Although they can occasionally be tragic, railroad accidents are rarely a result of the train operator's negligence.

If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a railway accident, you will likely need to file suit under either Federal Law or State Law. Federal Law governs railway safety, operations, and regulations and is primarily administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which promotes and regulates safety throughout the railroad industry.

In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regulates railroad safety and is usually the agency responsible for investigating and determining the cause of railway accidents. Not all railroad accidents fall under the jurisdiction of either the FRA or, in particular, the NTSB. State Law comes into play under certain circumstances.

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a railway accident, you will likely need to file suit under either Federal Law or State Law. A qualified, experienced personal injury attorney can assist you in determining which laws apply to your case.

The two main types of trains are freight and passenger. Passenger trains typically operate only in a specific area and are often given priority over freight and other trains. Freight or cargo trains are usually the ones that cause most of the harm when an accident occurs. According to Federal Railroad Administration, approximately 3,000 train accidents occur annually in the United States, and nearly 1,000 people die yearly.

Compared to the roughly five million auto accidents that occur each year, and the resulting 30,000 deaths, the number of train accidents and fatalities is relatively small. Common causes of train accidents include:
  • mechanical or electrical failures;
  • obstructions of the railway;
  • problems with the roadbed or track;
  • maintenance failures; and,
  • Human error.


Daily public transportation, such as trains, planes, and buses, is vital to modern society. Common carriers, such as airplanes, are companies that transport people or goods around the world according to the established timetables of routes between two or more points.

Each of these familiar carrier companies has a responsibility, and a legal duty, to safely deliver to their passengers and packages, provided they are adequately taken care of along their journey. Common carrier companies are also responsible for their interstate or international cargo to ensure that their objects and items arrive at their destinations in good condition. Should a common carrier fail in their duties, they can face lawsuits and other forms of liability, be they civil or criminal.

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Crimes: Committing a crime prohibited in many states, such as terrorism, harassment, and child pornography, elevates simple content restriction into cyberbullying and can result in a lengthy prison sentence. This could cause severe consequences not only legally but emotionally and even financially.

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The Federal Railway Safety Act (PRSA) regulates many aspects of railway railroading, including standards for the installation, maintenance, and inspection of equipment, procedures for determining an individual's fitness to operate a locomotive, and means for railroad signaling systems.

It is generally administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a U.S. Department of Transportation division.

Responsible Parties

Often, railroad accidents are caused by a fire or other conflagration of many factors. Determining who was responsible and in what proportion can be pretty tricky. As a result, much railroad accident law crosses over with product liability, negligence, and contract law to determine who will ultimately be held responsible for an accident and in what proportion to other parties.

For example, suppose a manufacturer specifies a particular grade of steel to be used in its railcars and that steel is found to cause an accident. In that case, the manufacturer may be held responsible under product liability laws. Suppose the manufacturer failed to take the proper precautions and that failure has led to the accident. In that case, the manufacturer may be negligent for breaching its duty to prevent harm to its consumer.

On the other hand, if testing of the newly-developed steel was conducted in a less-than-scientific fashion and a failure occurs when the engines are being operated, the contract between the railcar manufacturer and the railcar operating company may come into play. In that event, the railcar operating company may be found negligent for failing to test or perform its engines to the manufacturer's specifications or to notice or remedy a problem with the machines.

Hull Personal Injury Law

FELA is a federal law that allows railroad employees to seek damages from their employer for injuries sustained on the job. Unlike state worker's compensation programs that provide at-fault benefits, FELA enables injured employees to seek compensatory and punitive damages.