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What to Do if You’re in an Oregon Railroad Accident

Train travel, whether by light rail or traditional trains, is one of the safest and most environmentally friendly means of transport in Oregon. Whether commuting to work or just going shopping, trains are frequently a faster way to get where you’re going than a taxi or bus, and they’re considerably cheaper, too.

Still, Oregon railroad accidents do happen, and the results can include catastrophic injuries or death, given the sheer size and weight of the carriages. The most common causes quoted for Oregon railroad accidents are:

  • Derailments
  • Train vs. car crashes (the train always wins)
  • Operator negligence
  • Inadequate maintenance

Train vs. car

These accidents almost always happen because the car driver or the motorcyclist decide they don’t want to wait for the train to pass, so they foolishly take the risk of trying to beat the train to the intersection. This gives the train operator no chance to avoid the collision, and because trains aren’t fitted with ABS brakes, there’s also no chance of the train stopping in time.


When a train runs off its tracks, the potential for catastrophe is almost limitless. Occasionally, the train operator is going too fast, and this can actually cause the train’s wheels to lose contact with the rail, particularly if going through a relatively sharp bend.

Other factors that can cause derailments include the tracks becoming misaligned through damage or lack of maintenance; damaged wheels on trains or barriers on tracks.

Operator negligence

Just because trains travel along fixed tracks doesn’t mean the driver doesn’t have to pay attention. Serious accidents occur when an inattentive or extremely fatigued driver is in charge of an incredibly powerful locomotive.

Other types of operator negligence include those who use drugs or alcohol, the misuse of or failure to use horns, whistles or alarm bells, as well as incorrect or improper rail switching by railway crew members.

Poor maintenance

A train is like any other machine that is used on a regular basis. It requires frequent, high-quality maintenance to perform reliably and safely. If damaged or worn parts are not repaired or replaced, they can have an adverse affect on wheel-track alignment, which is basically essential to keep a train on its tracks.

Even the fuel tanks on trains require regular maintenance, to ensure they remain safe, efficient and reliable.  On top of all this, train maintenance should include a thorough cleaning regime, to maintain a hygienic environment for passengers.

Are Oregon railroad accidents that common?

According to the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) Oregon railroad accidents don’t happen that frequently…but perhaps more frequently than you might think. Also, while the overall trend in the number of accidents is downward, figures from the past four years indicate a real up-and-down pattern which reveals very little in terms of improving safety records.

Oregon is certainly not the worst state in the country when it comes to railroad accidents. That dubious distinction for the year to date (July 31, 2012) goes to Texas, which has experienced no fewer than 81 accidents so far. That figure amounts to more than 12 percent of the total national figure of 651 accidents to the end of July.

Those 81 accidents indicate that Texas is in for a bad year where railroad accidents are concerned. In 2009, the state recorded just 66 accidents for the entire year; in 2010, the number was 88, and for 2011, the total number of railroad accidents was 79.

Oregon compares very favorably with Texas. So far this year, only seven railroad accidents have been recorded, or just 1.1 percent of the national total. In 2009, there were 18 accidents; 2010 saw just 11 railroad accidents, and 2011 was almost as good, with just 13 accidents for the entire year.

Some of the other figures released by the DOT include:

  • Vermont must be the safest place on the planet to travel by train. They recorded no accidents in 2009 and 2010, and only one for all of 2011. This year looks like another good year; only one accident has been recorded thus far.
  • Illinois ranks second to Texas in the danger stakes, and 2012 looks to be a very bad year indeed. The state saw 74, 63 and 75 railroad accidents in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively, and has already recorded 59 in 2012, or 9.1 percent of the national total.
  • Iowa and Nebraska seem to be competing for third place, as each state has recorded 29 railroad accidents thus far in 2012, or 4.5 percent of the national total.
  • Oregon has averaged 2.5 fatal railroad accidents per year since 2009, which means that about one of every 11 railroad accidents in the states ends up with a fatality.
  • Texas and Illinois again rank one and two in the number of fatal railroad accidents on a consistent basis. This year, Texas has already seen 26 fatal accidents, or more than any of the complete-year figures from 2009 to 2011. Illinois has already had 25 fatal railroad accidents in 2012.

Filing a railroad accident lawsuit

Make no mistake; filing a personal injury claim against a railroad is a complex business, and not every personal injury attorney would be up to the task. Because of the potential for extremely large damage awards, railroads defend claims vigorously.

There’s also the matter of whether the railroad is privately operated, state subsidized or government owned and operated. It takes and experienced lawyer to take on such a daunting task, but if you’ve been injured in a railroad accident, you have the right to file a lawsuit and claim compensation for any medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Even if the train doesn’t actually crash, sudden starts and stops that make a train jump unexpectedly can cause passengers to fall and bump their heads, crack ribs or suffer cuts and scratches. In the case of a fatal Oregon railroad accident, the family of the deceased person has a right to file a claim to cover the lost income, as well as psychological damage, loss of companionship and other damages.

If you’ve been the victim of an Oregon railroad accident, don’t take it lying down. It’s imperative, however, that you find a Portland personal injury lawyer who has experience of railroad accident cases.

The consultation is free, and a reputable attorney will explain to you the entire process from beginning to end, so you know what to expect. If you decide to go ahead with your claim, they will handle all the paper work, conduct the necessary investigations, talk with witnesses and source the experts who will help prove your case. Make the call and get your questions answered. Then you can begin the process of recovering.