Many accidents involving commercial vehicles can require significant investigation to determine who may be liable. Oftentimes, the investigation must go beyond the mere facts of the accident and probe the legal relationships between several parties, any one of whom may bear responsibility for the accident and any injuries or deaths. The investigation of the recent fatal railroad accident near Prichard shows just how complex these relationships may be.

The accident

According to police reports of the accident, a crew from Continental Rails, Inc. was repairing track by replacing decrepit ties. A locomotive owned by Canadian National Railway plowed into the crew. One worker was killed, and two others were seriously injured. Even though no criminal charges have been alleged, the engineer of the locomotive has been listed as a “suspect.”

Who is at fault?

At first glance, the owner of the locomotive, Canadian National, would appear to bear most of the fault for the accident. Yet further investigation showed that the locomotive was operated by employees of Alabama Export Railroad. If these employees were negligent, their employer would bear most of the liability. Yet more investigation revealed the involvement of more transportation companies. The rail line on which the accident occurred is owned by the Illinois Central Railroad. If a defect in the track or an operating signal was involved, the owner of the track may bear most of the liability. Moreover, the Alabama Export Railroad is owned by the Mississippi Export Railroad. Depending upon the degree of supervision, the latter entity may be liable.

Who will pay?

Determining the legal responsibility of the involved parties will depend first upon establishing the events leading up to the accident. A key question will be whether any person failed to carry out a duty of due care. Even if the train crew is found to be immediately at fault, their supervisors may bear some liability for failure to train tem or failure to maintain the track. If the claims are not settled, a trial may be necessary, and a jury may be required to sort out the respective shares of liability.

Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one under similar circumstances may wish to pursue a claim for damages or for wrongful death. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide invaluable assistance by evaluating the evidence, suggesting legal arguments to support a claim, and providing an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.