According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration reports that there are almost 14,000 train wrecks annually. Of these train and railroad accidents, close to 850 people die and 9,500 people are injured each and every year. In past years, Florida has experienced a sharp increase in railroad accident deaths. In 2015 over 20 people have died already from such accidents. At least four out of five of Florida public railroad crossings have no safety gates or lights and may be considered dangerous and unprotected crossings.
In addition to unsafe Florida train intersections which cause their share of accidents, Railroad mishaps may occur because of:
- Old, worn tracks
- Broken or missing signs
- Mechanical failure of the train
- Presence of foreign vehicle or person on tracks such as other trains, motor vehicles, and pedestrians
- Excessive speed
- Visual impediments
- Inclement weather, severe flooding conditions
- Negligent action of a train employee
- Train operators or other motor vehicle operators affected by drugs or alcohol
In addition to death, railroad accidents can cause serious and significant bodily injuries such as paralysis, loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries. Property damage resulting from such accidents may often be a total loss.
Federal law requires that train operators use their lights and their horns when approaching a railroad crossing. Motor vehicle operators, including motorcyclists, are required to stop at least 15 feet from the tracks if they see or hear an approaching train.
Railroad crossing accidents can have multiple responsible parties including the railroad companies, train operators or engineers, equipment manufacturers, as well as governmental bodies. Railroad companies can be civilly liable in many ways including failure to screen, train or monitor employees and failure to maintain trains, equipment, and crossings. Design and manufacturing defects can also cause operational malfunctions which lead to accidents. Government entities may be liable for failure to maintain crossings, lights, and other safety equipment.
Of special heightened importance is the statute of limitations related to railroad accidents. The statute of limitations dictates the time period in which a person must file or bring an action in court. It varies based on the type of claim you have. In Florida it is worth noting that the statute of limitations for a railroad accident personal injury claim is four years from the date of the incident. Florida Code § 95.11(3)(o). However, if a family member was killed in a railroad collision, you only have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit, according to Florida Code § 95.11(4)(d).
Any legitimate actionable legal claim sends a message to the railroad industry that safety standards are insufficient. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in any type of train or railroad accident, you should contact Board Certified Personal Injury attorney Bryan Caulfield. Bryan Caulfield has decades of experience in all personal injury cases. Call Bryan Caulfield today for a consultation.