When train travel goes south
Trains seem like a nice, calm way to travel, right? You get to sit and look out the window until you arrive at your destination. There are food cars that provide nice hot meals, and even beverage cars that offer lovely stiff drinks. You can watch the scenery, read a book, take a nap, play games, talk with other travelers, visit the engineers – basically, you can do whatever you’d like because you aren’t in charge.
That is, until the train gets into an accident.
You must establish cause: How did your Florida train accident happen?
If you get into a train accident, making a case for personal injury can be very difficult because you have to determine the precise cause of the collision.
The most common causes of railway accidents are usually:
- Human 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: Engineers check their cell phones, too.
- Defects in the track: Railroads undergo tremendous wear and tear, and while most of them are tested every 90 days and replaced if found deficient, they can still be worn down quickly. This is generally the most frequent cause of train derailment.
- Signal/switch malfunction: A train track signal can fail to alert the engineer, which can lead to a deadly crash.
- Equipment defects: A defective train part can cause a malfunction.
- Rail crossing malfunction: Sometimes the crossing gate or the crossing lights fail to activate, which can lead to a crash.
One estimate by Mass Transit stated that train derailments are caused in equal parts by tracks, equipment, and people. Even something as innocuous as the weather can cause a crash (the cold causes the equipment to warp, for instance).
Proving liability in Florida train accidents
A train accident, no matter whether it was a derailment or railroad crossing mishap, will require a lengthy investigation or inquiry to determine liability. These can take upward of months or years to complete, depending on how many people were involved.
The Florida Department of Transportation will likely step in and conduct this investigation, as they normally take over when there is a train derailment or crash within the state. Depending on the outcome of this inquiry, you might be able to file a lawsuit against the railroad or the company that operated the train.
Though you may be able to recover damages, there will likely be limits to your compensation.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida
As railway and train accidents can be incredibly complex, the best option is to secure the help of a personal injury or wrongful death attorney in the state of Florida. That way, you have help from the very beginning of your case.
With his or her help, you might be able to get compensation for some or all of the following:
- Past or future medical costs
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional suffering
- Disability or disfigurement (catastrophic injury)
- Wrongful death
Wrongful death after a train accident
If your loved one passed away in a railway accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. You will have two years from the date of death to file the claim, and if you were named Personal Representative by the decedent’s will, you can act on behalf of that person’s estate.
Five types of survivors can recover wrongful death damages (i.e., pain and suffering):
- The surviving spouse
- Minor children
- Adult children (when there is no surviving spouse)
- Each parent of a deceased minor child
- The parents of an adult child (when there are no other survivors)
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, meanwhile, can recover damages for:
- Lost support and services
- The loss of the decedent’s companionship, guidance, instruction and protection
- Pain and suffering
- Medical and funeral expenses (when they were paid by the survivors)
Federal law limitations on railway accident damages
For those injured in railway accidents, you should know that the federal government has placed limitations on damages that can be recovered in major train crashes.
The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act (ARAA) was passed in 1997 by President Bill Clinton, who intended it to be a comprehensive restructuring of the rail system’s legal liability. Critics say that it has shielded Amtrak and other railways from other personal injury payouts, as it caps payments at $200 million per incident.
That seems like an enormous amount of money, right? But then when you look at a major accident like the 2008 Metrolink crash that left 24 people dead and 135 injured, $200 million suddenly does not seem like enough to cover those damages for everyone.
Helpful resources to help you hire the best Florida personal injury lawyer
If you have been in a railway accident and need an attorney, you should speak with one as soon as possible. Consider sitting down with someone in the Enjuris directory – and certainly someone who is licensed within the state of Florida. There are many quirks when it comes to state law, and you want to be prepared for them.
- Choosing a personal injury attorney – interview questions
- When do you NOT need an attorney after an accident?
- Preparing to meet with a personal injury attorney
- How damages are calculated
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.