Trains remain a popular mode of transport in New York and nationwide, both for moving goods and transporting people. Passenger trains, especially in metropolitan areas such as New York City, are an essential part of the public transportation system. Accidents involving trains are often devastating because they may involve multiple fatalities and catastrophic or serious injuries to passengers. Whether a train strikes a pedestrian or derails, the damages can be significant.
If you have been injured in a train accident, you are very likely dealing with significant medical expenses, lost income, not to mention the physical pain and mental anguish. You and your family members probably have a number of unanswered questions at this time. Who was at fault for the accident? Who can be held accountable for your injuries and damages? What are all the expenses stemming from the accident that can be claimed?
The New York train accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm understand the physical, financial and emotional toll a train accident can take on injured victims and their families. If you have been injured in a train accident or have a lost a loved one in a train accident, please call us to find out how we can help you protect your legal rights and your best interests.
Train Accident Statistics
According to the most recent statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there were 43 fatalities between 2004 and 2013 for the Metro-North Railroad. On the Long Island Railroad, 84 deaths were reported during the same period. These fatality numbers include everything from on-board medical emergencies as well as accidents. Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad serve about 290,000 riders a week while the city’s subway system serves 6 million riders per day.
Between 2004 and 2013, there were four train accident-related deaths on Metro-North. During that time period, there were two railroad crossing deaths. On the Long Island Railroad, fatalities increased by 225 percent between 2004 and 2013. Also, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates train accidents, reports that railroad deaths nationwide went up 6 percent in 2013, to 891 from 840 in 2012.
Types of Train Accidents
Victims in train accidents may include train passengers, pedestrians and bystanders, drivers and passengers of other vehicles and railroad workers. There are several types of train accidents that may result in catastrophic injuries or even fatalities:
- Train derailment: Trains can derail due to a number of different factors including the failure to follow proper safety standards or lack of track and train maintenance. In many train derailment cases, operator negligence is also a key factor. Other common causes of derailments include faulty tracks, obstacles on tracks, faulty equipment and too much cargo weight in freight trains.
- Collisions with other vehicles: Collisions with passenger vehicles or large trucks can be devastating as well. These types of accidents are often caused by inadequate warnings at railroad crossings. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reports that more than half of all railroad accidents in the United States occur at unprotected crossings and that more than 80 percent of railroad crossings do not have adequate warning devices. Railroad crossing accidents may involve defective signals or gates, trains that fail to sound their horns when approaching crossings and trains that fail to use their lights when approaching these crossings.
- Collisions with bicycles and pedestrians: In large cities and rural areas, train collisions involving bicycles and pedestrians occur as well. These types of accidents also happen when there are inadequate warnings at railroad crossings or when pedestrians or bicyclists do not hear a train at the crossing.
- Train collisions: Train versus train accidents occur from time to time and they can be devastating. These types of accidents are mostly the result of train operators being distracted or not paying attention to signals. Fatigued train operators who fall asleep on the job also cause these types of catastrophic collisions. Although there are systems available to prevent collisions on the tracks, not all trains have them yet. The technology, which automatically applies brakes when another train or object is detected on the tracks ahead, officials say, can be cost-prohibitive.
Train Accident Injuries
The injuries that occur as the result of a train accident can be severe and varied. The nature of your injuries often depends on the type of train accident in which you were involved. For example, if you slipped and fell while walking through the aisle of a car because of a piece of bunched up carpeting, then you may suffer a sprain or strain.
However, as a victim of a train that derailed, you may suffer much more serious injuries such as broken bones, head injuries or internal organ damage. Most train accident victims end up having to deal with mounting hospital bills for the treatment of their injuries, as well as prescription drug costs, rehabilitation costs and other related expenses. Here are some of the most common injuries sustained in train accidents:
Head injuries: This may occur when you strike your head against the seat or side of the train. Head injuries in train accidents may range from concussions to traumatic brain injuries. Brain injuries often involve a lengthy recovery process that requires extensive rehabilitation and therapy.
Spinal cord trauma: Spinal injuries in train accidents can also vary. You may suffer a sprained or strained back, a herniated disc, soft tissue injuries or more severe trauma such as a broken back or even paralysis. The extent of the spinal injury will depend on the circumstances of the crash.
Broken bones: When passengers in a train are thrown around in the compartment during a collision or derailment, they may suffer multiple fractures, which require lengthy treatment, surgery or rehabilitation. In many cases, the victim may not fully recover from the fracture.
Joint injuries: Train accidents may result in joint injuries and dislocations. Joints that are often affected include hip, elbow, knee and ankle. Victims of these types of injuries may need to take significant time off from work in order to recover.
Internal injuries: Internal organ damage is also a common consequence of train accidents. Examples of these types of injuries include a ruptured spleen or punctured lung.
Loss of limbs: Amputations are also frequent examples of the catastrophic injuries suffered by victims of train accidents.
Psychological issues: Many victims of such traumatic incidents tend to suffer from psychological issues including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Many are affected emotionally because of their physical disabilities, scarring or disfigurement.
Liable Parties in Train Accidents
There are a number of parties that can be held liable for injuries or fatalities caused by train accidents.
Train operator: The railroad has a duty to ensure that their trains are being operated safely. A railroad’s duties may include ensuring that the engineers and conductors operating a train have proper training to do so. It is also the responsibility of the railroad to make sure that train’s crew is not distracted, fatigued or impaired while on duty. Trains should operate within the speed limit and locomotives should be properly maintained at all times. The railroad company that operates the train can also be held liable for negligent employee hiring and/or negligent employee retention if a driver with a poor record caused the accident.
Railroad company: Trains often travel on railway lines owned by other railroad companies. A railroad company that owns the track line also owns the right-of-way which is the width of land on either side of the track. So, the company has a duty to properly install and maintain lights and gates at street-level crossings, and ensure that approaching motorists have clear lines of sight by removing obstructions such as trees or shrubbery and properly maintain the tracks.
Train manufacturer: A number of electrical and mechanical systems play critical roles in train safety. Important components in trains include headlights, warning lights, bells and horns, brake systems, coupling mechanisms between freight cars and communication systems. Any improper manufacturing or design of these key components may result in a devastating accident. The manufacturer of the system or of the failed components can be held liable in such cases.
What is Your Accident Claim Worth?
The value of your train accident case is usually dependent on the nature and extent of your injuries. First, it is important to assess the extent of your personal injuries. Your claim will include the cost of medical treatment you have received and also the cost of the medical care you are expected to need in the future. For example, you may need surgeries and/or rehabilitation to recover completely from your injuries. You may even need cosmetic surgery for scarring or other types of disfigurement. Your accident claim will also include all the work time you lost, whether it’s a few weeks or months. If your injuries are catastrophic, you may even be looking at permanently losing your ability to work or earn a livelihood.
In some cases, you may not be able to return to work in the same capacity. In such situations, you may be able to seek lost future income and benefits as well. Your claim should also include compensation for pain and suffering – the physical pain and emotional anguish you experienced after the accident. You may wonder how you would put a dollar amount on the depression, fear or anxiety you and your loved ones suffered as a result of the accident.
An experienced New York train accident lawyer will be able to help calculate these types of noneconomic damages. Injured train accident victims are routinely able to seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, hospitalization, rehabilitation, permanent injury, disability, past and future pain and suffering, etc. Families of deceased train accident victims may seek compensation by filing a wrongful death claim.
What Steps Can You Take?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a New York train accident, it is important that you seek medical attention right away. Getting prompt medical attention and treatment will help get you on the road to recovery and give you the best shot at a speedy and full recovery. If possible, get as many photographs as you can of the accident scene. Get contact information for fellow travelers and eyewitnesses. Save your train ticket. This will help prove that you were on the train and were injured while traveling.
Keep track of all your expenses including hospital bills, surgery costs, time away from work, etc. Keep records of all the losses you sustained as a result of the accident and injuries. Maintain a journal about your recovery process. Do contact an experienced New York train accident attorney who will remain on your side, fight for your rights and ensure that you are fairly and fully compensated for all your injuries, damages and losses. Train accident investigations often take months or even years to be completed. An experienced injury lawyer will be able to stay on top of the official investigation and make sure that your best interests are protected throughout the process.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured or if you have lost a loved one in a train accident, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options. For over 43 years our skilled personal injury lawyers have been helping injured victims get fair compensation for their losses. In one of our train accident cases, our client was awarded a $3,222,000 verdict.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:
1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
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