We are all well-aware that trains travel across our roadways. For the majority of drivers, trains are nothing more than a minor annoyance. People may complain about getting stuck at an intersection when waiting for a train to cross the roadway.
Thankfully, the reason drivers are not overly concerned about trains is that accidents involving large trains are so infrequent. However, on rare occasions, when accidents do happen, the results are almost always catastrophic. Statistics show that train accidents happen more often in Texas than any other state in the country. Drivers need to know their rights relating to train accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in a train accident, don’t hesitate to contact the San Antonio Train Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of George Salinas for a free consultation.
How Do San Antonio Train Accidents Happen?
There are two basic types of train accidents: train derailments and train collisions. Although both types of collisions typically cause significant damage, the two are very different in how they develop and what they involve.
Train derailments happen more often than people recognize. Primarily, people are unaware because most train derailments do not involve passengers. The good news is, across the industry, there has been a 10 percent drop in the number of derailments in recent years. Derailments occur when a train loses contact with the railroad tracks it is traveling along. When the train loses contact with the tacks, the train cars can lose balance, tip over, and spill hazardous material or injure nearby vehicle occupants.
A train derailment may happen for a variety of reasons, including:
- Poor weather
- Conductor error
- Objects on the rails
- High speeds
- Vehicles on the railway
- Mechanical failures
- Poorly maintained rails
Regardless of what type of cargo the train is transporting, these accidents can cause serious injuries. For passenger trains, the dangers are obvious. Derailments can throw passengers about or from the train, which can, unsurprisingly, cause serious injuries. For freight trains, the damages are less direct. If a train is carrying hazardous material, a derailment can cause the material to spread, potentially contaminating nearby residential areas.
The statistics show that derailments are far more common than train collisions. However, per incident, collisions more often lead to far more injuries and fatalities. Again, trains that derail are often carrying freight, rather than passengers. Whereas collisions typically involve a pedestrian or passenger car. When a large freight train collides with a passenger vehicle or pedestrian, the chances for survival are low.
Collisions happen for a variety of reasons, including:
- Missing or damaged railroad crossings
- Conductor failure to signal before crossing a roadway
- Malfunctioning lights
- Mechanical issues
- Distracted driving
- Drivers stopping on or pushed onto tracks
Five Injuries Caused by San Antonio Train Accidents
Train accidents are different than any other type of accident. Trains outweigh any other vehicle on the road and often travel at high speeds. Due to their massive weight, trains can take up to one mile to come to a complete stop. Consequently, these accidents often result in serious, life-changing injuries.
Common train accident injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries: Traumatic brain injuries happen as the result of a penetrating wound or forceful blow to the head. When the train suddenly shifts, passengers do not have time to react and protect themselves from injury. Traumatic brain injuries can occur when a passenger is thrown against the interior of the train or luggage falls and impacts their head. Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may include headaches, dizziness, loss of consciousness, confusion, and mood changes.
- Spinal cord injuries: Spinal cord injuries are the result of trauma to the spinal cord. The spinal cord transmits messages to and from the brain. As a result, an injury to the spinal cord can cause significant consequences for motor functioning. In most cases, spinal cord injuries result in permanent paralysis extending down from the point of injury.
- Burns: Burns can happen when a person comes in contact with a hot surface or after close contact with a fire or explosion. Victims may be burned when a train catches on fire, either because of the impact of the collision or because of the flammable material it is transporting. Burns can cause permanent and painful scars as well as mobility issues and disfigurement.
- Chemical exposure: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about 4,300 shipments containing hazardous materials travel by rail every day. During a derailment or collision, these chemicals can leak or explode into the air, causing serious health issues for anyone nearby. Depending on the substance, the exposure could possibly extend for several miles. Chemical exposure may cause respiratory issues, skin issues, or cognitive issues.
- PTSD: People don’t often talk about the psychological effect accident victims can experience, but a train accident is a particularly scary event. It’s normal to feel a range of emotions after a major accident. But it’s not normal for these feelings to linger for months after the accident or interfere with your life. If you find yourself reliving the accident or having trouble sleeping, you may need to talk to a doctor about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Damages After an Accident
Train accidents don’t just happen. In almost all cases, they happen because of a mistake, carelessness, or negligence. When an accident happens because of someone else’s negligence, you deserve fair and just compensation. A personal injury claim can help you recover damages related to your injuries.
Damages may include:
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Future wages
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment
- Wrongful death
San Antonio Train Accident FAQ
Although the primary mode of transportation in San Antonio is no longer rail, thousands of miles of active tracks run across our state and through San Antonio. Passenger and freight trains use these tracks.
Because a train—even just the engine—is large and heavy, it can cause catastrophic damage. Title 5 of the Transportation Code dictates many of the laws affecting railroads.
Can I sue a railroad company for damage?
If you get hurt in a train accident, if you lose a loved one in a train accident, or if a train kills your livestock, you may sue the railroad company.
Who is responsible for railroad crossings?
If damage in a railway crossing causes you to have an accident, you may sue the railroad company. The railroad company is responsible for maintaining the crossings and keeping them up to a certain standard of working order.
I am enlarging my fields. Who is responsible for cattle guards?
The railroad company is typically responsible for cattle guards on tracks running through private property. This would be true even if the private property owner is enlarging the property so that their cattle can have access to either side of the track. If this is the case for you, and a train kills your stock, the railroad company may hold liability for the value of the livestock. If the railroad company erects a fence between the track and your field, the railroad company would likely only be held responsible for injury or death to any cattle “that results from a want of ordinary care.” See §112.102, Texas Transportation Code.
Could I sue a railroad company that I work for?
Under certain circumstances, you could sue a railroad company for injury to yourself as an employee, or for the loss of a loved one who was an employee of the railroad company. It is not uncommon for the negligence of another employee, officer, or agent to cause an accident. A defect in the equipment also typically involves negligence.
My employment contract states that I waived my right to sue my railroad employer for injuries or death. What happens if I am hurt or killed on the job?
The Texas Transportation Code does not allow railroad employers to include such provisions in their contractual agreements with employees. If your railroad employer has included such a provision, the Code will likely deem it to be null and void.
Who can file a San Antonio train accident injury claim?
You may file a train accident injury claim if a train injured you while riding as a passenger, if you were a pedestrian or driver the train injured, if you were injured while employed by the railroad company, or if you were the loved one of someone whom a train killed.
What injuries could I suffer in a San Antonio train wreck?
In some cases, injuries may be as minor as cuts, scrapes, and bruises. However, because of the size and weight of a train, many resulting injuries have been more severe.
Some injuries include:
- Strains, sprains, pulled and torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries;
- Simple and compound fractures;
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries;
- Back and spinal cord injuries;
- Traumatic brain injuries;
- Internal injuries; and
What are some recent accounts of train accidents in San Antonio?
According to a recent study by the Office of Safety Analysis in the Federal Railroad Association, Texas has seen 45 train accidents, in the span of a two-month period.
What are some of the reasons a train might injure me?
In some cases, the negligence of the train operator or other employees on the train could cause an accident. In other cases, improper maintenance, defective parts, poorly maintained track, obstructed roadways from an improperly parked train, and derailments could cause a train to injure or kill someone. Additionally, trains could crash into one another or into vehicles and pedestrians on or near the tracks if a switch is not working properly or, in manual systems, if the person running the switches does not activate the switch properly. A malfunction involving a switch can cause a derailment of the trains entirely.
What causes train accident injuries in Texas?
According to the Federal Railroad Association’s Office of Safety Standards, a recent study indicated that the following factors caused Texas train accidents during a two-month period:
- Excessive side bearing clearance;
- Broken rims;
- Worn flanges;
- Inattentiveness and misjudgments of drivers on highways;
- Drivers ignoring train crossing warnings;
- Human error in train yards, including switches not appropriately aligned and switches not properly locked;
- Train cars not loaded correctly;
- Something on the track;
- “Harmonic rock off;”
- Broken auto hump retarders;
- Radio-controlled switches not working properly; and
- Track issues, such as a soft roadbed, unleveled track joints, loose or broken rail spikes, and worn or broken switch points.
What damages could I recover in a San Antonio train accident?
The damages you might recover after a train accident depends on the circumstances of the accident. If you purposely tried to beat a train across a crossing, it is doubtful that the railroad company will share in that liability.
However, if the negligence of a train operator or other employee caused your injuries, or the death of a loved one, some of the damages you might recover could include economic and non-economic damages such as:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Past and future lost wages;
- Compensation for medical equipment, such as ambulatory aids and other equipment;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of companionship;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of use of a body part;
- Loss of use of a bodily function;
- Disfigurement; and
- The loss of a limb.
Most non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and inconvenience, could only be made available if you have long-term disabilities the accident caused. While insurance companies may have their own definition for long-term disability, the Social Security Administration defines long-term disabilities as a disability that doctors expect to last for at least 12 months or a disability that will result in death.
If a train accident injured you, contact an experienced San Antonio train accident attorney at The Law Offices of George Salinas for a free consultation to discuss the details of your matter.
Were You Injured in a San Antonio Train Accident? We Can Help.
A train accident can be a jarring experience. At a time like this, you want someone who will stand by you and guide you through the process. You need an attorney you can trust and who you know will fight for your rights.
At the Law Offices of George Salinas, our lawyers know how to fight a train accident claim. We’re here to help. To learn more about your rights, contact us today or dial (210) 225-0909 for a free consultation.