Every year, hundreds of people are injured in train accidents, and in some cases, a single incident can lead to shockingly high numbers of injuries. In North Dakota, for example, 1,441 people were injured after a train carrying hazardous materials was derailed in 2002.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a train accident, you may be entitled to compensation, and you need the right legal team to help you. Here’s what you need to know.
What to Expect With a Train Accident Lawsuit
Typically, the legal process starts with a consultation. During that meeting, you talk with the lawyer about the accident, and the lawyer helps you decide if you should bring a claim forward. Then, you send a demand letter to the railroad company letting them know that you are seeking action against them. They may respond with a settlement offer right away, or they may argue and try to say they aren’t liable for your injuries.
After that point, both parties enter a discovery phase where they share information related to the accident with each other. For instance, locomotives have black boxes. The boxes record information related to the train’s speed, its direction, how the brakes were used, and other details that can be critical when you’re trying to assess how and why the accident occurred. Your lawyer may request black box records from the train company.
After discovery, the case can go to negotiations or to mediation where both parties work to come to a mutual agreement. Or, the case may go to court. In most cases, settling out of court is faster and less expensive, but in some situations, a trial is the best option.
Liability in Train Accidents
A train accident is a personal injury, and in these cases, you need to establish that the other party had a responsibility for your safety, they were negligent about that responsibility, they caused your injury, and your injury lead to damages. In a railroad accident case, your lawyer may argue that the train company or its employees were negligent for any of the following reasons:
- Conductor error
- Mechanical failure
- Failure to properly maintain or fix broken components
- Inspection violations
- Stalled car abandoned on the tracks
Railroad companies are not required to guarantee the safety of their passengers. In some cases, accidents just happen. But these companies are required to exercise due caution and provide the highest level of safety possible under the circumstances. If they deviate from expected safety standards, train companies and operators can become liable for damages.
In some cases, the accident may be caused by outside stimuli such as a distracted pedestrian or a negligence motor vehicle operator. If the train operator is not liable, your lawyer can help you identify the correct liable party so that you can consider bringing a claim against them.
Damages After a Train Accident
If you’re involved with a train accident, you may suffer serious injuries including lacerations, cuts, disfigurement, amputations, and more. Your damages include the cost of your medical care, lost wages, hiring help around the home, and any other expenses directly related to your injuries. At the same time, you may also be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, disfigurement, or other damages that are not directly pegged to exact costs.
To ensure you obtain a truly fair settlement, you need to work with a train accident attorney who can assess your damages and expenses accurately and who can fight for your rights diligently. If you have lost a loved one in a train accident, you may need to bring forward a wrongful death suit. Typically, the damages in those suits include final medical bills, funeral and burial costs, and emotional damages suffered by the remaining family members.
If you work for the railroad and you are injured in a train accident, you usually can’t bring forward a personal injury lawsuit, but there are exceptions. In most cases, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) covers train employees, and you need to make a claim under this law. Luckily, the burden of proof is a lot lower, and there are no caps on compensation. If you’re not covered by FELA, you may need to make a traditional workers’ comp claim or consult with an attorney to talk about other options.
At Tinti, Quinn, Grover & Frey, we can give you the help you need after a train accident in Massachusetts. To learn more, contact us today to set up a free case evaluation.