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The Importance of a Safe and Well-Functioning Railroad System

With so many cars and trucks on the road these days, it is easy to forget how important passenger and freight trains still are in America. Commuters and travelers often talk about cheap flights or the price of gas, but rarely does the discussion turn to the cost of a train ticket.

Legal News GavelBut Illinois is a natural hub for the railroads. For passengers traveling from east to west, Chicago acts as a gateway to all that lies beyond Lake Michigan. For freight carriers, Chicago is a logical transfer point to other modes of transportation. Goods from Canada, Mexico, and ports on both coasts arrive in Illinois by rail but often set out for deliveries on tractor trailers.

Much of the produce in supermarkets is transported by rail. If a train carrying produce is involved in an accident, there is little harm except to any cars or pedestrians that may have been hit by the train. However, freight trains often carry goods that are toxic in nature, like oil and other hazardous chemicals, and an accident involving one of these trains can have much broader, and potentially more serious, consequences.

When a freight train carrying hazardous materials is involved in an accident, surrounding farms, waterways, wildlife, and local residents are all put at risk. To prevent accidents, Illinois requires that freight carriers operating within the state take reasonable care when operating a railroad. Reasonable care in this context can mean many things, but at a minimum it means that employees of the railroad are properly trained and licensed, that equipment is regularly inspected and serviced, and that tracks and signals are routinely checked for necessary repairs and maintenance.

If a railroad fails to take these precautions, and local residents, pedestrians, motor vehicle operators, or landowners are injured in any way, the railroad may be liable for damages. In Illinois, this failure to take reasonable care is called negligence. When negligence is established, an injured person can recover for out-of-pocket expenses, like lost wages, unpaid medical bills, or the value of destroyed crops or other property. Injured persons can also recover for pain and suffering, which includes emotional distress and is not capped, or limited, in Illinois.

In some cases, injuries from freight accidents may not be immediately apparent. In the case of toxic chemicals, it may take years before local residents begin to develop illnesses linked to contaminated water or even just prolonged inhalation of a hazardous material.

Besides individuals, cities and townships can be harmed by freight accidents as well. If a toxic chemical is released when a freight car crashes or is derailed, local firefighters, police officers, and hazmat teams are called into action, often for days or weeks at a time. The same is true for other first responders, like EMTs and emergency shelter providers, not to mention local hospitals and health care providers.

Injuries of this nature were recently incurred by several towns in Tennessee after a freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed and caught fire in the eastern part of the state. According to one report, the fire lasted some 19 hours and forced 5,000 local residents to be evacuated. As a result, fire fighters, police officers, and other emergency personnel were called into action, and the towns were forced to bear the cost of these additional services.

To reimburse the towns for their losses, the company that operated the train involved in the accident, CSX Transportation, has paid local agencies over $430,000. In addition, CSX has paid local residents $3.5 million for personal injuries resulting from the fire.

Have You Been Injured Because of An Accident Involving a Train?

Whether you were injured while riding a train as a passenger or simply by virtue of living near the scene of a railroad accident, you may be entitled to recover damages for your injuries. The Chicago lawyers at Moll Law Group have experience in all types of transportation accidents. We have recovered damages for many innocent victims of transportation accidents, and we believe that our work has improved safety for everyone who travels, including children. Our commitment to our clients is to do everything possible to make you whole again. At the same time, we know that your case can help prevent injury to someone else in the future. For a free consultation, call Moll Law Group at 312.462.1700.

See More Posts:

Child Birth Injuries and Medical Malpractice Claims, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 8, 2015.

Public Schools Enjoy Some Level of Immunity for Injuries to Students, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 16, 2015.

Doctors and Drug Companies May Be Liable for Medication Side Effects, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 22, 2015.

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