With 28 freight railroads, Georgia is home to one of the most extensive freight rail systems in the United States. Georgia also has four Amtrak daily passenger routes as well as MARTA rapid transit trains and subways running throughout the Metro Atlanta area.
Although train accidents occur more rarely than car accidents, Georgia ranks third nationally in rail crossing collisions and ninth in pedestrian railroad casualties, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Given the huge size and speed discrepancy between trains and cars or pedestrians, railroad crossing accidents are almost always catastrophic.
However, collisions aren’t the only train-related accident that can cause injuries. Train passengers may also be hurt because of incidents such as sudden stops, slip-and-fall accidents, or assaults by other passengers.
No matter what type of accident you’ve suffered, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Since 1993, The Millar Law Firm’s experienced train accident lawyers have helped victims and their families recover maximum compensation.
Train Companies Owe a Heightened Duty of Care
Railroads and other businesses that provide public transportation for property and people are considered common carriers under the law. A common carrier can be held liable for injuries caused by its negligence and is held to an elevated standard of care with regard to people on the train, near the tracks, or in the train station.
Specifically, a common carrier “must exercise extraordinary diligence to protect the lives and persons of [its] passengers but is not liable for injuries to them after having used such diligence.” O.C.G.A. § 46-9-132. Note that even though freight trains don’t carry passengers, they’re still considered common carriers that must exercise extraordinary diligence to protect the public from the inherent dangers associated with railroad service. O.C.G.A. § 46-9-1.
This duty goes beyond the negligence doctrine of reasonable care that applies in a typical personal injury case. Instead, a common carrier and its employees must use utmost care to protect passengers and others from all dangers, even those that are rare or unlikely. That means that a jury is more likely to find negligence based on the circumstances in a train accident case and award victims with compensation for injuries.
Common Causes of Train Accidents
Train accidents that involve derailment, crashes with motor vehicles, or collisions with pedestrians often cause fatalities or severe injuries and are most likely to occur at railroad crossings. While every case is different, the most common causes of these accidents include:
Inadequate warning system at crossings. Many accidents could be avoided with properly functioning signal lights and gates at railroad crossings. Under the Signal Inspection Act, the FRA regulates the safety of railroad signals, which requires maintenance, testing, removal, and/or modification of signal systems.
Human error. Conductors who are inexperienced, distracted, or fatigued can easily cause a train accident. For example, a conductor may be slow to react to a car on the tracks if they’re exhausted from working long hours. If the conductor is not paying attention, they may forget to turn on the signal light in time to provide adequate warning to cars.
Unqualified conductors. FRA regulations outline federal safety standards for the eligibility, training, testing, certification, and monitoring of all train conductors. Railways must have a program with a formal process for certifying conductors, and those that fail to do so may be found negligent.
Speeding. Many collisions and derailments are caused by the train moving too fast, which causes it to lose control or makes it unable to stop in time to avoid an accident.
Defective tracks. Railroad tracks may become damaged or obstructed for many reasons, and the conductor may fail to notice the problem in time to prevent a crash or derailment. Train carriers are responsible for inspecting and maintaining its tracks for safe operation under federal regulations.
Mechanical failure. Trains are large, complex machines with many parts, all of which must work together to safely operate. Accidents are more likely to happen when trains have faulty or outdated technology, parts, and brake systems. Many train system’s operations are automated, and the train can crash or derail if this equipment fails.
Other Types of Injuries/Accidents That Can Happen to Train Passengers
The high duty of care that common carriers owe passengers remains until the passenger has completed their journey and left the premises. While train passengers can suffer serious injuries in a collision or derailment, there are many other ways a passenger may be harmed when using public transportation, including:
Slip-and-fall accidents. A passenger may fall on the train, but these injuries happen more often in the train station. Slip-and-fall accidents may be caused by slippery floors, poor lighting, broken escalators, debris in stairs or walkways, or negligent maintenance.
Closing doors. Passengers may be hurt if they become trapped in malfunctioning closing doors on the train.
Sudden stops. If the train is traveling too fast or the conductor fails to issue a warning, passengers may be injured by a sudden stop.
Large gaps between train and platform. Passengers should easily be able to step between the platform and train when boarding or departing. If there is too large a gap, passengers may have to jump, which can cause them to fall and become injured.
Physical assaults. Train carriers and employees have a duty to provide a safe environment to passengers, both on the train and at the station. If a passenger is assaulted on the train carrier’s premises, it may be liable for the victim’s injuries.
Hire an Experienced Train Accident Attorney to Thoroughly Investigate
If you’ve been injured in a train accident, the train carrier’s defense team will go to work immediately to investigate the case and collect evidence. Train accidents can involve extensive injuries and expenses, so carriers invest heavily in their defense to protect their bottom line. Their investigators will look for any piece of evidence to argue someone else was at fault—even the victim.
In addition, the FRA may also investigate the accident to determine whether the carrier violated federal safety regulations. If the FRA finds that the train carrier acted negligently or violated safety regulations, that can be used as evidence in your injury claim.
You need to hire a train accident lawyer who can quickly and thoroughly investigate your claim or crucial evidence may be overlooked, lost, or destroyed. At The Millar Law Firm, our attorneys and staff put in the work to find and collect all the evidence necessary to build a strong legal claim at no cost to you.
We know how to obtain the train carrier’s records and use the FRA investigative report to help prove negligence. If your accident involves a railway such as Amtrak, we also know how to overcome the specific challenges of bringing a claim against a government entity. Without the representation of an experienced Atlanta train accident lawyer, you may never find out how much your case is worth and settle for less than you deserve.
If you want to learn how much your train accident case could be worth, contact us today at 770-400-0000. Our attorneys are committed to helping you recover full compensation for your injury claim and can answer any questions you may have free of charge. At The Millar Law Firm, you don’t pay any attorneys’ fees unless we recover money for your train injury case.