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An Overview of Train Accidents



An Overview of Train Accidents

Jacob Braude posted Wednesday, March 6, 2019 in Personal Injury, Train Accidents, Traumatic Brain and Spinal Injuries, Wrongful Death

In the United States, there is an average of over 11,300 train accidents per year and over 850 fatalities annually since 2013. 

If you or a loved one were injured by a train, either as a passenger or bystander, you may have a cause of action against the company that runs the train. That company is most likely a government entity. 

Suing an entity like Long Island Railroad, the MTA or Amtrak is not like pursuing a case against a private company or an individual. There are certain special legal issues which may come in to play

Here are seven things you should know if you or your loved one has sustained an injury due to a train accident. 

1.  Riding on a Train that Derails

Accidents, where a train goes off the tracks, are happening more and more frequently. The infrastructure in many cities and across the country is in dire need of repair.

Additionally, trains are still run by human beings, who make mistakes, get sick or fall asleep. Like drowsy driving, the consequences of running a train while sleep deprived or otherwise impaired can have disastrous consequences. 

If you have been injured while riding on a train that went off the tracks, you may have suffered physical and psychological injury.

The experience may prevent you from going to work, pursuing your everyday hobbies and pleasures, and living your life the way you did before the accident. You might be entitled to be compensated for this damage to your life and livelihood. 

2. Employee of the Railroad?

Passengers are not the only ones who can get hurt in a train accident. Often the engineer or conductor, porters and other employees may get hurt as well. 

If the accident happened during the course of your employment, your legal rights may be covered by Workers’ Compensation. This is a different process than filing a personal injury claim.

As an employee of a railroad, you might also be covered by the Federal Employees Liability Act or FELA, which protects the safety of federal workers. You have to prove that the railroad was negligent for your case.

The railroad employer will be liable if their negligence played even the slightest part in the injury or death of the employee. Negligence could be failing to provide adequate training or safety equipment, asking employees to work unreasonable hours or under severe time pressures, or not providing proper supervision. 

3. Accident on the Tracks

A train accident which hurts someone who was not on the train can still provide a cause of action for a lawsuit. If you were in a car crossing the tracks and you were hurt by a train, you might want to sue. 

If a railroad did not adequately secure its property and keep the tracks safe from trespassers, it may even be liable for someone who took their own life by going onto the train tracks.

In these tragic situations, railroad employees like engineers and conductors may suffer deep trauma from witnessing suicides. Railroad companies must often provide counseling and time off for these employees or they may be found liable under The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

4. Damage to Property 

A derailed train can cause lots of damage to property if it derails and runs into a building or other vehicles.

If the train was operated in a negligent manner and caused damage to your property which affected the property’s value or prevented it from being used in the manner for which it was intended, you may seek recovery. 

If the accident occurs involving a freight train, there may be numerous commercial claims if goods are damaged or delayed getting to their destination. However, these would likely be contractual claims rather than personal injury. 

It’s recommended that you discuss with an attorney the possible claims you may have arising from a train accident in order to fully pursue all potential avenues for recovery.

5. Bodily Injuries 

A personal injury suit in the wake of a train accident requires proof that you have sustained a physical injury which is quantifiable. That means that the court can put a value on what you lost, whether it is the loss of function of a limb either permanently or temporarily, or the overall ability to earn a living. 

You will need to collect and submit evidence of the injury, including all medical reports. Your lawyer will need to establish that the injury was caused by the accident and that you did not have this injury prior to the event.

You will also need documentation of the impact of the injury, including affidavits from doctors and your employer testifying that you cannot work. You may need to collect sworn statements from family members or friends describing how your activities are now limited. 

6. Psychological Impact 

If you have been hurt in a train accident, you may experience other issues in addition to physical consequences. Psychological pain and suffering are compensable as well, provided that you can provide evidence of their impact on your life and that they were directly caused by the defendant’s negligence. 

If you are suffering from depression after being in a crash, get a psychiatrist’s or psychologist’s report and diagnosis. If you’ve dealt with depression, your doctor might be able to show that the incident significantly increased the pre-existing condition.

7. Special Rules Regarding Governmental Entities 

If the operator responsible for running the train involved in your accident was a governmental entity, you may have a limited time in which to file a claim. 

Speak to an attorney experienced in suits against governmental agencies in order to understand the specific issues at stake in your case.

For example, if you choose to sue NJ Transit, you have 90 days to complete a Tort Claim notice or else you may lose the right to sue. If you are suing the NY-NJ Port Authority, you may have a one-year statute of limitations instead of the usual two years allowed for personal injury claims. 

Train Accidents: Know Your Rights 

If you have been injured in an incident involving a train, speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as you can. Depending on the circumstances, you have certain rights to be made whole by the person or entity responsible for your injuries.

Because many railroads are run by the government, you may have limited time in which to assert your rights. Contact a lawyer as soon as you can to help you figure out your options.

For more information on personal injury claims arising from train accidents and other transportation events, check out our blog


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