Trains are wonderful for travel or transport, but when there are accidents, they are bad accidents. Railroads are considered common carriers. They have a duty to operate trains in a way that keeps drivers, pedestrians, and others safe from harm. There are more than 600 railroads and an estimated 130,000 miles of train tracks in the United States rail system. It is not surprising that railroad accidents happen often. Accidents happen at railroad crossings. They can also be due to derailments and equipment failures. Train accidents are extremely dangerous and often fatal. Railway and train accidents are extremely complex, so if you have been injured in a train accident, you should consult an experienced Tampa Train Accident Lawyer at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman as soon as possible.
Common Causes of Railroad Accidents
If you are injured in a train accident, it is important to know the cause of the collision. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, collisions or derailments cause the most serious train accident injuries. Two trains may collide, or a train may collide with a motor vehicle at a marked or unmarked railroad crossing. Derailment means that the train comes off the track. The tracks, the equipment, and individual negligence can all contribute to derailments. In some cases, even the weather can contribute to a derailment. Accidents often occur at railroad crossings, when a driver tries to hurry across ahead of the train. These crashes are a risk to all passengers of the train and the car, but also those passing by. Train accidents happen for all kinds of reasons, but some of the most common causes of railroad accidents include:
- Train derailment
- Train conductor error. An error by the engineer is the first and usual cause of many serious wrecks, and it can range from traveling too fast to running through a red signal. Distraction is also a problem.
- Collisions with other trains
- A train involved in a truck accident in Tampa
- A train involved in a car accident in Tampa
- Mechanical failures. A defective train part can cause a malfunction, and a bad crossing gate at an intersection can allow vehicles onto the tracks when trains are coming.
- Problems with the track. Track problems are a common cause of train derailment. The railroad company is responsible for making sure the track is in good condition. Problems may include simple wear and tear as well as stress fractures and deformation of the track itself. Stalled vehicles on the track
- Signal defects. A train track signal can fail to alert the engineer, which can lead to a deadly crash.
- Faulty railroad crossings. More than 80 percent of crossings lack proper warning devices. Even if there is a warning device, the crossing lights or crossing gate may fail to activate. More than half of all railroad accidents occur at unprotected crossings.
- Failure to properly maintain railroad tracks. Broken tracks continue to be a leading cause of train derailments. Broken tracks caused two different crashes.
Train Accident Injuries
According to a Forbes report, one person is hit by a train every three hours. There were 98 highway-rail grade crossing collisions and 12 deaths in Florida during one recent year. Trains are massive vehicles, so a collision with a vehicle, another train, or a pedestrian can cause severe injuries or fatalities. Depending on the circumstances, those involved may suffer catastrophic injuries. Some of the most common injuries that result from a train accident include:
- Spinal cord injuries: These injuries can lead to partial or full paralysis.
- Traumatic brain injuries: Traumatic brain injuries can range from a mild concussion to a coma. Someone who has a TBI may have physical problems, headaches, and speech impairments, as well as other cognitive and behavioral issues. A severe traumatic brain injury can be fatal.
- Crush injuries: Damaged train parts or other heavy objects such as falling luggage, can crush an individual. These injuries usually require extensive medical care.
- Back injuries: Train accident victims often suffer painful back injuries.
- Burns: High-speed collisions can result in explosions. The injured victims may suffer severe burns and permanent scarring.
Parties Who May Be Liable for Train Accidents
When a train collision or other railroad accident occurs, there may be several different parties who can be held liable for injuries and damages, including:
- The railroad company: The railroad company may be responsible if it fails to perform the duties required by law, such as inadequate maintenance, poor driver training, or failing to sound the train’s whistle.
- The train engineer: If the train engineer’s negligent or unsafe actions contributed to the accident, they might be liable. For example, the driver may have disregarded safety protocol or operated the train while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The manufacturer: If the train’s equipment malfunctions, the train manufacturer may be liable.
- The company responsible for maintaining the tracks: Poorly maintained tracks may have led to the accident.
- The company responsible for crossing gates, lighting and other signals
- The municipality where the collision occurred.
- A driver or pedestrian: Under certain circumstances, the driver of a vehicle may be partly responsible. For example, train accidents sometimes occur when a driver goes around the railroad gates.
Who Regulates Railroads?
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is responsible for regulating railroad companies in the United States. They make the applicable laws and enforce them. When an accident resulting in injuries or fatalities occurs, railroads must complete Federal Railroad Administration Form 55a. The FRA then completes a formal investigation into the incident. Evidence suggests some railroads are more likely to have an accident than others. According to the FRA records, Brightline trains (Virgin Trains) have killed 40 people, or one death for every 29,000 miles traveled, during the last few years. Nationwide, most railroads average one death every 100,000 miles.
Evidence in Tampa Railroad Accidents
If you have been involved in a train accident, the first thing to do is to obtain immediate medical attention. Some injuries do not show symptoms until hours or days later, so it is important to get medical care. Medical records also document your injuries and provide valuable evidence for any future legal action. If possible, preserve any evidence you can, such as taking pictures of the scene of the accident. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requires railroad companies to maintain strict records and required equipment. In the event of an accident, these records and equipment provide a wealth of information that helps determine what happened, fault, and liability. Possible evidence includes:
- Video. Most trains have video recordings of everything that happens at the front of the train.
- Audio recordings. While operating the train, engineers maintain radio contact with their operations department. This helps them relay important information and prepare for emergencies. Most companies record these audio communications.
- Event data recorder (EDR). The Event Data Recorder (EDR) records critical technical information, such as speed, the use of brakes and horns, and other information that may help determine liability. It is similar to the FDR (little black box) used on most airplanes.
- Dispatch records. Dispatch officers are required to keep detailed records of the trains they monitor. They communicate with train engineers and other dispatchers to ensure that trains do not collide.
Wrongful Death After a Train Accident
If your loved one died as a result of a railway accident, you might be able to file a wrongful death claim. If you were named Personal Representative of the estate, you can act on behalf of that person’s estate. Survivors who can recover wrongful death damages include the surviving spouse, the minor children, and adult children. When there is no surviving spouse, each parent of a deceased minor child, and the parents of an adult child may also recover. The estate can recover the following types of damages:
- Loss of net accumulations (i.e., what the jury believes the decedent would have had left in his estate)
- Lost earnings
- Medical and funeral expenses
The survivors may recover damages for:
- Lost financial support
- The loss of the decedent’s care and companionship
- Pain and suffering
- Medical, funeral and burial expenses
Compensation for a Tampa Train Accident
If you have been injured in a train accident, under Florida law, you are entitled to seek compensation for your injuries. Each situation is different. Many factors affect the value of a personal injury claim, but damages may include:
- Medical costs: These include surgical procedures, office visits, physical therapy, rehabilitation, medication, and adaptive devices.
- Emergency care: Train accidents may require emergency response services, including helicopter transport to the hospital.
- 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.
- Loss of wages: You have probably lost time and wages because of your accident. Time loss includes the time of the accident and any time lost as a result of treatment or recovery from your injuries. In some cases, the victim may be awarded damages for the loss of future earnings.
- Vocational rehabilitation: Depending on the requirements of your job, you may not be able to return to your previous occupation. A traumatic brain injury may affect your ability to concentrate or perform your old job. You may need retraining to obtain a new type of employment.
- Home modifications: Injuries may make it difficult for the victim to live in his or her current home. They may be unable to climb the stairs or get in and out of the bath without home modifications.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering generally refer to both physical pain and emotional distress. An injured person may suffer from depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.
- Loss of consortium: Loss of consortium occurs when the victim of an accident is no longer able to participate in activities that they typically would in a relationship. This typically refers to the relationship between a married couple. This can include loss of earning capacity, loss of companionship, or loss of affection, including sexual relations.
- 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: The purpose of punitive damages is to punish defendants whose willful or intentional harm caused the injuries. The court may award punitive damages if, for example, a railroad acted with malice or intentionally violated railroad regulations.
The federal government limits damages that can you can recover in major train crashes. The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act (ARAA), passed in 1997, caps payments at $200 million per incident.
FELA Claims for Train Accident Injuries
If you are a railroad worker who has been injured in a train accident, the process for you is different from other train accident victims. An injured railroad worker must file a FELA claim. The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) was enacted to protect injured rail workers, similar to Worker’s Compensation. The primary difference between a FELA claim and workers’ compensation is the question of fault or negligence. These issues do not come into play in workers’ compensation cases. However, if a railroad worker files a FELA claim, they must prove that the employer’s negligence caused the accident and resulted in your injuries. The employer might be negligent if they failed to train their employees, provide them with the necessary equipment, or implement safety precautions.
Tampa Train Accident FAQ
A train accident can leave you with serious injuries and possibly result in the loss of a loved one. The speed at which train travel makes safety precautions paramount for preventing derailments and collisions with cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Distracted engineers and mechanical failures in warning systems can have catastrophic and sometimes deadly consequences for innocent victims. If your train travel turned tragic or if you lost a loved one at the hands of a negligent train engineer, you should consider contacting a personal injury lawyer without delay.
How do most Tampa train accidents occur?
Human error is a common contributor to many train accidents. An engineer who speeds places passengers at risk for serious injuries if the train derails. Other causes of train derailments include:
- The engineer’s failure to comply with signal indicators.
- Shoving movements known as blind shoves.
- Improper inspection and lining of switches.
- Passed coupler derailments—when train cars do not couple correctly and the crew fails to notice.
Train accidents can also result from the same reckless behaviors as many car accidents. In addition to speeding, distracted and drunk driving are among the dangerous behaviors some engineers engage in that lead to train accidents. Their recklessness is unacceptable and a personal injury attorney can pursue justice—and possible compensation—for you. Holding those responsible for your injuries accountable for their reckless actions may prevent future accidents. When a train strikes a vehicle, bicyclists, or pedestrians, mechanical issues or a lack of safety devices play have a role. Examples of how these types of accidents occur include:
- Malfunctioning alarms and gates at railroad crossings.
- A lack of secure fencing along railroad tracks.
- Unsafe pedestrian bridges and gates.
Investigating your train accident is one thing a personal injury attorney can help you with. Let an attorney handle the details of your case, including investigating and identifying all parties responsible for your injuries. The attorney can then help you proceed with a civil claim or lawsuit. Pursuing civil action for your injuries is your right under Florida law. Building a solid case for compensation takes time. The sooner you contact a personal injury attorney, the sooner they can get to work on your behalf.
What are the most common types of Tampa train accident injuries?
One of the nation’s deadliest trains is the Brightline, based in South Florida. This privately-owned train operates at speeds of up to 79 miles per hour and killed 40 people within its first two years of operation. The deaths occurred at crossings and along the track. The Brightline train is drawing the ire of critics who want tougher safety measures in place for the fast train. While not all train accidents result in death, those who survive are often left with serious injuries, including: Spinal cord injuries – A serious spinal cord injury often results in paralysis. Most patients need a power chair for mobility, home modifications, and accessible transportation after their injury. A spinal cord injury can cost millions of dollars throughout the patient’s lifetime. The loss of sensation and movement can also have an emotional toll and lead to depression. If you or a loved one experienced a spinal cord injury in a train accident and you were not at fault, you may want to contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options. Traumatic brain injuries – A bump, blow, or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury can change your life, or that of your loved one, forever. A traumatic brain injury disrupts normal brain function. This affects:
- Cognitive function: Thinking and reasoning skills.
- Motor function: Movement, muscle coordination, muscle strength, and balance.
- Sensation: Hearing, vision, taste, and touch.
- Behavior/emotions: Often leading to outbursts of anger and depression.
Your loved one may never enjoy their favorite meal again, or they may require around-the-clock care. Placing them in a care facility away from home is emotionally difficult. It is also expensive. The average cost of a skilled nursing facility in Florida is between $8,000 and $9,000 per month. This expense illustrates your need to pursue a personal injury case. Your loved one deserves quality care for their injuries. The money required for paying for this type of care should not come from your or your loved one’s pockets. When someone experiences a traumatic brain injury due to no fault of their own, they deserve—and need—fair compensation. Internal injuries – One of the most dangerous types of injuries is internal bleeding. This is particularly dangerous because they lack visible warning signs or symptoms. An internal injury is why accepting medical transport following a train accident is a good idea. Only a medical professional using imaging equipment can properly diagnose you. Other examples of serious injuries include broken bones, burns, and a loss of limbs. While no one likes to think about the tragic consequences of a violent train crash, the injuries that result are all too real. Pursuing civil action is your opportunity for justice and for possible financial compensation. If your claim is successful, you may receive an award for one or more of the following:
- Medical costs, including medical transport, hospital fees, and doctors’ fees.
- Ongoing costs such as rehabilitation, physical therapy, and medications.
- Lost wages from time away from work.
- Diminished earning capacity—if your injuries prevent you from working the same job as before.
- Pain and suffering.
Concentrating on feeling better is your top priority. Leaving legal matters to an experienced personal injury attorney is your best option for obtaining the best possible outcome of your case.
My loved one died in a train accident. Can I sue?
If you lost a loved one in a train accident, you may be entitled to filing a wrongful death lawsuit. No amount of money can fill the void left by your loved one’s death. But financial compensation for your loss can help ease your stress involving medical bills, funeral costs, and loss of income. Your relationship with the decedent is important for determining whether you qualify to file a wrongful death case. Losing a loved one in such a tragic situation, and learning that their death was preventable is devastating. A wrongful death lawsuit can help hold those liable for your loss accountable for their negligence. Wrongful death law is quite challenging and best left to a personal injury attorney. Their experience with families during times of tragedy is invaluable to you and your family during this difficult time. If you lost a close loved one in a train accident that was due to human or mechanical failure, consider reaching out to a personal injury attorney today.
Insurance company representatives want to speak with me. Should I meet with them?
No! No matter how friendly or helpful the insurance company representatives seem, do not speak with them. Most insurance companies like to settle claims quickly and for the least amount of money possible. Your medical bills and time away from work likely weigh heavily on your mind as you deal with doctors’ appointments and procedures, and an initial settlement offer can seem like an appealing proposal to you and your family. While accepting the offer may serve as a quick fix to your financial stress, it is most likely not enough to cover your future medical care costs. During the time you are healing from your injuries or your time of grief is no time to try to negotiate for a larger settlement on your own. Negotiating with an insurance company requires skill, found only with an experienced personal injury attorney. Most attorneys are knowledgeable of the tactics insurance companies use to deny or to delay payment. Some insurance companies may even go as far as to suggest the accident was your fault. You do not need the added stress of insurance company representatives pressuring you to accept less than you deserve. Secure legal representation as soon as possible and let your attorney handle the insurance company representatives. By placing your trust in their legal services, you can better concentrate on your health, recovery, or the grieving process.
I have lots of time to contact an attorney, right?
Wrong! Contacting a personal injury attorney is an important first step after your train accident. Your attorney needs time to review evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare for negotiations with insurance companies. As with your injuries, there is no immediate solution to your financial stress. Most personal injury claims are settled out-of-court but, if necessary, your attorney will take your case to trial. The statute of limitations is a state law that states how long you have to file a civil lawsuit after an accident. In Florida, the statute of limitations is four years for personal injury. Four years may sound like a long time, but it can pass quickly as you learn to adjust to your new normal. Whether it is the tragic loss of a loved one or a catastrophic injury, your life is now different and difficult. Do not miss your opportunity for pursuing the compensation you deserve. Continued medical costs and your future medical needs are why you should never settle for a low-dollar offer from an insurance company. If you experienced a serious injury or lost a loved one in a tragic yet preventable train accident, consider talking with an attorney. Put calling an attorney at the top of your to-do list after your train accident. You will feel better knowing your case is in good hands.
Navigating the Complex World of Train Accidents
A train accident is a complex matter when it comes to personal injury law for several reasons. Determining liability may include identifying federal or state agencies that may have been negligent and responsible for your injuries. In the case of a Brightline train accident, the liability may involve the privately-owned company. Navigating who is responsible for any type of train accident—freight or passenger—requires the skills of an experienced personal injury attorney. The right attorney will aggressively negotiate on your behalf while treating you and your family with empathy. Their experiences dealing with families in times of tragedy prepares them to handle your case with the same sensitivity. A personal injury attorney can keep you informed throughout the negotiation and, if necessary, the litigation process. No one boards a train or crosses a railroad crossing expecting to experience a life-changing injury. If this happened to you, take action to hold those responsible accountable for their reckless actions. From broken signals to distracted engineers, trains are violent forces when they get out of control. There is often nothing you can do to prepare for, or to prevent, a serious injury. Once the initial impact is over, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention. If you can do so, take pictures of the accident scene or ask a witness to help you and collect their contact information. Do not speak with anyone from the train. The time immediately following your train accident is very important. After seeking medical treatment and documenting the scene, contacting a personal injury attorney is your next essential step. Your injuries are not fair and you deserve to receive quality care. If you lost a loved one due to a train accident caused by someone else’s negligence, it is heartbreaking. Most personal injury attorneys offer free case evaluations and many attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis. This means you owe them nothing unless they secure compensation for you. The free case evaluation and the no-money-down guarantee leave you with nothing to lose. Large trains are a fun way to travel and freight trains provide a valuable service. It is when negligence is at play that these modes of transportation become powers of deadly force. Protect your financial future and consider discussing your case with a Tampa personal injury lawyer now. Time is of the essence so don’t delay. Set the wheels of justice in motion for you and your family by seeking legal representation.
Discuss Your Claim With a Tampa Train Accident Attorney
Like every other state, Florida has a statute of limitations. This law sets a limit on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in civil court against the person or entity that might be legally responsible for your injury, so don’t delay in contacting us. Train accidents are terrifying and traumatic. When dealing with the aftermath of a serious accident, such as a train crash or collision, it is important to have experienced legal representation. Located across both Florida coasts, our experienced and compassionate legal team at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman are here to answer your questions and advise you on your legal options. For a free case evaluation, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or contact us online.