Between freight trains, Amtrack, TriRail, and now the Brightline, train activity in Broward County has never been more impactful, but that also means a more significant number of train-related accidents.
If you’ve been injured while on a train or had a train-related accident, you’re entitled to compensation for your injuries. The railroad injury lawyers at Pompano Beach’s Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. will represent you on a contingency basis. That means that you do not have to pay out of pocket for our professional legal services. Whether you were an employee on the railways at the time of your injury, a passenger, or a motor vehicle driver, if you were injured in a train-related accident, we can help. Call today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
The Dangers of Trains
While essential to the local, state, and national economy, trains represent significant dangers. Just the locomotive portion of a train can weigh up to 286,000 pounds. This makes it more than three times as heavy as a loaded tractor-trailer before you begin to add additional cars.
At 55 mph, a train can require more than a mile of track and over a full minute of time to come to a stop. Even at lower speeds, the sheer mass of the train makes it dangerous for any vehicles in its way. However, not all train accidents involve collisions.
Types of Train Accidents
These are a few of the most common types of accidents our personal injury lawyers see involving train accidents around South Florida.
Train vs. Motor Vehicle
This usually involves a vehicle that is stuck on the tracks due to stopped traffic in front of them, but in some instances, the vehicle stalls.
Train vs. Pedestrian
Unfortunately, gate arms are only placed at intersections. Pedestrians sometimes try to cross at different points along the rail line.
The U.S. averages more than 1,700 derailments every year. This is not only extremely dangerous for everyone on the train but also for any person or vehicle near the area of the track where it occurs.
Passenger and Employee Slip and Falls
When a train stops or accelerates, the passengers and items within the train are subject to the laws of physics. In other words, they resist moving forward when accelerating or continue to move forward when stopping. Acceleration, stopping, and gradual turns can cause passengers to lose balance, cargo to fall, etc.
Injuries at Railroad Stations and Platforms
Platforms are the raised areas directly adjacent to the tracks. This is the site of many injuries. Typically the platform sits three or four feet higher than the tracks, which means that if a passenger falls forward, injury is likely, even if the train is miles away. If a train happens to be arriving, this type of accident is rarely survivable.
If you’ve been injured in one of these common accidents or your loved one has died in a train-related accident, contact Long, Jean & Wechsler to discuss your case. We can offer immediate representation on a contingency basis.
Compensation in Railroad Injury Cases
The state of Florida recognizes three types of damages in railroad accident cases. Economic and non-economic damages are compensatory in nature. Punitive damages are non-compensatory. Here is a breakdown of each type of damage available in a railway injury case.
This category of compensable damages includes all medical bills, including anticipated medical bills, loss of income and future income, property damage, and any other financial outlay you may incur as a result of the train accident.
In the event of a wrongful death claim, economic damages can also include the cost of the funeral, medical expenses the deceased accrued prior to death, loss of financial support, etc. There are no caps for economic damages in Florida.
These damages seek to compensate the plaintiff for the intangible costs of a train accident. For example, non-economic damages include physical pain, emotional trauma, and inconvenience. When a loved one dies, non-economic damages can also include loss of consortium. There are no caps on this type of compensatory damages in the state of Florida.
In some cases, the court will award punitive damages to the plaintiff. For example, if the train operator, maintenance crew, or company demonstrated extreme negligence in the maintenance or operation of the train, the court might award punitive damages.
In Florida, punitive damages are capped at either $500,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
Rail Employee Train Accidents
Railroad employees have the right to sue for injuries sustained as a result of a train-related accident. These rights are enumerated in the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
What is FELA?
FELA is a federal law that was instituted in 1908 to protect the rights of rail workers. It allows the employee to pursue damages against the rail company even in cases when the employee was partially negligent. If the employee did have contributory negligence, their damages may be reduced by the proportion of that negligence.
Types of FELA Cases
Common FELA cases include injuries from collisions, mechanical breakdowns, chemical spills, and burns. It also covers repetitive stress injuries and cumulative trauma disorders, like hearing loss, carpal tunnel syndrome, musculoskeletal conditions that develop over time, and more.
Types of Compensation Pursuant to the FELA
While many compare FELA claims to workers’ compensation, it’s not an accurate comparison. There are no limits on the amount of compensatory damages that a rail worker can claim or win in a lawsuit. FELA claim damages can include:
- Past and future medical expenses related to your injury
- Past and future lost earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of capacity or physical disability
If you are a rail employee injured in a work-related accident, you must hire a lawyer with experience in FELA claims. Contact Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. today.
What You Should Do If Injured in a Train Accident
The type of accident or injury you’ve sustained will dictate your next steps. However, many injured parties benefit from the following tips.
- Get to a Safe Place – Avoid secondary accidents, and if there is a fire or chemical spill, you may need to create distance.
- Report Your Injury – If you’re a passenger, let someone on the staff know that you’ve sustained an injury.
- Call First Responders – Do your best to provide the exact location. The dispatcher will also need to know if any of the cars have placards that indicate hazardous materials are inside. Additionally, they will need to know the number of vehicles involved, the number of injured, and the severity of injuries. If the injury took place inside a rail car, let them know your location and seat number within the train.
- Take Pictures – If it’s safe, use your phone to document the scene as it looks at the moment. Take images of damaged vehicles, visible injuries, debris, geographic indicators, etc.
- Get Medical Attention – Even if you’ve only had a minor fall inside of the car, be sure to follow up with your doctor. If EMTs respond, follow their recommendations.
- Contact a Train Injury Attorney – If you accept a settlement without first speaking to a lawyer, you may be substantially limiting your financial recovery. You also will be required to sign a waiver, which means you can’t pursue damages for the same claim in the future.
Broward Attorneys for Rail Injuries
If you’ve been injured by a train, while working on a train, or at a train station, the personal injury lawyers Long, Jean & Wechsler can represent you on a contingency basis. Call today for a free case evaluation.