How are railways regulated?

Railways are defined by the law as “common carriers,” or transportation-for-hire providers. Common carriers may transport people or goods and also include businesses like airlines, cruise ships and trucking companies. The law requires common carriers to make sure that their cargo or passengers safely reach their destinations. The law holds common carriers liable for injuries to a passenger that happens during transportation if the carrier could have prevented the accident by taking greater care.

Common carriers are governed by federal and state laws, with federal laws governing railways taking precedence. Each state also regulates its own public transportation systems operating within the state. Additionally, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) oversees railroad operations and enforces railroad safety regulations.

What is involved in a case where a train passenger or a bystander is injured by a train?

Because the law requires a common carrier to ensure the safety of passengers, someone injured onboard a train may have a claim for negligence against the operator. Additionally, if the accident causing the injury was caused by a defective or malfunctioning part, the injured passenger may have a product liability claim against those who manufactured, sold, installed, repaired or maintained the part.

The law may also provide relief for bystanders injured by a train. As part of its duty, the railroad company is required to maintain the tracks and the train, and drivers have to follow regulations about approaching stations and crossings.

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