In July, a 98-car freight train derailed north of Columbus. Sixteen cars careened off the track, causing an explosion and fire. Several of the derailed tank cars carried highly flammable ethanol. The incident raises questions about who is responsible in the event of a train accident.
Investigating Possible Causes
Fortunately, no one was hurt or killed in the recent Ohio accident. A preliminary investigation found that the operator was not speeding at the time the cars derailed. The operator was traveling below the recommended top speed as he rounded the curve where the derailment occurred. Inspectors did not initially find any flaws with the physical track in the area of the accident. However, a full investigation will take more time.
Train Crash Risks and Liability
Unfortunately, derailments like the one near Columbus are not uncommon in Ohio or the nation as a whole. Between January and April of this year, 389 derailments occurred in the United States, including 22 in Ohio. Ninety-six of the derailments occurred on main lines just like the one in Columbus. Last year, there were 65 derailments in Ohio and 1,451 nationwide on main lines.
Fortunately, there are legal options for those injured in a train derailment, including those who work on the railroad. Companies are required to provide reasonably safe working environments for their employees as well as adequate safety training and inspections of equipment. While third parties injured by trains can recover damages through a personal injury lawsuit, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) protects workers.
FELA: The Federal Employers Liability Act
Over 100 years old, FELA protects railroad workers in the event of a workplace injury and allows injured parties to claim compensation directly from the employer or through a civil lawsuit. Injured employees must prove that an employer's negligence played at least a small role in their injuries, a burden of proof less than that in a typical personal injury case.
Injured employees are able to collect past and future lost wages and compensation for medical treatment. Damages for pain and suffering, both physical and mental, can also be pursued. To understand how FELA protects your rights or to file a personal injury claim against a railroad company, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney.