Trains are used more for freight than for passengers these days, but nevertheless, they still play an important role in the American economy. Freight trains carry goods to where they need to go, and do so speedily and en masse. These powerful vehicles also carry with them the chance for powerful accidents if something goes amiss. Trains can crash into cars at railroad tracks, they can crash into other trains, or they can derail, causing damage to the area around them. But if a train crash does happen, who is liable for the damages?
Unless you have specialized knowledge of train transportation, you likely wouldn’t know much about how the rail system in America works. You might know that the only long-distance passenger train system is the government-run, Amtrak. But did you know that Alaska has its own state-owned rail system? Did you also know that Florida has a privately owned intercity railroad called Virgin Trains USA? You might also be interested to know that though Amtrak owns and maintains their own trains, they don’t actually own much of the tracks that the trains run on.
As much of the railroads are now used for transporting freight, many of the tracks are now owned by a small number of big companies. Included among them are more recognizable names like Union Pacific and CSX Corporation, along with others like Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Canadian National, and Norfolk Southern. In Arizona, the two major companies owning the lines are BNSF and Union Pacific. Because these companies are responsible for owning and maintaining these lines, if an accident occurs that involves a problem with the tracks themselves, these companies would potentially be responsible for it. A lawyer experienced with train accidents could potentially bring a suit against the company for that negligence. Many of these companies also own the trains that run on them. Union Pacific, for example, owns 8,300 locomotives for transporting freight.
In truth, several entities could be liable. As mentioned earlier, Amtrak is the only passenger train system (with some small exceptions) in the country. Despite this, a vast majority of the rail system that Amtrak operates on is owned by other corporations. So, if a train accident were to occur in Arizona, where comparative negligence is used to determine fault, it could easily be the case where both parties were liable. For example, let’s suppose that an Amtrak train derailed on Union Pacific tracks. The cause of the accident is determined to be a misalignment of the tracks that were missed during regular maintenance. However, the misalignment was fairly obvious, and the Amtrak train conductor should have noticed this and tried to slow the train down but failed to do so. In this hypothetical, it’s possible that Amtrak and Union Pacific could share fault for the crash. A class-action lawsuit could potentially be filed against both parties, but the scope of that case would best be handled by an experienced attorney or law group.
The complexity of the US rail system can be a lot to digest and understand. The idea of pursuing a lawsuit against one of the corporations that own the track and/or trains is not one to be taken lightly. ELG Law has over 55 years of attorney experience along with the resources to help your case attempt to reach a settlement or a verdict. Call us at (623) 321-0566 for a free consultation. When you’re going up against the might of a large corporation, you need the might and power of a talented law group. ELG is that group.