Rail travel is a popular mode of transportation. Whether it’s a local EMBARK train in downtown Oklahoma City or a long-distance Amtrak traveling across the state, thousands of passengers and commuters ride local and long-distance trains throughout Oklahoma on a daily basis.
In most cases, Oklahoma train passengers reach their destinations safely. However, while rail accidents are uncommon, they often cause devastating injuries in the rare instances where they do occur. Disabling or even fatal injuries can be caused by unsecured luggage, hot or sharp debris, falling passengers, broken glass, and other hazards onboard and surrounding the tracks.
If you or one of your loved ones was injured on a train in Oklahoma City, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings, property damage, and other expenses. You may also be compensated for the pain and suffering you have endured as a result of the accident. With more than 75 years of combined experience, the attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook are here to provide compassionate, personalized representation for you and your loved ones. To learn about your family’s legal options in a free and confidential consultation, call our law offices at (405) 698-3040 today.
Fatal Train Accidents in OK: Statistics, Causes, and Liability
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Office of Safety Analysis publishes detailed state-by-state records of derailments and other train accidents. According to FRA data, a total of 156 rail accidents occurred in Oklahoma from 2012 to 2015, with a peak of 54 accidents in 2013.
Sadly, at least half a dozen train-related deaths have occurred annually in Oklahoma since 2005. The highest number of fatalities occurred in 2006, with a total of 20 deaths. From 2005 to 2015, Oklahoma train crashes and other incidents tragically claimed nearly 130 innocent lives.
In addition to tracking accidents, FRA data also reveals their underlying causes and contributing factors – many of which, as one can infer from the list provided below, involve preventable and careless human errors. Some of these errors involve improper train operation or maintenance, while others can be traced back to manufacturing defects or malfunctioning equipment. All of the following were identified as factors in Oklahoma rail accidents by the FRA:
- Buckled or irregular alignment of tracks
- Construction defects
- Cracked or broken bolt holes
- Crossties which are defective or missing
- Design defects
- Electrical failures
- Engineering defects
- Failure to comply with speed restrictions (speeding)
- Failure to secure the train’s hand brake
- Improper maintenance of train tracks (e.g. accumulated snow and ice)
- Improper use of brakes
- Loose, broken, and improperly located guardrails
- Mechanical failures
- Overheating equipment
- Power switch malfunctions
- Vandalism of the track or track components
- Worn and broken flanges
Other potential accident causes include operator fatigue, operator distraction, and operator inexperience, which can be made even more dangerous by lack of adequate supervision where supervision is necessary.
Because railroad companies are classified as “common carriers” under state law, they are held to a higher “standard of care,” or a higher expectation for exercising safety precautions to minimize the foreseeable risk of death or injury. Additionally, state law provides that “a common carrier cannot be exonerated by any agreement… from liability for the gross negligence, fraud or willful wrong, of himself or his [employees].”
When an accident results from preventable human error, such as failure to maintain train components, the party at fault may be liable for resulting deaths and injuries. Depending on the nature of the accident, this may apply not only to individual railroad and public transit employees, but also to the carrier, as well as third parties like suppliers of materials and equipment. Due to the great complexity of train injury cases, representation by a skilled and highly experienced attorney is vital.
Attorneys Representing Rail Accident Injury Victims: Cases We Handle
The attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook handle all types of railroad accidents, including but not limited to:
- Derailments – Derailment occurs when a train leaves its rails, which may or may not also involve leaving the tracks. Due to the high speeds which are often involved, derailments tend to be among the deadliest and most injurious types of train crashes. Unfortunately, they are also the most common, accounting for 121 out of the 156 accidents reported from 2012 through 2015 according to FRA data.
- Head-On Collisions – Head-on train collisions most frequently occur on single line railways, often due to a signaling error by the signal operator. Head-on collisions generate extremely strong forces and are likely to cause serious injuries, especially for passengers near the front end of the train. Common injuries include broken bones, traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury (SCI), burns, and permanent scarring and disfigurement.
- Train Crossing Accidents – Numerous train crossings are not adequately set up or maintained. Many lack flashing lights and/or are missing protective arm gates, which greatly increases the risk of a preventable accident.
If you or one of your family members was injured on a train in Oklahoma City or the surrounding area, including Norman, Edmond, Moore, Midwest City, Mustang, Newcastle, and Bethany, the train injury attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook will be there to help you fight for compensation. To set up a free and confidential legal consultation, call our law offices at (405) 698-3040.