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Determining Who is to Blame in Railroad Accidents

Sep 02, 2015

Like truck accidents, aviation accidents, and other serious incidents involving dangerous and complex equipment, in railroad accidents, there are numerous parties that could potentially be responsible for the victims' losses.

Identifying the responsible parties – and then holding them accountable – is a task that starts with determining the cause of the accident. Each case is unique, but in many cases multiple contributing factors and various legal theories can work to impose liability on several parties for a single collision.

Common Causes of Railroad Accidents

Railroad accidents can have any number of different causes. From problems with tracks to maintenance issues with train cars, even relatively minor issues can quickly escalate into serious, life-endangering situations.

Determining the cause (or causes) of a railroad accident requires years of engineering and legal experience, and often involves the cooperation of a team of investigators, engineers, attorneys, and other professionals.

We couldn't begin to list all of the possible causes of train collisions, but some of the more common scenarios in Wyoming railroad accidents involve:

  • Dangerous and unguarded railroad crossings
  • Defective parts
  • Failure to remove debris from tracks
  • Maintenance and repair issues affecting the safety of trains and tracks
  • Overloading and other freight-related issues
  • Overworked train crews, similar to truckers putting in too many hours behind the wheel
  • Speeding trains

As noted, it is possible for multiple causes to contribute to a railroad accident. In fact, this is frequently the case. For example, it may be that a speeding train could have stopped in time to avoid a collision were it not for an issue involving defective brakes. When multiple causes contribute to an accident, multiple parties can be held responsible for the victims' losses.

Holding Parties Responsible the Acts and Omissions of Others

Beyond holding multiple parties responsible for unrelated contributing causes, in railroad accident litigation it is often possible to hold multiple parties responsible for a single cause as well. This is possible under a variety of legal theories, but two of the most common are:

  • Products liability. When a product defect – such as a problem with a coupler, brakes, or a piece of steel railroad track – causes injuries or death, all companies involved in the chain of distribution can be held liable for the victims' losses. This is true even if they were not involved in the product's design or manufacture, and does not require a finding of negligence in order to establish liability.
  • Respondeat superior. Under the legal doctrine of "respondeat superior," employers can be held financially responsible for the acts of their employees undertaken within the scope of employment.

In railroad accident cases, millions of dollars are often at stake. Railroad operators, manufacturers, engineering firms, and other companies will all point the finger at each other and fight tirelessly to avoid liability. As a victim, identifying the cause (or causes) of the accident is the first step toward holding the responsible parties accountable for just compensation.

Contact The Spence Law Firm About Your Railroad Accident Claim

At The Spence Law Firm, we have decades of experience representing accident victims in Wyoming, and we have recovered millions of dollars for railroad accident victims in cases throughout the West. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a railroad accident, contact us to speak with one of our Wyoming railroad accident attorneys about your case today.

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