Train Accident Attorney in Palm Coast, FL
Thousands of people ride Amtrak, Brightline and Tri-Rail trains in South Florida every day. While most train rides are uneventful, some train accidents cause serious injuries due to collisions at highway crossings, derailments, falls and other accidents on trains and at stations. Federal statistics show that train accidents are on the increase in Florida.
If you are injured in an accident that was not your fault on a train or at a train station in Florida, you should have a knowledgeable attorney review the accident and discuss your legal rights. People who suffer train crash injuries caused by a train operator’s negligence or recklessness may demand full compensation for their injuries. The experienced train accident lawyers at Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant, are ready to help you pursue full compensation for your injuries and other losses from Amtrak, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Virgin Trains USA (formerly Brightline) or others.
Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant was established in 1973 and has successfully represented accident victims for more than 45 years. Our Palm Coast Brightline accident lawyers understand how and why train accidents happen and how public transportation agencies and private companies operate. We help people in Flagler County, Volusia County – including Ormond Beach – and throughout Florida recover compensation for injuries and the devastating effects of railroad accidents caused by the negligence of others.
Types of Train Accidents
The Federal Railroad Administration cites 19 train accidents in Florida from 2016 to 2018 and 12 in the first four months of 2019. A USA Today analysis of news stories, police reports and Federal Railroad Administration data found at least 76 deaths connected to Brightline train accidents and Florida East Coast Railway freight trains on Florida East Coast tracks between Miami and Jacksonville from 2015 to 2018.
There are several common types of train accidents, any of which may cause serious injury or death. They include:
- A railroad crossing accident involving a car hit by a train
- Train derailments
- Train collisions
- Falls caused by abrupt stops and starts
- Slip and fall accidents on train platforms or in train stations
- Rollaway equipment, with or without locomotives
- Exposure to hazardous material in spills during derailments or collisions.
The Federal Railroad Administration says 94 percent of rail-related injuries and fatalities occur in railroad crossing accidents. That includes people and vehicles on tracks and derailments caused by poorly maintained rail grades at crossings.
The USA Today report cites two stretches of Florida East Coast rail in Palm Beach County that it calls particularly deadly due to the number of fatal accidents that have occurred along them:
- Northeast 6th Avenue to Southeast 5th Avenue in downtown Boynton Beach
- Atlantic Avenue to just south of Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one on the Florida East Coast rail, you should talk to an experienced attorney to understand whether a train accident lawsuit is in order.
Causes of Train Accidents
When railroad accidents cause multiple injuries, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sends a multi-member investigative team and takes over most aspects of the accident site. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) also investigates approximately 100 train accidents each year, including any in which railroad employees or contractors are killed.
Any combination of human error, failure to meet or maintain safety standards, equipment failure or track obstruction may lead to a train accident and be grounds for a train accident lawsuit:
Train Operation Errors
Among 1,878 train accidents in 2018, the Federal Railroad Administration cited “human factors” as contributing to 691 accidents.
Train engineers and conductors have been found to be distracted by cellphones and impaired by fatigue, drugs and alcohol. These lead to degraded performance in:
- Train handling decisions, such as failing to act or taking improper action.
- Improper train speed, such as running too fast for a curve, rail crossing or when entering a station.
- Not braking in a timely manner when entering a station, approaching a crossing, approaching other trains.
- Number of rail cars and/or improper loading. A train’s length and weight have implications for braking and stopping.
- Signals and communication, including incorrect signaling and failing to signal or advise.
- Ensuring main track authority.
Track, Roadbed and Structure Flaws
Trains, particularly heavily loaded freight trains, can damage the infrastructure that train travel relies on simply because of weight. This means track and railroad beds must be regularly maintained. The condition of railroad tracks was cited as a factor in 29 percent of train accidents in 2018.
Mechanical and Electrical Failures
Trains, railroad signals and rail junctions run on complex mechanical and electrical systems. Signal and equipment failures were cited in 17 percent of train accidents in 2018. Mechanical and/or electrical system failures that may cause a train or rail accident may be due to malfunctions in:
- Train cars
- Coupler and draft systems
- Trailer or container on flatcar
- Track components
- Axles and journal bearings
The FRA reported “miscellaneous” causes behind the remaining 17 percent of train accidents that occurred in 2018.
Accidents also occur at train stations and platforms, particularly slip and fall and trip and fall accidents. Fall accidents may be caused by slippery or uneven surfaces that are not properly marked with warning signs or repaired in a timely manner. Those responsible for correcting the hazardous condition may be held liable.
Sometimes injuries are perpetrated by other people through violence at train stations, platforms, parking lots, as well as on trains. The company or organization that failed to make the premises secure, such as through proper lighting at night and security patrols, may have liability for an assault victim’s medical bills and losses.
What to Do If You Are Injured by a Train or Rail Company in Florida
Pursuing injury claims after a train accident can be extremely complex. Train accident investigations often involve federal agencies as well as local authorities. In a major accident, such as a derailment, forensic specialists may analyze data from multiple sources and reconstruct the accident to determine what happened.
An investigation into a major accident may take a year or more. Legal claims after a train accident that injured multiple people may be combined as a class action lawsuit.
It is best to contact an experienced Amtrak train accident lawyer at Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant in Florida as soon as possible after suffering a serious injury or the death of a loved one in a train accident. Organizations like the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority and Amtrak have published rules and notification deadlines for reporting pending claims.
Our legal team will respond promptly to ensure your rights and interests are protected. We will investigate all appropriate claims for you, including claims against local or federal government entities or others implicated by the investigators’ findings.
In the aftermath of a train accident, if you are able:
- Take photos of the accident scene. Get pictures of wreckage, your injuries and anything that may depict what happened.
- Seek medical attention. If you do not require emergency medical care, see a doctor within 24 hours. A medical exam will identify and treat your injuries and document the fact that you were injured in a train accident.
- Contact your insurance company. Doing this as soon as possible once again documents the fact that you suffered losses in an accident. Your insurance company may have a deadline for reporting an accident.
- Start saving receipts and other accident-related information. You should also keep a recovery journal. Start with writing down how the accident happened and how you were injured as soon as possible. Keep it current as you recover with detailed information about how your injuries affect your well-being and/or limit activities, such as returning to work.
Compensation Available After a Florida Train Accident Lawsuit
Florida is a no-fault insurance state. This means Floridians rely on their own insurance for initial insurance compensation after an accident. Motorists have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to pay for losses in less severe car accidents.
However, Florida law allows you to pursue a personal injury claim if your medical bills exceed $10,000 or if your injuries are more serious and include:
- Permanent and significant scarring and disfigurement
- Permanent and significant loss of an important bodily function
- Other permanent injuries
- Death of a family member.
You may be entitled to recover compensation for:
- Medical costs not covered by your insurance
- Lost income
- Diminished earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of familial relationship.
As your attorneys, we would calculate your total costs and losses and seek maximum compensation in a claim for you.
Contact Our Palm Coast Train Accident Lawyers
If you have been injured in an accident that involved Amtrak in Florida, the South Florida RTA’s Tri-Rail, or Virgin Trains USA (Brightline), contact our train accident lawyers at Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant, as soon as possible to discuss whether you have a valid train accident lawsuit.
When you work with our firm, you can be confident that we will thoroughly investigate your train accident and the extent of your losses, and aggressively pursue all compensation that you are entitled to claim. Contact us now by phone or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation that comes with no further obligations.