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Who is liable under Texas law for a train derailment?

Train travel has been slowly expanding in America with new light rail routes being proposed seemingly every few weeks. Although train travel is much safer than driving your car or motorcycle on the public roadway, when a derailment occurs it usually results in multiple deaths and injuries. Especially, if the train is a passenger train or carrying flammable materials.

In this article, our attorneys will break down what causes a derailment, and who is liable in the event that a derailment occurs.


Questions answered in this article:

  • What is a train derailment?
  • What causes a derailment?
  • Who is liable in a train derailment accident lawsuit?
  • Who are the victims in train derailment accidents

What constitutes a train derailment?

Just as the name suggests, train derailment is when a railway carrier - a train - veers off of the tracks, most likely resulting in a serious accident. Such an accident could involve people inside or outside of the train, and can involve many different types of vehicles aside from the train itself. Additionally, derailment can occur for any or all of a train's boxcars, and can cause considerable harm, including property damage, severe physical injuries, permanent disabilities, emotional pain and suffering, and death.

While the above should describe train derailment sufficiently, understanding what it means to sue over one of these accidents is an entirely different matter. It will depend on the specific facts of your case - precisely what we intend to address throughout the rest of this discussion, starting with causes.

Causes of derailing:

What causes derailment? In general, it is either a result of the train engineer's actions, or of another motorist's choices. Regarding the former, engineers could break speed limits, fail to account for sharp turns, not slow down at necessary locations, or several other factors stemming from bad judgment. These cases amount to a solid reason to sue over negligence, as well as a solid chance that you will receive the compensation that you deserve. However, this lawsuit would be launched not against the actual train engineer, but his or her employer, which is a solvent business capable of relieving your accident-related financial expenses. Even if the derailment was caused by a machine malfunctioning and not an engineers's negligence, the train company should still be held liable.

On the other hand, drivers on the road could be the reason why a train derailment occurred. Although it is theoretically possible for individual cars to cause these incidents, the usual reason for a train derailing due to an automobile would be an 18-wheeler. So if a tractor trailer stops between a train crossing's rails, gets hit by a train, and causes said train to derail and hit you, then it is likely that the trucker's employer, the trucking company, that would be at least partially. Thus, you as a victimized bystander would have a new opponent in the form of an 18-wheeler business.

Who is liable in a train derailment accident case?

Liability is when a person or group owes another financial compensation over causing an injurious action. When it comes to train derailment accidents, this would lead to a lawsuit against the train company, since it is expected to answer for mistakes made by its employees on duty. For example, if a train engineer fails to slow down when executing a sharp left turn, his speeding train could be sent into a nearby residential neighborhood, wreaking untold havoc. Needless to say, he would be at fault; however, it is his employer who would answer for this misdeed.

Normally, a case has only one defendant, but in some catastrophic train derailment claims, there might be multiple. You could have more than one railroad company involved if there was a wreck involving negligence on both sides. Additionally, a train could get derailed due to colliding with a large commercial truck, which could result in a lawsuit against the owners of both vehicles. Should such lawsuits be victorious, then the defendants would be proportionately liable, each expected to pay their share to you relative to their contribution towards causing the accident.

However, just as there may be more than one liable party in a train derailment lawsuit, there may also be multiple plaintiffs seeking compensation. Oftentimes, numerous injured individuals will be vying to sue all at once, which results in a race to the courthouse over limited defendant resources. With insurance policies on trains and trucks extending only so far, the funds allotted may not be enough for the late-comers. Therefore, you need to hire a personal injury or wrongful death attorney as soon as you can.

Who are the victims in a train derailment accident?

Nevertheless, we cannot forget about those whose futures and best interests are truly at stake in this case: the victims themselves. These people, including you or your loved one, may have been riding on a passenger train, suffered injury or death due to an accident, and are now suing alongside many of the other passengers - all of whom may be personal injury victims themselves. Additionally, you could have been a bystander, in your car, your house, or walking outside, completely unaware that you would be pulled into a great tragedy. It's possible that you could even be an employee on one of the trains, and are now desperately searching for information on whether you can sue, get to obtain workers' compensation, or may make a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act.

So if you or a loved one were victimized as a result of a train derailment accident, we again urge you to call our number at 855-326-0000 for a toll-free, private, and complete consultation.


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