Train travel is overwhelmingly safe... for passengers.
The most likely way to be injured or killed in a train accident is if you’re in a vehicle on train tracks, or as a pedestrian.
That’s exactly what happened on a late June afternoon in Brentwood. An Amtrak train was traveling in a rural area of East Contra Costa County when it passed through an intersection that did not have crossing gates. The train collided with a passenger car carrying five occupants. One adult and one child in the car were airlifted to an area hospital with major injuries and the other three people died. None of the 89 passengers or crew aboard the train was injured.
Evidence obtained at the scene shows that the crossing had a stop sign on each side of the road but no gate arms to warn a driver that a train was approaching. The fire marshal told CNN that it wasn’t the first crash he’d seen at that location. He indicated that trains are permitted to travel up to 80 miles per hour in that area, which means they approach quickly and wouldn’t be able to brake fast enough to prevent a crash. (source)
Just a day later, a similar crash happened in Missouri. An Amtrak train collided with a dump truck, and it caused the train to derail. In that instance, three people died and dozens were injured. It was also an uncontrolled intersection with no signal lights or guard arms.
Amtrak said in a statement that crossing on railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths.
What are an injured person’s legal rights after a California train accident?
If you’ve been injured in a train accident, as a passenger, railroad employee, pedestrian, car or truck driver, bicyclist or bystander, you might have the option to file a lawsuit against a negligent party.
The basis for personal injury law is that the plaintiff (injured person) is entitled to be made whole, or to recover financial compensation to restore them to the position they would be in if the accident hadn’t happened, if the defendant is liable for their injuries.
Who are potential defendants in a train accident case?
This can be complicated. There could be a single person who’s at fault for a crash, or it could be a company or a government agency. It’s also possible that there’s more than one defendant.
Possible defendants in a train accident include (but are not limited to):
- The train operator (for example, Amtrak);
- The driver of a vehicle involved in a crash on the tracks; and
- The agency responsible for maintaining the tracks (often this is a federal government agency).
The first step in determining whether you have a lawsuit is to contact a California lawyer who can review the evidence and determine who are the liable parties. This is likely not something you can determine on your own because it will require a deep dive into railroad and train company records and other documents that your lawyer will need to obtain from the involved parties.
How much can I recover in compensation for a California train accident?
The amount you recover will always be based on the severity of your injuries.
If you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury, brain injury, or another severe outcome, you could be entitled to a high amount of damage compensation.
Remember this: Defendants like large railroad companies and government agencies have deep pockets to make claims “disappear.” They have teams of lawyers and robust insurance policies to cover accidents like the one you experienced. But that doesn’t mean they want to pay out a million-dollar settlement (or multi-million dollar settlement) to cover the cost of your injuries.
Instead, they will offer the bare minimum that they think you would accept in order to take your settlement and move on. However, once you accept a settlement, you can’t go back for more when the money runs out—and if you’ve experienced serious injuries that would require ongoing or long-term care, or if you’ve been left with a disability that requires additional therapies or devices, or if you are unable to return to work because of your injuries, then you likely don’t know how much your injury will cost not just now, but in the future.
It’s the role of your train accident lawyer to advocate for you. The team at MVP is experienced and knowledgeable about how to calculate the value of your claim. We’ll take into account the medical treatment costs you’ve already accrued, but also your future medical needs related to your injuries, your lost earning capacity, additional costs like childcare or housekeeping, and your pain and suffering or mental anguish as related to the crash.