Trains are a generally safe means of transportation in the United States. In fact, experts believe that traveling by train is 17 times safer than traveling by car. However, when a train accident happens, the resulting damages and injuries are usually devastating, catastrophic, and life-altering.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one from a train accident in North Miami Beach, you deserve a North Miami Beach Train Accident Lawyer who has your best interests at heart and who will aggressively fight to protect your rights and seek justice for you or your loved one. You deserve the experienced North Miami Beach personal injury lawyers at the Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman.
We have won millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. Let our North Miami Beach personal injury firm help you.
Florida Train Accident Deaths
In just one recent year, 10,482 railroad accidents took place in the United States, resulting in 882 deaths. These statistics include accidents at railroad crossings, derailments, and more. Train-related accidents often cause serious injury and even death.
It’s even worse here in South Florida, which is home to the nation’s deadliest stretch of railroad. Since opening in 2017, Brightline trains have killed on average one person each month. That is the worst per mile death rate of all railroads in the United States. If you have a loved one who died because of an accident with a train, you should seek justice through legal action.
Nothing will bring your loved one back, but filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party can help to bring closure. Filing can also help to ensure the at-fault party reimburses you for any of the costs you paid associated with your loved one’s wrongful death.
You may seek damages for the following:
- Final medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Lost financial support
- Loss of companionship
- Your pain and suffering
- Your emotional distress
We know you feel pain, and we know that money will not return your loved one.
Act quickly. After your loved one’s death, you generally only have two years to bring a wrongful death claim in Florida. While two years may seem like a long time, life gets in the way and goes by quickly. For your loved one’s sake, do not put filing a lawsuit off any longer. Speak with a personal injury lawyer in South Florida today.
Train Accident Causes
In one year alone, collisions caused 153 train accident injuries. This is by far the most frequent cause of train accident injuries, but it is not the only cause. Consider the following potential causes:
Train conductors are the drivers of trains, and much like truck drivers, conductors can and do make errors. These errors can cause death or grave injuries to you or a loved one. Conductors act negligently when they are driving while distracted or engaging in an activity other than operating the train. Speeding, which is caused by conductor error, is often a factor in train accidents.
Old Rail Tracks
The United States railroad system has operated for over a century. Many of the tracks still in use today are original, including the tracks used by Brightline in South Florida. Just like roadways need maintenance and repair, so do railroad tracks, but they don’t always get the attention they need. When the owner of the tracks fails to properly maintain them, accidents happen.
Most urban railroad crossings are well marked with lights and signs. However, many rural railroad crossings are not marked at all. When a crossing is not properly marked, accidents often result.
Poor Train Maintenance
Just like your car, trains need regular maintenance and sometimes break down. The law requires train owners to maintain and repair their trains to ensure that they are safe to operate. Owners must keep records of each maintenance service, and when a company fails to properly maintain a train, it faces serious fines, and subjects the public to unacceptable dangers.
These human causes of train accidents result in different types of accidents, including:
- Train derailment
- Crashes with a car, truck, or pedestrian
- Collisions with other trains
- Mechanical failures
- Signal defects
- Faulty railroad warning signs
- Track problems, damage, and destruction
Train accident cases are extremely complex due to the number of potentially involved parties. When attempting to recover damages for your injuries, working with a skilled and experienced North Miami Beach train accident lawyer can give you a leg up on holding the at-fault parties liable for your injuries and your bills.
The at-fault parties may include the following:
- Train owner
- Train conductor
- Train manufacturer
- Maintenance company and technician
- Warning and crossing system manufacturer
- Rail maintenance company
- The City of North Miami Beach
Countless parties may face liability for your injuries. To maximize your financial recovery, it’s best to work with a lawyer whom you trust to help you accurately determine who all caused your accident. Your life may never be the same following your accident; don’t leave your recovery to chance.
Common Train Accident Injuries
Trains are massive vehicles. Their sheer size and weight cause truly catastrophic injuries to people and total loss to vehicles, even in slow-moving collisions. Depending on the type of injury that you’ve suffered, you may endure a long recovery, if you make a full recovery at all.
Common injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Crushed bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck injuries
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries
Your injuries might damage you so severely that they also disrupt the lives of your loved ones. Because train accident injuries often threaten a victim’s life, you may require care for the rest of your life. The burden of providing this care often falls on family members and loved ones, further burdening your relationship with them. This also places undue hardship on your pocketbook, particularly if both you and your spouse are out of work.
Many train accident victims look forward to the day they receive a settlement offer. This is where we urge caution, especially when the settlement offer comes quickly. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and if they pay the full value of your claim, they do not make as much money. Ultimately, they want to keep money out of your pocket.
Shortly after your train accident injury, you may receive a low-ball settlement offer from the insurance company representing the at-fault party in your accident. Do not sign the offer until you have spoken with a trusted North Miami Beach train accident lawyer. Before you sign any settlement offer, you need to know the value of your case. You do that by working with an experienced lawyer who understands your prognosis and takes into account your future medical needs.
The insurance company is likely hoping that you accept its settlement offer immediately, and it may even pressure you to sign, claiming the settlement constitutes a limited-time offer. If you sign, you may waive your right to bring any future claims against the insurance company for this accident, which means you might end up paying out-of-pocket for medical bills stemming from the accident. By the time you realize your settlement funds were not enough to cover all of your recovery, it’s too late.
That’s why working with a seasoned South Florida personal injury lawyer can help. We can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, where we try to show it why its offer is unacceptable in an attempt to maximize your recovery. While it is true that most personal injury cases settle out of court, insurance companies sometimes refuse to settle for a fair amount. When that happens, we can represent you at trial, as we have done for so many other clients.
Choose a lawyer with trial experience. Not every law firm has the resources or the experience to manage a complex train accident trial.
Let us help you avoid this tragic situation by working together to create an accurate estimate of your future medical needs. We have been down this road before, and we’ve helped many clients just like you maximize their financial recovery. Our goal is to take the legal stress off your shoulders, so you can focus all of your effort and energy on your physical recovery.
Damages After a Train Accident
When you are the victim of a train accident in North Miami Beach, the law entitles you to seek compensation from the negligent party. This compensation helps you recover from your injuries by providing you a financial crutch, so you don’t have to worry about paying your extensive medical bills.
When you work with us, we work hard to secure compensation for the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Emotional distress
- Past, present, and future medical bills
- Rehabilitation costs
- Costs for assistive devices
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of companionship
When someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or carelessness directly causes your suffering, you have a right to hold that person or company liable for your injuries and subsequent medical bills. If you experience the tragic circumstance of losing a loved one in a train accident, by working with your South Florida train accident lawyer, you can ensure that you do not have to pay out of pocket for any end-of-life care or funeral expenses. We can help guide you to justice for your loved one.
Train Accident Evidence
Even when trains are slow-moving, they are still extremely large and heavy vehicles that can cause extreme injury to humans and damage to property. Following a truck accident, preserving evidence is often the best way to prove that you were not at fault for the accident and should thus receive compensation from the negligent party.
Evidence that your South Florida train accident lawyer will want to use includes:
- Event data recorder – Planes use a flight data recorder, called the black box. Trains have a black box, too, called the event data recorder. This records the train’s use of brakes, horns, travel speed, and other relevant data. This information is crucial to proving your claim following a train accident.
- Video – Most trains have cameras today. These cameras include the train’s dashcam, and they record everything in front of the train. This video evidence might show the cause of your accident and help establish that you are not to blame.
- Audio – Just like planes have air traffic control, trains use a radio frequency to speak with rail operators and other people on the train. These communications are recorded, and following an accident, they may offer insight into what caused the accident.
Evidence is important in any accident, especially in a train accident. Witnesses can also help bolster a plaintiff’s claim, testifying about what they saw and why the plaintiff is not to blame for the accident in which he or she suffered serious injuries.
At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman, we try hard to collect this evidence on our own, but we may also need your help. If you took pictures or video at the accident scene, that can help your claim, and we want to see it. We may also want to speak with witnesses who may provide a different perspective on what caused your accident and the moments leading up to the accident. By painting a full picture and using these different forms of evidence, we can help to show what caused your accident and subsequent injuries, giving you the best chance of maximizing your financial recovery from the negligent parties.
North Miami Beach Train Accident FAQ
Recent train accidents have left North Miami Beach residents wondering about train safety. The new, privately-owned Brightline/Virgin Trains USA rail system is the primary concern. Two train-related fatalities occurred in 2017 before the line began its formal operations. Since the trains began daily scheduled runs between Miami and West Palm Beach, they’ve been involved in an average of 1 fatality per month. Their track record is worse than any other railroad company in the United States. Indeed, the media has now dubbed Brightline/Virgin Trains USA the “deadliest” rail line in the nation.
Under certain circumstances, railroads are legally responsible for your damages when their negligence causes an injury. However, if an accident occurs on a railroad track or on a grade crossing, proving liability isn’t that simple. A network of federal and state laws govern train operations and give railroads legal rights while using the roads and lands that trains cross. They have a duty to comply with railroad safety standards, but the standards don’t necessarily protect all of the people in communities where the trains operate.
When North Miami Beach train accidents occur, they are often devastating to the injured victims, their families, and their communities. We want to help you understand what’s at stake, so we’ve created a North Miami Train accident FAQ to provide insight into some of the issues. Read on for more information.
What types of trains do Brightline/Virgin Trains USA operate?
Brightline/Virgin Train USA operates rail cars designed by the Rockwell Group and manufactured in the United States by Siemens. These trains are sleek, colorful, and bright, and they fit the higher-speed train designation. Although the company reports that its trains operate at 79 miles per hour, they can run at greater speeds.
- Traditional speed: Under 80 miles per hour
- Higher-speed: Between 81 and 125 miles per hour
- High-speed: 125 miles per hour and over
Why does the media call Brightline/Virgin Trains USA the deadliest trains in America?
The “deadliest” title isn’t just about the number of fatalities. In December 2019, the Associated Press (AP) reviewed the line’s casualty statistics and compared them to other local and national railroads. AP looked at the railroad miles traveled and the number of fatalities. AP research turned up stark differences between Brightline/Virgin Trains USA and other rail lines. Consider the following:
- Brightline/Virgin Trains USA: One fatal accident for every 29,000 miles
- Tri-Rail: One fatal accident for every 100,000 miles
- Florida East Coast (Freight): One fatal accident per 160,000 miles
Brightline/Virgin Trains USA trains have a higher per mile fatality rate than any of the other 821 rail lines across the country.
Are higher-speed trains more dangerous than other trains in North Miami Beach?
Just like speeding cars, when trains travel faster, it increases the danger to those around them. Higher-speed trains require longer stopping distances. When a train engineer sees a car or a pedestrian in his path, speed prevents the engineer from slowing down enough to avoid an accident. When a crash occurs, speed increases the impact force, causing extensive damage and catastrophic or fatal injuries.
Tri-Rail trains run at speeds up to 79 miles per hour. Amtrack’s average speed is 87 mph. Neither has a per-mile fatality rate equal to Brightline/Virgin Trains USA. As speed affects Brightline/Virgin Trains USA trains disproportionately, their high casualty rates likely involve other factors.
One concern with speed is that Brightline/Virgin Trains USA trains travel faster than the freight trains that have operated for decades and continue to operate on local tracks. Even train company executives have acknowledged that pedestrians and motorists aren’t capable of judging an oncoming train’s speed. That presents a major challenge for people who are accustomed to ignoring signals and moving over crossing grades because those people expect plenty of time. The train companies knew the danger but didn’t fully explain the inherent risks. When a higher-speed train moves at 79 miles per hour through a residential or urban neighborhood, it introduces an unanticipated risk.
Do train accidents always cause fatalities?
When a train strikes a vehicle, fatal injuries are usually inevitable, but not always. On June 25, 2019, WPTV reported that emergency workers successfully rescued an injured man who was trapped in his car after a Brightline/Virgin Trains USA accident. The man’s survival was lucky and unexpected. Higher-speed trains are so fast and powerful, the force often crushes or severs a vehicle. In one instance, the train pushed a car along the tracks, mangling it until it came to a stop. A speeding train’s initial impact is so forceful, it usually kills any pedestrian, bicyclist or vehicle occupant in its path.
How many train accidents occur each year?
Bureau of Transportation statistics casualty numbers show that 891 people died nationwide due to train-related incidents in 2018. The agency classifies incidents by victim category and also as “Railroad Only” and “Grade Crossing Only.”
The railroad category only includes fatalities involving train accidents and incidents:
- Trespassers, 753 total fatalities: 580 Railroad Only, 173 Grade Crossing
- Non-Trespassers, 108 total fatalities: 10 Railroad Only, 98 Grade Crossing
- Passengers, 5 total fatalities: 4 Railroad Only, 1 Grade Crossing
In addition to these 866 fatalities, 17 employees, 7 contractor employees, and 1 volunteer died in nationwide railroad-related incidents during 2018.
Does Brightline/Virgin Trains USA (or other train operators) accept responsibility for fatal accidents?
Liability issues are complicated. Determining fault requires a comprehensive investigation and an in-depth analysis of the relevant laws. When discussing Brightline/Virgin Trains USA fatalities, the company’s executives don’t address negligence or legal responsibility. They don’t use traditional railroad labels, such as trespassing or train strike. Other than expressing their condolences, they haven’t discussed specific accident details, at least not in a public forum.
Brightline/Virgin Trains USA executives have also mentioned during press conferences that neither operational nor human error was a factor in any accident. As corporate officials often do, these executives haven’t acknowledged any degree of responsibility. Instead, they focus on warnings and victim safety issues.
- Brightline/Virgin Trains USA has consistently named suicide as the primary accident cause.
- The company focuses on rail crossing safety issues and suicide prevention.
- The company has formed a collaboration with Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety and education organization.
- The company plans to install stronger warnings at crossings, drone notifications, and other enhanced safety measures.
How many of the recent train deaths were suicides?
A recent NPR article quoted a Brightline/Virgin Trains executive’s statement claiming that suicides caused 75 percent of the rail line’s deaths. The author of the article found an inconsistency when comparing this figure with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 30 percent suicide rate. Although trains are a known method for suicide, Brightline/Virgin Trains USA has never explained how it arrived at the 75 percent number. Representatives have never explained the company’s criteria for designating a death as a suicide.
Railroad companies often label non-passenger casualties as trespassers or suicides. The Department of Transportation has studied railway deaths for years, and the agency remains uncertain regarding suicide causation. Before the agency reaches a Trespasser Intent Determination, it requires a state coroner or medical examiner’s (ME’s) assessment. Even then, the agency feels that the standards vary nationwide depending on who is making the judgment call. MEs often have extensive medical backgrounds. Coroners are usually elected and not subject to the same high medical standards as a medical examiner. It makes a difference in determining if a railroad death was a suicide or a matter of bad timing.
What is the issue with trespassers?
When the Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics use the term “trespasser,” it’s often complicated and ambiguous. As the FRA explains, a trespasser is a person anywhere on the train’s right of way. It further defines trespassers as: “Persons who are on the part of railroad property used in railroad operation and whose presence is prohibited, forbidden, or unlawful.”
This definition is simple, but broad enough to include anyone on the railroad tracks when a train is coming. That’s why railroad accident records list so many injured trespassers. It suggests that if a person is injured or killed while on train property or is the victim of a trespasser strike, the railroad isn’t liable. As with trespassers in premises liability situations, the train company owes no duty of care to trespassers, as they generally have no right to be on the railroad in the first place.
Florida law avoids using the hot-button word: trespasser. Rather, the law explains railroad trespassing using the terms “unauthorized person” and “person without permission.” The law also ties authorization and permission to criminal acts, such as vandalism, to ensure that the meaning is clear.
What is a trespasser strike?
The term is sometimes used by government agencies and railroads to describe a train accident involving a trespasser. Amtrak’s “Stay Off The Tracks” website describes the term from a passenger’s point of view: “If you are on board an Amtrak train during a ‘Trespasser Strike’ it means someone has failed to yield the right of way to the moving train, resulting in a collision.”
Are Brightline/Virgin Trains USA trains safe for passengers?
Neither the railroad company nor the media have released any information concerning train passenger casualties. In a few instances, the train crew relocated passengers to other cars to avoid the post-crash confusion. Following an accident, TV 6 reported that passengers exited a train through its windows after a crash in Pompano Beach. Some commuters also reported feeling a “bump” when the crash occurred. As in other reported Brightline/Virgin Trains USA train accidents, passengers experienced mostly inconvenience due to lengthy delays.
What are the specific safety issues for non-passengers?
Whether a person crosses a grade as a driver, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian, that individual will likely encounter several safety issues, including:
- Train speed: Higher-speed trains travel faster than the trains that residents are used to encountering. Train executives have explained that people can’t determine a train’s speed, which makes it difficult for vehicle operators, bicyclists, and pedestrians to assess the danger. As a Miami New Times article explained, “[m]any of the casualties were caused by a fatal miscalculation.” Victims often underestimate how fast a train was approaching and how much time they had to cross the tracks.
- Railroad crossings: Grade crossings have never been a safe way to get from one section of a street to another. Although train companies talk about pedestrians and motorists crossing their paths, it’s actually the other way around. Trains are massive, dangerous machines. They cut off the most direct path of travel for people who simply want to go to work, go shopping, attend social events or just go home. Grade crossings have always been dangerous, but some trains follow a different model. In some areas, communities and railroads build infrastructure that separates trains from people and motorists. Such infrastructure development is an expensive alternative, but provides immeasurable safety benefits. Thus, at least some communities are giving human life priority over speed and profits.
- Inadequate protection: Since the 1890s, railroad companies have relied on flashing lights and flimsy gates to prevent accidents with dangerous trains. These devices have never provided protection or enough of an obstruction to stop a driver who wanted to get through. This was originally a problem for horse-drawn wagons and carriages. As with today’s drivers, a lowered train gate merely presented an inconvenience. This website shares text from vintage news articles that document the centuries-old concern of train safety. One 1895 account from the Western Sentinel, out of Winston-Salem, NC, describes a buggy driver who ignored the warnings and “drove directly in front of the train.” The train was only traveling 35 mph, but it fatally injured all five passengers and two horses. Apparently, not much has changed since then.
Should You Discuss a Train Accident With a North Miami Beach Train Accident Attorney?
If you were hurt in a train accident, or your loved one was fatally injured in such an accident, definitely discuss your legal rights with a personal injury attorney. Train accidents involve complex railroad right-of-way and trespass issues. Companies like Brightline/Virgin Trains USA follow the railroad tradition of victim-blaming and suicide allegations in the wake of an accident. Such companies rarely examine the overwhelming danger that higher-speed trains bring into communities.
When you consult an attorney about a train accident, you don’t have to commit to making a claim or filing a lawsuit. A consultation provides you with an informal opportunity to share your story. A personal injury attorney listens to you, provides honest feedback, and discusses your legal options.
Get Help Today
South Florida train accidents cause devastating and catastrophic injuries, even death. The negligent parties can vary, depending on the type of accident, and they often include more than one party. This makes for a very complex personal injury case, but that should not deter you from working hard to hold the negligent parties liable for your injuries. You deserve aggressive legal representation; your attorney should work hard to protect your rights and maximize your financial recovery.
Train accidents are often devastating, and working with the right lawyer can help bring you comfort during an otherwise difficult time.
We regularly fight for victims of train accident injuries, just like you. We are eager for the opportunity to show you how we can help.
Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman have the experience that your case demands, combined with the compassion and understanding you need given your situation. With offices in across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group or Sibley Dolman at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or contact us online today.
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP
1820 NE 163rd St #306,
North Miami Beach, FL 33162
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