Union Pacific Freight Train Accidents in California and Beyond

freight trainUnion Pacific trains carry freight all over some major parts of the United States. Unfortunately, sometimes accidents will happen.

Today I am taking a look at some of the accidents which have occurred in California and beyond.

FELA and Injuries

Freight train accidents can injure employees or people who are not affiliated with the train company whatsoever.

If you are injured as a pedestrian or hit by a train in your vehicle and manage to survive, you can sue the train company, assuming it was their fault. Now if you drove out in front of a train for no good reason or your were having a picnic on the tracks, of course the train company was not negligent and they aren’t at fault at all.

When employees are injured, many survivors turn to employment insurance. However, according to this Spokane law blog, “railroad employees can bring an actual FELA lawsuit against their employers in state or federal court”. FELA is the Federal Employers Liability Act. I am not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice, but I believe this just basically allows people hurt on the job to hold their employer liable.

Does Union Pacific really care?

In March of 2016, an Altamont Commuter Express passenger train running on Union Pacific tracks was carrying 214 passengers near Sunol, CA. It derailed from an apparent mudslide in Niles Canyon, an area known for such earth movement. The crash left one of the train’s passenger cars partially submerged. Nine people were injured, and four of them were transported to local hospitals. Warning fencing with electronic sensors is available for use in areas prone to earth movement. They’ve been highly successful with other railroads in reducing landslide and mudslide accidents. Notwithstanding Union Pacific’s knowledge of earth movement at the site of the crash, no warning fences with sensors had been installed by Union Pacific.

The 2004 Texas crashes:

  • On June 28, 2004 a Union Pacific train failed to stop at a signal and crashed into another train near Maconda, TX. Four people died, and 51 others were injured, mostly from chlorine gas. It’s highly likely that the train’s crew was sleeping at the time of the collision.
  • On November 11, 2004 a Union Pacific train derailed in nearby San Antonio and killed one man working in a warehouse and injured another. It was reported to be the fifth Union Pacific derailment in San Antonio since that May.

Crossing crashes: A tragedy occurred on November 12, 2012 in Midland, TX when a Union Pacific freight train crashed into a parade float carrying 26 passengers, 12 of whom were veterans and had been wounded in action. Four people on the float died, and 16 of them were injured. The railroad reportedly agreed to give a 30 second warning to vehicles approaching the tracks. The maximum amount of warning time given was 25 seconds or less.

According to a Texas Personal Injury Attorney, even state and federal courts have imposed sanctions on Union Pacific for not preserving or even destroying railroad crossing accident evidence. An eighth court granted a motion for a new trial on that basis. Only one sanction has been reversed on appeal.

What do you think about freight train accidents?

Do you know anyone who was injured in one? Is any one company worse than the next? Do you love Union Pacific? After all, they do bring us things we need every day.. Let me know below!


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