Pennsylvania Environmental Lawyers | Train Derailments & Contamination

Train Derailments

When a train derails, we often think about the passengers and employees who have been injured in the train accident. Many people do not realize that after a derailment, there is often substantial and significant environmental contamination in the surrounding area. Trains often carry crude oil and other hazardous materials that can spill, leaching into the water supply or emanating into the air. Property owners can be saddled with serious financial losses due to the remediation that is needed. People who live and work in the contaminated areas can suffer from health problems as a result. However, those affected by the environmental consequences of a train derailment have recourse to sue for damages.

Common Causes of Train Derailments

A number of factors contribute to the occurrence and severity of train derailment accidents, including:

  • The type of cargo being transported by the train, for example, shipments of crude oil are inherently more dangerous than other commodities
  • Overworked train crews
  • Fatigued conductors and engineers
  • Operators under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Broken rails
  • Defective train or railway parts
  • High rate of speed due to negligence or recklessness
  • Improper operation of control systems
  • Collision with a passenger car or other object

What Types of Environmental Issues Can Follow a Derailment?

Trains often carry all types of hazardous environmental contaminants that can spill in the event of a derailment, including:

  • Cyanide
  • Caustic chemicals
  • Acids
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Crude oil
  • Chlorine

Sometimes, these materials are released as gases or liquids, and can penetrate the water supply. When derailments occur near large cities, it can be a serious and costly problem if the drinking water supply becomes polluted. Crude shipments often travel near large cities while being routed to refineries and port facilities.

Who Can Be Held Liable?

An experienced environmental lawyer can help you determine who is liable for injuries or property damage caused by a toxic spill. The railway carrier will be responsible whenever the accident was caused by its negligence, such as the failure to maintain tracks or equipment, high rate of speed, and negligent hiring. However, in some cases, the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) may dictate the remedies available to injured parties. This is often because the cost of the spill may exceed the resources held by a carrier, particularly with crude oil spills.

Other liable parties can include the shipping company, owners of crude oil or other chemicals, refineries where material is headed, a motorist who caused a collision with the train, and third parties such as engineers or maintenance workers.

Railroads and other potentially liable parties, particularly individual motorists or operators/engineers, may be covered by liability insurance.  Broad forms of general liability insurance maintained by railroad carriers may cover bodily injury, property damage, environmental cleanup, and remediation. In certain cases, however, these policies will not cover the full amount required to cover the injured party, in which case an experienced environmental lawyer can advise you whether any other defendants can be joined in the litigation.

Pennsylvania Environmental Lawyers at Williams Cedar Fight for the Victims of Environmental Consequences of Train Derailments

If you or someone you love has developed a health condition as a result of the environmental aftermath of a train derailment, we can handle your legal issues so that you can focus on your recovery. If you have suffered costly property damage due to necessary remediation, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced Pennsylvania environmental lawyers at Williams Cedar can help you determine which parties are responsible, and hold them accountable for their negligence or recklessness in court. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call our Philadelphia offices today at 215-557-0099, or contact us online. We represent clients nationwide.