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If you’ve been injured in a train accident, whether in Orlando, Florida or elsewhere, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Thus, we believe you should contact an Orlando train injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Our personal injury lawyers at Spetsas Buist PLLC know what it takes to pursue a train accident claim, and we will fight to protect your rights and get you the money you deserve.

Train accidents are uniquely horrific because of the sheer mass and weight of trains versus the objects they impact. Additionally, some trains carry dangerous cargo, like flammable materials, chemicals, and fuel. Whether you’re a passenger, an innocent bystander, or an engineer or operator, a train accident can drastically alter your life.

Common Types of Train Accidents

As you could probably guess, we don’t hear about all the train accidents that occur each year because news organizations only report the stuff they deem worthy of national attention. Therefore, for every one train accident we hear about, many more train accidents occur. Here are some of the more common types of train accidents that occur each year in the United States:

  • Train accidents that injure the passengers on board
  • Train accidents resulting from a derailment
  • An accident where a train crashes into another train
  • Train and car accidents
  • A train carrying hazardous materials or toxic materials derails and spills waste into a community
  • Train and pedestrian accidents

Train Accident Statistics

Every year the Federal Railroad Administration compiles railroad and train accident statistics. Although train accidents aren’t as common as car accidents or truck accidents, they are still more common than most people might imagine. Historically, more than half of all railroad accidents or train accidents occur at an unprotected crossing or a crossing with insufficient warning devices. Unfortunately, most railroad crossings do not have adequate warning devices, and thus many train accident deaths each year are preventable. We have listed some of the more relevant railroad accident statistics below for your convenience.

Total Train Accidents and Incidents

Below are the total number of railroad accidents and incidents over the past several years:

  • 2017 / 11,989 Total Railroad Accidents and Incidents
  • 2018 / 11,859 Total Railroad Accidents and Incidents
  • 2019 / 11,765 Total Railroad Accidents and Incidents
  • 2020 / 8,717 Total Railroad Accidents and Incidents

Train Fatalities

Below are the total number of train fatalities as a result of the above train accidents and incidents:

  • 2017 / 818 Fatalities
  • 2018 / 805 Fatalities
  • 2019 / 860 Fatalities
  • 2020 / 749 Fatalities

Nonfatal Train Injuries

Below are the total number of nonfatal railroad injuries as a result of railroad accidents and injuries:

  • 2017 / 8,891 Nonfatal Injuries
  • 2018 / 8,328 Nonfatal Injuries
  • 2019 / 8,015 Nonfatal Injuries
  • 2020 / 5,514 Nonfatal Injuries

Causes of Train Accidents

Now, let’s briefly talk about some of the more common reasons why a train accident might occur.

Insufficient Warnings at Railroad Crossings

More than half of all railroad crossings still lack the proper warning signs, lights, and gates, which drastically reduce the number of railroad crossing injuries and fatalities. Hopefully, this will not always be the case. However, as a result of insufficient warning equipment, most railroad accidents occur at railroad crossings.

Railroad Track Defects

Track defects can cause train accidents and derailments. These types of defects often involve a foreign object obstructing the tracks, like a tree, telephone pole, or an abandoned vehicle. If the conductors do not notice the object, the train can collide with the object and cause an accident.

Mechanical Failure on Trains and at Crossings

Trains are complex machines, and even the most experienced inspectors can overlook a defect. In the same way, there are many railroad crossings in the United States, and some of them will inevitably malfunction for one reason or another. Thus, although these types of failures are not common, they can and do cause train accidents.

Railroad Negligence

Conductors, railroad workers, and government agencies all play a critical role in keeping our railways safe. When someone acts recklessly or carelessly with regard to their railroad duties, the result can be injury or death.

Negligent Motorists, Pedestrians, and Bicyclists

The railroad company or train company is not always at fault in a train accident. In fact, oftentimes, a negligent driver, pedestrian, or cyclist can cause an accident by crossing the tracks at an improper time or by leaving a vehicle parked on the tracks.

Railroad Safety and How to Avoid Train Accidents

Operation Lifesaver provides some excellent guidance on railway safety. We have listed some of those railroad safety tips below.

Railroad Safety for Pedestrians and Cyclists

  1. Always expect a train to be coming down the tracks. Trains can be quieter and faster than you think, can run on any track, at any time, from either direction, and they do not run on schedules.
  2. Don’t walk beside or on the train tracks. It’s illegal in many cases, and it’s dangerous.
  3. Only cross tracks at designated crossings with a proper crosswalk, flashing red lights, or a gate. Crossing anywhere else is most likely illegal.
  4. Pay extra attention if you cross train tracks with a bicycle, stroller, wheelchair, or anything else with narrow wheels. These types of narrow wheels can get caught or stuck in the train tracks.
  5. Never try to cross train tracks while the lights are flashing or when the gate is not all the way up. Instead, wait until the lights have stopped flashing and the gates are completely raised before you try to cross.
  6. Don’t cross train tracks unless you can see clearly in both directions. If there are multiple sets of train tracks, there could be multiple trains in the area.
  7. Don’t walk on railroad bridges or in railroad tunnels because these structures are most often designed only for a train and nothing else.
  8. Never attempt to climb aboard train equipment, and don’t play around on railroad cars or tracks.

Railroad Safety for Drivers

  1. The force of a train is too much for your vehicle. Always respect the size and force of a train because your car is no match for that kind of size and speed.
  2. Trains are large, and thus they can appear like they are moving slowly. However, they are likely traveling at a higher speed than you think.
  3. Trains cannot stop quickly because they’re huge and heavy. Thus, they need lots of time and space to come to a complete stop. 
  4. Never try to drive around a lowered gate or a gate that is lowering. It’s illegal and deadly, and it’s a leading cause of railroad accident injuries and fatalities.
  5. Never stay on the tracks. Only cross train tracks if you are positive you will make it completely across the tracks without stopping or stalling.
  6. If your vehicle stops on the tracks for whatever reason, get out of your vehicle and away from the tracks. Additionally, if you can safely do so, try to quickly locate the Emergency Notification System sign and call the number provided to tell the personnel about the vehicle on the tracks.
  7. At a multi-track crossing, make sure all train tracks are clear before you try to cross. If you can’t see clearly, don’t risk it. Instead, wait until you’re sure the coast is clear before you cross.
  8. Only cross train tracks at a designated crossing, and do not cross until you’re sure the coast is clear. Also, once you begin to cross the train tracks, do so quickly and without stopping. Don’t lag around on the tracks. Keep moving quickly until you’re at least 15 feet or more from the tracks. 
  9. Expect a train to be coming. Trains don’t follow a set schedule, so you shouldn’t try to predict when the tracks will be clear.

Train Passenger Safety

  1. Stay alert because a train can come from either direction and at any time, and they can be quieter than you would think. When you’re around train tracks or in a train station, obey all the posted warning signs and signals, and be sure to use caution when you’re using headsets, cell phones, or any kind of noise-canceling headphones or devices.
  2. Watch the overhang because the body of the train is wider than the tracks the train rides on, and thus you should never sit on the edge of a train station platform.
  3. Stay away from the edge of the platform and pay attention to the painted or raised markings at the platform edge. Try to stay three feet or more from the train while it is coming in or out of the station.
  4. When on a train, hold on tight to poles, seats, or straps, and listen carefully to directions from the train conductor and support staff.
  5. Watch your step and be very careful getting on and off a train because there can be gaps between the train and the platform or steps. 
  6. Don’t risk your life to save time. Follow the directions, signs, and markings that indicate where it’s safe for you to cross the train tracks. Crossing the train tracks anywhere other than where expressly permitted is potentially dangerous and illegal. 

Do You Need to Speak to an Experienced Train Accident Attorney?

When you’re facing a financial burden caused by another party’s negligence, you need an attorney who will fight for you like family. Spetsas Buist is based in Orlando but serves clients in all of Florida, as well as in South Carolina and North Carolina. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.