On July 24, 2013, a deadly train crash in Spain claimed the lives of 79 people and injured over 100 others. While details of the accident are still being investigated, the driver has admitted fault and has been charged with reckless manslaughter for his role in the crash. Factors that led up to the train wreck included inattentive driving, excessive speed and distraction due to an ongoing telephone conversation at the time of the accident. The repercussions of this tragic event are likely to be felt for some time to come; many victims of the accident are still in the early stages of recovery and may take months or longer to heal fully from their injuries. The Human Cost of Train Wrecks The catastrophic crash in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, is far from an isolated event. Train accidents and collisions are relatively common and are responsible for thousands of injuries and deaths each year.
- On July 29, 2013, a two-train collision in Switzerland injured at least 35 people, including one of the drivers. The other driver was killed in the accident. The crash has tentatively been attributed to driver error.
- A train derailment in Quebec on July 6, 2013, released 1.5 million gallons of crude oil in Lac-Megantic. The resulting fire killed 47 people and left environmental damage throughout the historic district of this Canadian city. No definitive cause for the accident has been determined, but evidence suggests that brake system tampering or failure was a likely factor in the crash.
- Wenzhou, China, was the site of a July 23, 2011, collision between two high-speed trains. Both trains were derailed in the crash; 192 injuries and 40 deaths were reported to have resulted from the train wreck. Faulty signals and railway management failures were cited as major factors in this tragic event.
These railway accidents have inflicted a dreadful toll in human suffering and loss. For employees of these train companies, the situation can be even worse. Although passengers and governmental agencies can typically collect compensation for their injuries or losses, railroad workers in many countries are not protected by the same laws and protections that cover employees in other career fields. If these workers are injured in the course of their duties, they may not receive the financial support and compensation needed to manage their ongoing medical and rehabilitation needs. The Federal Employers Liability Act In the U.S., the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) protects the rights of railway workers who are injured due to unsafe working conditions. If a major train wreck were to occur in the U.S., railroad employees would be able to sue their employers for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other compensation for any injuries sustained in the accident. These added federal protections provide railroad workers with legal recourse if a catastrophic event like those in Switzerland, Canada or Spain were to occur in the United States. Railway employees can also seek compensation under FELA for unsafe working conditions that result in less serious injuries or medical conditions. While these hazardous environments may not attract publicity and make headlines, they can be devastating for workers injured due to railway company negligence. Protections Designed for Railroad Workers Train accident attorneys can pursue claims under FELA to protect the rights of railroad employees and ensure that they receive adequate compensation for their injuries. A qualified railroad accident attorney can provide legal guidance for railway workers who have been injured due to corporate negligence. Professional train accident lawyers can obtain the maximum compensation for injury claims through negotiations with insurance agents or by taking the case to court. Rail accidents are an unfortunate fact of modern life. By seeking compensation for injuries through FELA attorneys and holding railroad companies accountable for their policies and their errors, railway employees can protect their rights while providing financial incentives for rail corporations to improve safety on their passenger and cargo routes.