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How Positive Train Control May Save Lives

By David Boehrer | Posted on September 04, 2020

A new technology called Positive Train Control is used in the American railroad industry to address human errors, prevent accidents, and promote railway safety.

New Technology Enhances Railway Safety

According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the railroad industry puts 40 cents out of every revenue dollar back into funds dedicated to railroad improvements, accounting for billions of dollars over the last 35 years. This practice has recently led to the development of new technology called Positive Train Control (PTC) that’s used to promote railway safety and prevent accidents.

Positive Train Control technology works like new crash prevention technology in motor vehicles. PTC includes sensors that detect an impending crash and stop the train before an accident occurs. In 2008, the federal Rail Safety Improvement Act mandated that all passenger railroad lines and all class I freight railroad lines used to transport toxic materials install PTC by the end of 2015. After several extensions, the latest extension expires at the end of 2020.

The main goals of PTC focus on the prevention of safety problems that are common within the railroad industry.

  • Human errors
  • Train-to-train collisions
  • Train-to-vehicle collisions
  • Train derailments
  • Track switches
  • Track maintenance

Train accidents caused by human errors make up the largest percentage of railroad accidents and injuries seen by the best accident attorneys. In 2017, 38% of train accidents were caused by human errors. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was one of the first American industries to require chemical testing and enforce strict regulations against alcohol and drug use by operating employees. FRA also enforces strict regulations on certification for locomotive engineers and federal hours of service restrictions. FELA guidelines protect railroad workers with extensive employee training and fatigue management programs. PTC is a technology that the railroad industry hopes will provide a backup plan to reduce human errors that lead to injuries.

Many accidents are caused by train-to-train collisions, train derailments caused by excessive speed, and trains averted to different tracks. PTC will stop trains from being steered onto sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place. It will also prevent trains from moving through a track switch that’s in the wrong position, so the train doesn’t end up on the wrong track. However, to work properly and provide fail-safe protection, PTC systems must be able to determine the precise location, direction, and speed of a train, warn train operators of potential problems, and bring the train to a stop if the operator fails to act.

Railroad Accident and Injury Claims

With more than 2,000 miles of active rail lines, Nevada experiences its share of railroad accidents across the state. Nevada’s best accident attorneys have handled thousands of cases related to train accidents involving both passenger trains and freight trains that cross repeatedly over public roadways.

Train accidents happen for a wide variety of reasons. Under Nevada law, the party that is at-fault for the accident can be held legally liable for all resulting damages. If the railroad company is the at-fault party, an injury victim can take legal actions against the company. When railroad companies are held liable, common causes of injuries include train conductor errors; excessive speeds; train derailments; overloaded train cars; poor train and/or track maintenance; and faulty track signals.

Some of the most dangerous and deadly train accidents involve collisions with passenger cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians at railroad crossings. When these types of collisions occur, occupants on the train may experience minor injuries, but occupants in the motor vehicle will likely sustain severe injuries and fatalities. In these types of accidents, it takes the best accident attorneys to investigate the crash and determine who is at fault for the collision. Train companies are big business operations that are represented by big insurance companies who push to settle injury claims for minimal payouts to injury victims. Obtaining a fair settlement or winning a lawsuit can be difficult without the best accident attorneys. 

In Nevada, train accidents victims who suffer injuries may be awarded damages for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Vehicle property damages
  • Costs for physical and/or psychological therapy
  • Lost wages, including diminished earning capability
  • Short-term or long-term disability
  • Disfigurement or loss of limbs

Train accidents often lead to fatalities due to the force of impact in a crash. Nevada allows wrongful death damages in cases where injury victims do not survive. Wrongful death lawsuits typically include awards for the following: death expenses, including funeral and burial costs; loss of the victim’s current and projected income; loss of benefits, including insurance coverage; and loss of love, companionship, and consortium. The best accident attorneys in Nevada can file a lawsuit to recover compensation for physical injuries and property damages, as well as expenses for wrongful death. 

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