communication equipment are manufactured for safety. Any malfunctioning equipment will likely implicate the manufacturer to some extent.
- The local county or municipality – although infrequent, the county or city in charge of the road near the crossing may be at least partly reliable for damages if the roadbed over the crossing is in poor shape and causes a driver to lose control of their vehicle or become stuck.
- The automobile driver – Trains have little capacity to prevent a wreck if the other vehicle ignores warning gates and lights. If the automobile driver attempts to speed in front of the gate or their vehicle stalls out on the track, they may be responsible for damages.
Railroad accident lawyers have a big job ahead of them when they take on a case involving a train wreck, but experienced attorneys have the resources and knowledge to pursue a claim.