According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Office of Safety Analysis, more than 3,100 train accidents or incidents have occurred in Florida over the last decade among the state’s dozens of railroads. This includes accidents at railroad crossings, derailments, and other railroad equipment accidents that lead to injury or fatality. Many different causes might lead to a train accident, many of which are a result of railroad negligence. Train accidents are treacherous events that can lead to catastrophic injuries and fatalities, sometimes for many more than one person.
If you have suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a Florida train accident, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation for damages related to your losses when another party caused your injuries. The skilled personal injury lawyers at Sibley Dolman and Dolman Law Group understand the devastation a train accident can bring to you and your family and we are here to help. We serve clients throughout Florida from offices in South Florida and on both coasts. Call us today at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn about your next steps.
2 Most Common Types of Train Accidents
Perhaps you have suffered a slip and fall injury on a train or other injury related to being a passenger, but most serious injuries and fatalities from train accidents are a result of collisions or derailments according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
- Collisions include contact between motor vehicles and trains at marked and unmarked railroad crossings as well as contact between trains on the same track.
- Derailments refer to instances when a train comes off the track. They are not always dangerous or deadly, but can be extremely hazardous depending on the circumstances.
Florida’s Most Dangerous Railroad Companies
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is the United States agency tasked with regulating rail companies throughout the nation. This includes making and implementing laws, as well as enforcing them. When an accident or incident occurs, railroads must report them to the FRA, who will complete a formal investigation into each event. FRA data from the last ten years (November 2009 to November 2019) suggests some railroads are more accident prone than others. This might indicate they are Florida’s most dangerous railroad companies, but also keep in mind that larger companies will typically have more accidents and incidents than smaller companies.
When train accidents or incidents result in injuries or fatalities, railway companies are required to fill out Federal Railroad Administration Form 55a. The following list of rail companies filled out the most 55a forms in the last decade. Beginning from companies with the most reported injuries and fatalities to the least, Florida’s most dangerous railroad companies are as follows:
- Amtrak (1,015)
- CSX Transportation (543)
- South Florida Regional Transit Authority (484)
- Florida East Coast Railway, LLC (387)
- Central Florida Rail Corridor (87)
- Norfolk Southern Railway Company (45)
- South Central Florida Express, Inc. (41)
- Seminole Gulf RR (33)
- BLF (30)
The remainder of railroad companies filed 15 or less Form 55as over the last decade.
Causes of Train Accidents
Several different things might lead to a train accident. If you’ve recently suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a train accident, you might know the cause if the FRA investigation has been completed. If you’re waiting for the final report, some common causes of train accidents include:
- Conductor error. Train conductors make mistakes and they can be negligent. Like driving a motor vehicle or a semi-truck, train conductors must remain alert and dedicated to the task at hand to avoid dangerous train accidents. Some examples of conductor-related causes of accidents include fatigued conductors who might nod off while operating a train and conductors who are distracted by using their cell phone, eating and drinking, or other things that take their eyes and mind away from operating the train. Conductors who operate a train at too high a speed might also cause a derailment or collision.
- Old tracks. Whether Amtrak passenger trains, freight trains, or light rail, all trains operate on tracks. Tracks need regular inspections and preventative maintenance to ensure they can safely support the weight of a train. When those responsible for inspecting, maintaining, and repairing train tracks do not do their job in a timely fashion or ignore their responsibilities, dangerous train accidents can occur.
- Inadequate/Malfunctioning signage. Some railroad crossings are marked with signs, bars, and warning lights. Others aren’t marked at all. Unmarked crossings can be dangerous for vehicles and lead to deadly collisions. In rural areas, signs indicating a railroad crossing might be covered with overgrowth or those that have fallen can also lead to accidents. The busiest railroad crossings usually have mechanical arms and lights. When arms and/or lights malfunction train passengers and drivers in motor vehicles are at risk for injury or fatality when an accident happens.
- Poorly maintained trains. The FRA regulates railway companies in the same fashion that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates airlines. Rail carriers have requirements about inspections, maintenance, and repairs. They also must keep meticulous records. When companies fail to follow regulations and don’t adequately maintain their trains, mechanical failures can lead to a dangerous train accident causing injury to those involved.
FELA Claims Against a Railway Company
If you have suffered injury in a train accident as a railway worker, the process by which you receive compensation differs from others who have suffered injuries from train accidents. The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) protects the right of injured railway workers in the same way the Workers Compensation Act protects the rights of other employees. Injured railroad workers must file a FELA claim, similar to filing a worker’s comp claim.
Where FELA and worker’s compensation differ is on the issue of negligence or fault. Negligence or fault do not play a role in worker’s comp, but when you file a FELA claim you must prove your employer’s negligence caused the accident or event that led to your injuries. This major difference in systems also means it’s in your best interest to consult an experienced train accident attorney to guide you through the FELA claims process and ensure you get the compensation you deserve for your on-the-job injury or accident.
Your attorney will fight to prove your employer was negligent. Some examples of railroad carrier negligence towards employees include the failure to create and implement adequate safety measures in the workplace, the failure to train you properly, the failure to provide you with the tools and equipment you need for your job, and the failure to maintain enough manpower to safely operate a train. If you prevail in your FELA claim, the compensation you receive is far more extensive than the medical expenses and lost wages received in workers’ compensation claims.
Your financial compensation will vary based on the circumstances of your injuries and will be much closer to the type of damages someone who sues a railroad in a personal injury lawsuit might receive. The biggest difference is that prevailing in a FELA claim means you might also receive compensation for non-economic damages related to your injuries.
Recovering Damages After a Train Accident
If you have sustained injuries or lost a loved one in a train accident, Florida law entitles you to seek compensation for losses you have incurred related to your injuries in civil court. If your attorney negotiates an agreeable settlement or the court finds a verdict in your favor, you might receive compensation for the following economic and non-economic losses related to your injuries:
- Emergency response teams. When traffic collisions happen, ambulances and law enforcement respond to help victims and transport them to the hospital. Train accidents can occur in remote locations requiring helicopter rescue, quickly increasing the cost of ambulance and emergency response services.
- Medical treatment costs including emergency room visits, hospitalization, surgery, radiology, medication, and followup care.
- Future medical costs when a severe injury requires extensive recovery time or causes a permanent condition or disability requiring long-term treatment and nursing care.
- Lost wages for time away from work as a result of injury, treatment, and hospitalization
- Future lost wages when those injured in a train accident cannot return to work because of catastrophic injuries or permanent disability.
- Rehabilitation costs for visiting specialists like physical therapists and occupational therapists to help injured persons recover lost functions and cope with injuries
- Costs for assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, canes, walkers, and prosthetic limbs
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss in quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Other non-economic damages that might apply to a specific case
- Punitive damages to punish defendants when injuries are caused by willful or intentional harm, or when defendants intentionally violate railroad regulations
If you lost a loved one in a train accident, you might recover some of the above damages in addition to funeral expenses and burial costs depending on your relationship with the deceased. An experienced train accident attorney can inform you of your eligibility as a surviving family member and advise you on the type of compensation you might receive.
Available Evidence in Florida Railroad Accidents
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) also has strict regulations about the records carriers must maintain and required equipment on trains. These records and equipment offer valuable evidence to your lawyer, insurance companies, and the court about how a train accident occurred. Evidence often used to support train accident cases include the following:
- Video. The vast majority of trains have cameras that record everything that goes on at the front of the train. Onboard video footage from the time of the accident might show the cause of the train accident and help the FRA and courts determine fault and liability.
- Audio recordings. When trains are operating, their engineers remain in constant radio contact with their operations or dispatch department to relay necessary information and remain prepared for emergencies. Most rail carriers record these communications, which might also offer potential information about how an accident occurred.
- Event data recorder (EDR). A train’s EDR is similar to the FDR, or little black box, found on most aircraft. The EDR records data about the train trip including usage of brakes and horns, travel speed, and more. When the EDR is located and data can be extracted, it serves as an accurate account of what went on during the statement, even more so than witness statements or the description of events by the conductor or engineer.
- Dispatch records. Railroad dispatch employees communicate with each other and train engineers throughout the day to route trains so they don’t collide with other trains. Their job is similar to that of air traffic controllers. Dispatch officers must keep impeccable records of the trains assigned to the area they monitor. These records can reveal if a dispatcher made a mistake that led to a train collision or whether an engineer went the wrong direction.
Get the Legal Help You Need From a Florida Train Accident Attorney
Train accidents cause complex injury claims that often include multiple parties, especially when a passenger train is involved. In severe cases involving fatalities, survivors must also deal with the complicated legal process. If you were fortunate enough to live through a train accident caused by another party, you deserve compensation for losses related to the accident and your injuries, as well as the emotional stress that occurs in the aftermath of a severe injury.
The experienced and compassionate legal team at Sibley Dolman and Dolman Law Group are here to advocate for you and help you get the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys can handle the details or your case and gather relevant evidence to build a case against the defense, while you focus on recovery. If you choose us to represent you, we handle personal injury cases on contingency, collecting our attorney fees only from any compensation we secure for you.
With offices on both the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or contact us online to learn about how we might be able to assist you after a train accident.
Dolman Law Group
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900