Are railroad accidents always caused by human error?

No. While the mistake of a conductor or crew member is certainly a potential cause of a railroad accident, it is not the only reason trains derail or crash. In late 2014 and early 2015, for example, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released reports about recent train accidents in the New York City area and around the country. According to the preliminary reports, some of the accidents were caused by human error such as operator fatigue and excessive speed. However, other causes were also found, including failure of safety technologies and compromised equipment.

Non-Human Error

The NTSB found, for example, that a 2014 collision between two Union Pacific trains in Arkansas may have been caused by a faulty alert. In other words, the technology that was supposed to correct for human error may have failed and instead resulted in actual harm. Similarly, the NTSB found that a 2013 Metro North accident was probably caused by undetected problems with the rail tracks. In these cases, while there may not be a person to blame, the railroad is still at fault and should be held accountable.

How Will You Know the Cause of Your Train Accident?

You can’t go out and investigate the accident yourself, but you also don’t want to rely on the word of the railroad. Instead, you want to know the truth from an independent agency and from someone who is representing your interests. If you’ve been injured, we encourage you to follow news of your train accident investigation from the NTSB and to contact an experienced railroad lawyer who can make sure your rights are protected.