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What Is the Most Important Evidence Available in a Train Accident Case?

Types of Important Evidence Available in a Texas Train Accident Case

In the event someone is injured or killed by a train, they will need adequate evidence to support their train accident claim. That's because, in the state of Texas, claimants possess the burden of proof in the eyes of the law. That means that the injured party has to prove to the court (or the railroad company's insurance carrier) that the railroad company was indeed at fault for the accident and that the claimant sustained injury as a result of that accident.

Evidence is an important part of the claims process, and when it comes to train accidents, there are many different kinds of evidence that need to be considered. In this article we'll look at many of these types of evidence and explain how they can be used in a train accident case.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What types of evidence are used in a train accident case?
  • How are train accident cases investigated?
  • How can an attorney help recover train accident evidence?

Evidence can be Varied in a Railroad Accident Case

Since railroad accidents can occur in so many different ways, there is going to be a wide variety of evidence that can be found to establish how an accident happened and who was to blame, including:

  • On-board video - Trains are now outfitted with cameras that record what is happening in front of the train. Thus, the video footage from this camera can provide valuable evidence to how an accident happened if a car or person gets stuck on the tracks.
  • Event Data Recorder (EDR) - This device automatically records most of a train's operations as they happen, including the use of the brakes and horn and how fast the train was going at all points on the track. While an engineer can lie about his performance, the EDR always tells the truth. If the engineer was speeding at the time an accident occurs, the EDR will have the proof.
  • Dispatch Records - On busy tracks, there may be multiple trains heading in either direction using a stretch of the track on a given day. To avoid catastrophic head-on collisions between trains, dispatchers must keep a detailed record of all trains moving within a given division - the direction of travel, times of departure, and cargo. When an engineer is driving a train, he is in constant communication with the dispatch officer regarding all stopping and starting. When a highly dangerous head-on collision takes place, then the dispatch records come into play in determining whether a dispatcher erred in sending to trains down the same track or whether an engineer missed a single to take a sidetrack.
  • Maintenance Records - Occasionally, railroad accidents occur because the trains, the tracks, and the grade crossings have not been adequately maintained. Trains are required to be regularly inspected to insure they're in proper working condition, and lapses in this duty can lead to mechanical failures and accidents. However, maintenance records tend to come into play more where the tracks and grade crossings (the intersections between railroads and streets on the same level) are concerned. Different classes of tracks allow different maximum speeds, but the tracks must be constantly (at least once a week and sometimes more depending upon the classification) inspected to make sure they're still classified properly due to wear and tear. When the tracks wear down, a train could be traveling dangerously fast on it, leading to a wreck. As far as grade crossings go, the crossings need to be adequately maintained by the railroad in order to allow for sight-lines that permit the driver of a passenger car to see the train passing through the intersection, and if equipped with gates and warning signs, then those must be functioning properly, as well. When an accident occurs due to a mechanical breakdown with the train, track, or warning gate or due a worn-out grade crossing, then maintenance records could help establish that the railroad is at fault for failing to maintain these things as directed.
  • Track profiles - The track or rail profile is the cross-sectional shape of the track. Minor flaws in the steel can lead to trains derailing and the rails themselves even breaking in some cases. In the event of a train derailment, the track profiles of the rails must be checked to determine whether not this caused the accident.
  • Radio communications to and from locomotive - As we mentioned, the engineer is in constant contact with the dispatcher's office to discuss regular operations and any emergency situations that arise. These communications are recorded and can shed light on how an accident actually occurred.
  • Manuals, policies, etc. - In some occasions, a railroad will be liable for an accident because it did not properly train and instruct a worker, or monitor and reprimand him or her for failing to follow company policies. In order to determine if this is the case, then the company's instruction manuals and policies must be explored and examined to find out how the employee was trained and whether or his previous actions were observed by the company and corrected if they failed to comply with policy.
  • OSHA report - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration seeks to make all workplaces safer for workers and bystanders alike. Whenever an accident takes place that injures a railroad employee, OSHA will compile a report and issue any fines or reprimands if necessary.
  • FRA report - The Federal Railroad Administration's Office of Safety Accident Analysis investigates major railroad accidents with a wide variety of experts in different fields. When they're finished, they compile a thorough report. However, this report can take between six to nine months to finish and be released.
  • NTSB report - The National Transportation Safety Board investigates most major railroad catastrophes and then prepares a report regarding the cause of the accident. If the NTSB decides to investigate an accident, then the FRA investigation assumes a supportive role. Also, the FRA will not release its findings until the NTSB has done so, possibly making the wait for an FRA report even longer.
  • Police report - When a law is being broken like trespassing is being committed when someone is killed or injured by a railroad, the police will usually investigate and release a report, provided it happened on public property. While lacking the official cache of an FRA or NTSB report, the police report can help cement the facts of the case.
  • EPA report - In rare cases, trains get into accidents while carrying dangerous materials. If a train derails while carrying hazardous materials, then the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will release a report detailing the harm done and the dangers to those who came into contact with the hazardous materials.

Just because a federal agency like the FRA or the NTSB is investigating a railroad accident doesn't mean that you can relax and assume all the evidence you need will be found and analyzed and the cause of your wreck will be determined. Moreover, most minor railroad accidents are never investigated by these agencies.

If you want to be able to prove how a railroad accident happened and who was to blame so that you can have the best chances of securing compensation, then you need an experienced railroad accident attorney conducting your investigation.

Call Grossman Law Offices Today:

At Grossman Law Offices, our personal injury and wrongful death practice is 22 years old, and we've helped many people who've been injured or lost loved ones in railroad accidents. Not only do we understand how to investigate these accidents, but we've also built relationships with railroad liability experts who can help us evaluate and interpret the evidence we find.

If you'd like to learn more about how we can help you find the evidence you need in your railroad accident case, then call us now for a free consultation at (855) 326-0000 (toll free).

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