Railroad Accident Attorneys in Columbia, SC
Despite the fact that trains are one of the most archaic – and slowest – forms of transportation for the movement of people, animals, and products, they are still used frequently throughout the United States. In South Carolina, railroads and the railcars that use them are an essential part of our infrastructure and economy, transporting tons of consumer goods, and many people, on a regular basis.
But, railroads also present serious hazards, and more often than they should. Cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians are struck by trains in railroad crossing accidents every year. Railroad crossing accidents are the types of train accidents most often associated with injuries and fatalities to humans, other types of railroad accidents could result in much greater property and economic damages (i.e. derailments).
If you are involved in a railroad accident in South Carolina and suffer injuries or property damage as a result, working with the experienced South Carolina railroad accident lawyers at the Peake & Fowler Law Firm, P.A. can be integral to recouping the full amount of damages you are owed.
Types and Causes of Railroad Accidents
There are many different types and causes of railroad accidents in South Carolina. As stated above, railroad accidents involving the crossing of one vehicle or person and a train are often the most devastating; these may occur because the individual tries to beat the train, becomes stuck on the track, doesn’t look before crossing, or fails to heed the warnings of posted signs or crossing arms, resulting in a collision.
Railroad crossing accidents aren’t the only type of train accidents.Other types of accidents are: A train and another object or vehicle (not at a crossing), derailments, and fires and explosions involving both passenger trains and freight trains.
These accident types have many different causes. Some of the top causes of railroad accidents include:
- Lack of warnings at railroad crossings;
- Defective warning lights or railroad crossing arms;
- Train operator negligence, i.e. distraction, intoxication, or fatigue;
- Falling onto tracks;
- Driver error (i.e. misjudging the distance of the train, intoxication, etc.);
- Defective tracks;
- Failure to maintain tracks, train/train engine, warnings, etc.;
- Miscommunication (i.e. sending two trains on the same track in opposite direct, heading towards one another).
A train accident could also be caused because a vehicle breaks down or stalls on the tracks, or because the negligent driver of another vehicle hits a car, pushing that car onto the tracks.
Liability for Train Accidents
Liability for a train accident depends entirely on negligence – the failure to exercise a reasonable amount of care. What is considered “reasonable” is dependent upon the party and the situation. For example, it would be unreasonable for a train operator to be driving after consuming any alcohol; unreasonable for a city or rail company to not maintain rail crossing warning signals; unreasonable for a driver to increase their speed – rather than reducing their speed – when approaching a railway crossing; and unreasonable for a manufacturing company to design or manufacture or railcar or track with a defect. If a party breached the duty of care that they owed to others (i.e. the duty of care to operate their vehicle reasonably, manufacturer a safe and effective product, etc.), and this breach of duty of care led to the accident, they can be held liable. Potentially liable parties in a railroad accident include:
- The rail company;
- An individual driver;
- A train operator or their employer;
- A manufacturer of a defective part; or
- A municipality.
Comparative Fault Laws in South Carolina and Railroad Accidents
Fault in a railroad accident is not always the fault of one party. In some cases, two or more parties may be partially to blame for a railroad accident. When this is the case, each party will be responsible for their percentage of fault, and a plaintiff will still be able to recoup damages so long as their percentage of fault is not greater than 50 percent. Further, a plaintiff’s damages will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
Consider the following example:
A driver’s vehicle is hit by a train at a railway crossing. The driver suffers serious injuries, and incurs $100,000 in medical expenses. After a thorough investigation, it is determined that three things contributed to the accident: the city’s failure to maintain the warning signals at the railway crossing, the train operator’s failure to notice an approaching vehicle and failure to slow the train, and the driver’s (victim’s) failure to reasonably look for a train before crossing. The city is found to be 50 percent at fault, and both the train operator and driver of the car are found to be 25 percent at fault. As such, the city would be liable for $50,000, and the train operator (or train company under the theory of vicarious liability) would be liable for $25,000. As such, the driver would only be able to recover $75,000, or 75 percent of their damages.
Don’t Wait to File Your Claim
If you are injured in a railroad accident of any type, do not wait to hire an attorney and file your claim. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in South Carolina is three years from the date of injury. If you are filing a claim against the government, the South Carolina Tort Claims Act states that the action must be commenced within two years, or it is forever barred.
Contact the Peake & Fowler Law Firm, P.A. Today
The injuries incurred in a railroad accident have the potential to be very serious, or even fatal. If you or your loved one is involved in a railroad accident in South Carolina, the experienced railroad accident attorneys at Peake & Fowler want to meet with you. We can help you to understand the claims process and liability, determine the amount of damages you have suffered, file an effective claim and negotiate a fair settlement amount.
We are here for you, and will always put your needs first. Located in Columbia and serving clients in surrounding areas, we are happy to travel to your location for your consultation if you are unable to make it to ours. Just call our personal injury attorneys to request your free consultation.
Peake & Fowler Law Firm, P.A., is located in Columbia, SC and serves clients in and around Newberry, Lexington, Sumter, Allendale, Orangeburg, St. Matthews, Bishopville, Florence, Blythewood, State Park, Eastover, Columbia, Elgin, Irmo, Hopkins, Ridgeway, Lugoff, Ballentine, West Columbia, Kershaw, Camden, Dusty Bend, and Richland County, Lexington County, Calhoun County, Orangeburg County, Sumter County, Kershaw County, Newberry County, Fairfield County, Lee County, Clarendon County and Florence County.