Car accidents are by far the most common cause of injury that an average Toronto personal injury lawyer will encounter. They occur on a devastating scale across Ontario, and account for a staggering number of deaths and serious injuries. But cars are not, of course, the only mode of transportation that put people in harm’s way. Indeed, trains – both freight and commuter – account for a surprising number of severe injuries in Canada and the United States, and can occur in both dense population centres and small towns.

On January 5, 2017, at the height of morning rush hour, a New York City transit train arriving from Far Rockaway, Queens derailed at Atlantic Terminal in downtown Brooklyn, injuring more than 100 people. Astonishingly, none of the injuries were life-threatening, though 11 passengers were sent to hospital and the train’s front two cars were severely damaged. Rumours of terrorism immediately circulated, but the crash was soon deemed to have been caused by human error. The cause of a similar crash four months earlier on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, in Hoboken, remains unclear, but human error is again suspected.

Like New York, Toronto and the GTA have experienced rail accidents in the recent past, and like the two events listed above, human error is often to blame cause. Most recently, two freight trains sideswiped each other and derailed at a railway crossing in Toronto’s midtown, spilling more than 1,000 litres of fuel. In a statement, Canadian Pacific (CP) Rail said that “all track, equipment and signal systems worked as designated, and our preliminary investigation indicates human error is to blame.”

Though no injuries were recorded in the freight derailment, which occurred north of Dupont St and east of Bathurst St, the event underscores the fact that train accidents in Canada cause dozens of serious injuries each year, that they are often preventable, and that a personal injury lawyer can help. In 2012, eighty-two people, including three in a VIA Train derailment in Brampton, were killed in train accidents across the country, and a further 72 were badly injured. The following year, 47 lost their lives in the Lac-Mégantic, Québec disaster, and six died when an OC Transpo bus collided with a VIA Train in Ottawa.

Injury victims are undoubtedly at fault in some train accidents. Careless activity by motorists and pedestrians around railroad tracks can lead to devastating, even deadly consequences. But rail companies and municipalities also have a duty to protect members of the public from a rail accident, and when they fail to uphold their standard of care, a personal injury lawyer can help. Individuals who have been injured in a rail accident caused by human error may be able to seek compensation from a variety of sources, including railway companies, the town or city in which the accident occurred, or, in the case of the Ottawa collision, the public transportation provider involved.