Train accidents can be among the most severe in the Hoffman Estates area. Some train accidents can injure dozens or hundreds of people; damages in a derailment could reach tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. If an accident at a railroad crossing involves a vehicle, the damages, and injuries can also be severe.
Many individuals or entities could be liable for train accidents, including those described in this article. If you were injured in a train accident recently, you could benefit from a legal consultation with our train accident attorneys in Hoffman Estates at SJ Injury Law.
What Are Common Causes Of Illinois Train Accidents?
Trains are often assumed to be the safest way to travel, but accidents occur every day nationwide. There are several kinds of train accidents that happen, and the damages depend on the size of the train and other factors:
- Train derailments
- Train-on-train crashes
- Train-motor vehicle crashes
- Train-bicycle crashes
- Train-pedestrian crashes
- Train-semi crashes
Many train accidents happen at railroad crossings. In 2021, there were a total of 893 railroad-related deaths, and 26% happened at railroad crossings.
Why Do Train Accidents Happen?
Train accidents happen for many reasons. The most common ones are:
Human error is a major factor in many train accidents, whether it is an incident at a railroad crossing, derailment, or something else. Human error may be caused by lack of training, inexperience, reckless behavior, or a combination. For example, the engineer could be intoxicated and run the train too fast, leading to a derailment or hitting another train.
Railroad Track Problems
Railroads typically own the tracks and are required to keep them in good repair. But over the years, tracks wear out from use, leading to derailments and related problems.
No Warning Signals
There are still some railroad crossings in Illinois that lack warning signals. This is common in rural parts of the state where the local government lacks the funds to install warning signals. When a crossing lacks warning lights, drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists may not know a train is coming before it is on top of them.
Warning Signal Malfunction
While many railroad crossings in Illinois have warning signals, they might not be adequately maintained, or a broken part could not work correctly. Whatever the reason, a defective warning signal is as bad as not having one at all.
No Warning Signal
Some railroad crossings in Illinois do not have warning signals, they might need one.
Railroad companies and other entities are supposed to keep railroad crossings clear of brush, trees, and bushes that obstruct the line of sight. When trees and other vegetation are overgrown, it can make it impossible to see a train coming before it is too late.
Many train-car accidents happen because the vehicle stalls on the track because of mechanical problems or running out of gas.
Other train crashes happen because the engineer or car driver is distracted by a cell phone or something else. Just a moment’s inattention can cause a disastrous train accident.
Train accidents also happen because of defective components, such as brake failure.
How To Prevent Railroad Crossing Accidents
While the public cannot do anything to prevent train derailments and related accidents, there are steps we can take to avoid railroad crossing accidents. They include:
- Always assume at a railroad crossing that a train can come anytime.
- Look both ways before going across a railroad crossing.
- Remember that trains take thousands of feet to stop, so never try to beat the train across the tracks.
- Do not stop your car on the top of a railroad track and if the vehicle stalls, exit it immediately and get to a safe location.
- Always watch for train signals and warnings when you approach a crossing.
- Never try to get on a train that is moving.
Who May Be Liable For A Train Accident In Illinois
Several parties could be liable for the incident depending on the nature of the train accident. These include the railroad, train operator, train manufacturer or part manufacturer, train or track maintenance workers, or a government organization that owns the railroad.
Determining who is liable for the train accident is challenging and requires an in-depth investigation by a train accident attorney. Once liability is established, you may be eligible for some or all of these damages in a personal injury lawsuit:
- Past and future medical costs
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Lost earnings
- Property damage
A common reason that people file train claims is when they are a passenger on a commuter train. Suppose you are getting on the train, then slip, fall, and injure your back. In this situation, you must show that the train led to your fall, whether it was a loose handrail, faulty tracks, or something else.
Or, if you are injured at a railroad crossing, you may be able to file a claim against the railroad owner. In the United States, railroad companies usually own the railroad lines. So, crossing warning signals and related equipment must be correctly maintained by the railroad that owns the line. If thy malfunction and an injury result, you may be able to file a lawsuit. However, if you are hurt by a passing train because you did not exercise enough caution, the railroad owner may try to deny liability.
It is essential for your attorney to identify all potentially liable parties for the train accident or train-related injury. This will increase the chances of receiving as much compensation as possible for your injuries. If there was more than one negligent party, you may be able to obtain more compensation if the claim or lawsuit succeeds.
What If You Work For The Railroad?
US Congress passed the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) in 1908. The law was passed because of the many railroad employees who were killed on the job in the early 20th century. Because of this law, railroad workers can sue their company for their injuries and damages. For railroad workers to obtain compensation, they must show they were hurt because their employer or another employee was negligent or equipment malfunctioned.
It is not unusual for train accidents to involve wrongful death claims with massive medical bills, lost earnings to family, funeral and burial costs, property damage, etc. Some severe train accidents involve Amtrak, which, like other railroads, is liable for claims like most government organizations.
However, Amtrak’s liability has been capped by Congress at approximately $295 million as of 2017. While this sounds like a high cap, the cap could be reached in severe accidents, such as in a commuter train derailment. That is why it is important to retain a train accident attorney immediately when the incident occurs, so you can get the compensation you deserve.
What Should You Do If You Are Hurt In A Train Accident?
If you are injured in a train accident, you should try to document the accident, if possible. For example, suppose your car is hit at a railroad crossing in Hoffman Estates. In that case, you can take photos of the crash scene, including the position of your vehicle, damages, any vegetation obstructing the track, and more. If you are injured and cannot collect evidence, your personal injury attorney will obtain evidence from the scene and any eyewitnesses.
As with any personal injury, you should get prompt medical attention. Seeing a doctor immediately is crucial in getting compensation in a claim. The sooner the injuries are documented, the better the case will be. Also, follow your doctor’s medical instructions and attend all follow-up appointments. Not following their instructions can reduce your money.
Class Action vs. Multidistrict Litigation
When multiple parties are hurt in a train accident, the case could be a class action or multidistrict litigation case. A class action lawsuit involves many people joining in one lawsuit, and one plaintiff represents all plaintiffs in the courtroom. While people can opt out of a class action and take legal action separately, those who do not opt-out may be bound to the outcome of the class action.
On the other hand, a multidistrict litigation case usually features several plaintiffs that were hurt in the same incident but live in different parts of the state or country. This is a common situation in train accidents, where commuter train passengers could be from all over. A multidistrict case is different from a class action because every plaintiff is a separate suit, but the claims are consolidated so that a single judge hears every pre-trial motion.
Class action or multidistrict litigation can be advantageous after a serious train accident because plaintiffs can join to share their resources, including subpoenas and discovery. This also allows courts to increase efficiency with limited resources, allowing a single judge to listen to the train accident evidence and make rulings more quickly.
Contact Our Train Accident Attorney In Hoffman Estates
If you were injured in a train accident in the Hoffman Estates area, it is essential to retain legal representation quickly. These cases are often complicated, and there could be multiple liable parties. Contact our train accident attorneys in Hoffman Estates at SJ Injury Law at (847) 434-3555.