Fort Lauderdale Train Accident Lawyers
With over 600 railroads in the United States and thousands of miles of railroad track, train accidents are shockingly common. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) data, 2,230 highway-rail grade crossing crashes occurred in a recent year, with 294 railroad crossing fatalities. In Florida, 136 collisions caused 25 deaths and 62 injuries. Brightline, a privately owned rail service in Florida, has a high rate of fatalities. Since Brightline launched, on average more than one person a month has been killed on the tracks, in a car, on a bike, or on foot. The Associated Press has called it the nation’s deadliest railroad. Lawsuits for injuries resulting from train accidents can be very complicated. That is why you should consult a Fort Lauderdale train accident attorney at the Levin Firm to discuss your legal options.
What are the nine most common causes of Fort Lauderdale train accidents?
- Conductor error. Inexperienced or poorly trained conductors may make devastating mistakes. Another common problem for both new and experienced conductors is fatigue. They may be under pressure from supervisors or employers, but fatigue affects their judgment.
- Railway negligence. This may be the fault of many people, from the train company itself to an employee. An operator failed to turn on a signal light, or a crossing arm malfunctions. In some cases, equipment manufacturers are at fault. Railroads may be using old, outdated technology because they do not want to invest in an upgrade. For example, Congress required certain trains to implement a system of train control technology called Positive Train Control (PTC) by the end of 2018. However, approximately two-thirds of U.S. commuter railroads did not comply with the requirement. Therefore, the safety technology is installed on 45 percent of tracks owned by freight railroads and 24 percent of tracks owned by passenger railways.
- Failure to properly maintain and inspect trains, equipment, or rails
- Mechanical failure. Trains are large machines with complex systems and many moving parts. All of the different systems must work together perfectly to provide locomotive and electric power. If some piece of guidance equipment (such as a rail switch) or safety equipment (such as a rail signal) fails, it can cause a deadly accident.
- Distracted pedestrians or motorists. Distraction is a primary cause of all kinds of accidents. Pedestrians or motorists may be eating or drinking, texting, or making or answering a phone call. Reckless drivers, walkers, or bicyclists may stand on or cross the tracks at the wrong time and cause a serious accident. Some drivers or pedestrians attempt to outrun the railroad crossings and cross the tracks.
- Speeding. Trains may be traveling at unsafe speeds, which is always a dangerous practice.
- Obstruction. An object on the tracks can cause a deadly train derailment. Conductors may fail to see the obstruction in time to stop or fail to see it entirely.
- Shifting or overweight cargo.
- Inspection or maintenance violations.
What are the most common Fort Lauderdale train accident scenarios?
Train accidents can occur under a wide range of circumstances. A passenger or pedestrian can slip and fall on a train, or tracks. However, most serious injuries and fatalities from train accidents are from collisions or derailments.
Others may include:
- A collision between a train and a motor vehicle. People tend to assume that the car is always at fault, but railroad companies have a duty to minimize the risks of a crash with a motor vehicle. Railroad companies must maintain a safe crossing whenever a railroad intersects with a road. Any guard arms must be in good working order, the area should be clear of foliage, and the incline not too steep so that the driver has a clear view of the tracks.
- Train-to-train collisions. Head-on collisions between two trains are usually cataclysmic simply because when two enormous vehicles crash, damages are likely to be severe.
- A collision between a train and a pedestrian or bicyclist. Pedestrians and bicyclists are often hurt or killed at unprotected crossings. In a recent year, a Brightline train hit and injured a pedestrian. It was the fourth time that year that Brightline had hit a pedestrian or bicyclist.
- A railroad worker injuries. Working in and around trains can be extremely hazardous. The railroad company can be liable for unsafe conditions that lead to worker injury.
- Derailments. A derailment is when a train runs off its rail. Common causes of derailments include conductor error, mechanical track failure, broken rails, defective wheels, or colliding with an object. Derailments often cause serious injuries or death.
Who can cause your Fort Lauderdale train accident injuries?
The train companies are common carriers, which means that they transport goods or people for a fee. Therefore, they have a duty to transport goods safely and do everything possible to keep their passengers and others free from harm.
Negligence causes most train accidents. The definition of negligence is “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” When an operator, owner, or other entity fails to fulfill its duty of care, causing an accident, the person or entity at fault is responsible for the resulting injuries and damages.
Train accidents occur for many reasons. Depending on the nature and circumstances of the train accident, many parties cause a train accident. After an accident, the Florida Department of Transportation and other reconstruction experts will investigate to identify the cause of the crash or derailment and who was responsible.
Those at fault may include:
- The railroad companies. The company must keep all trains and train equipment in good repair. This means following a routine maintenance schedule and repairing and replacing equipment promptly when needed. They are also responsible for proper hiring, training, and supervision of employees. Employees should also be trained on safety procedures and protocols.
- Train engineers. Engineers must follow all safety regulations, including taking sufficient rest breaks. If, for example, an engineer falls asleep on the job and causes an accident, both the engineer and their employer may be liable.
- Owner of the track. The company or governmental entity that owns and controls the section of track where the accident took place may be liable. They must maintain the track and railroad crossings safely.
- The driver of a motor vehicle. If the driver of a car, truck, or other motor vehicle caused the accident, the motorist might be liable for the resulting injuries. The driver may be at fault if they were driving while distracted, impaired by alcohol, or in a reckless manner.
- Equipment manufacturer. Equipment that was defective in design or manufacture may cause a train crash or derailment. If the company that designed or made the defective component is responsible, train accident victims may be able to file a product liability lawsuit.
What is the applicable law regarding Fort Lauderdale train accidents?
There is a complex web of federal and state laws that govern the operations of train companies. These regulations usually apply to equipment requirements, licensing, and transportation procedures.
The Interstate Commerce Act provides that Congress has the authority to regulate common carriers, such as trains. Federal laws take precedence over state laws, but each state regulates public transportation systems operating within the state. Railroad safety is primarily administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which creates and enforces rail safety regulations.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also has a role in regulating railroad safety and is usually the agency responsible for investigating and determining the cause of railroad accidents.
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) applies to injured railway workers when an accident occurred in the scope of the injured worker’s employment with the railroad, where the railroad is engaged in interstate commerce between two or more states. FELA is different from state worker’s compensation programs in that it requires that an injured railway employee shows that the railway failed to provide a safe workplace.
But FELA provides for recovery of damages for past and future pain and suffering, past and future loss of earnings, past and future medical expenses, and mental injuries, such as emotional distress. It also provides compensation for the survivors of a deceased railroad employee.
For anyone injured in a train accident, the statute of limitations is a time limit that dictates how long an accident victim has to file a lawsuit. It is important to consult a Fort Lauderdale train accident lawyer as soon as possible so that you do not miss the deadline.
What evidence may be available in Fort Lauderdale train accidents?
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has strict regulations about required equipment and record-keeping, which provide valuable evidence in the event of a train accident.
Evidence often used to support train accident cases includes:
- Dispatch records. Railroad dispatch workers communicate with train engineers, one another, and other workers constantly so that they route trains safely, without risk of collisions. In the event of a crash, the records of these communications can reveal if the dispatcher made an error or other important information.
- Event data recorder (EDR). The EDR found on trains is similar to the FDR found on planes. It records details such as speed, brake and horn usage, and more. It is a highly accurate account of what events lead up to the crash.
- Video. Most trains have cameras that record everything that goes on in front of the train. This video footage might reveal the cause of the train accident and help establish fault and liability.
- Audio recordings. While operating the train, the engineer is in radio contact with dispatch. These recordings may indicate what emergency led up to the accident.
- Maintenance records. Some collisions and derailments occur because the train companies, government entities, or track owners did not maintain the trains, the tracks, or the grade crossings.
- Manuals, policies, etc. In some circumstances, the railroad may be liable because they failed to appropriately hire, train or supervise employees. The company’s policies and employee manuals will show whether the company deviated from its policies or whether an employee failed to comply with policies in the past.
What compensation may be available after a Fort Lauderdale train accident?
Victims of train accidents may recover compensation for their losses and injuries.
The court may award compensation for financial and personal losses, including:
- Past and future medical and care
- Past and future lost earnings
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Other costs associated with your accidents
What if the opposing party offers a settlement in your Fort Lauderdale train accident claim?
A great many train accident claims settle out of court. Settlement negotiations may take place soon after the accident and throughout the lawsuit process and typically involve a series of offers and counteroffers. The company may make a low offer early in the process to avoid the exposure and expense of a lawsuit.
At first, the sum offered may seem like a great deal of money, but you still may not be fully aware of your injuries and financial losses. Of course, a settlement eliminates the possibility of a much higher award from a lawsuit. Consult our experienced train accident attorneys before signing any agreement or agreeing to a settlement.
What should you do after a Fort Lauderdale train accident?
- Seek medical assistance – Even if you believe your injuries are minor or non-existent, you should seek immediate medical assistance. You may be suffering from shock, and some injuries have delayed symptoms. Also, your medical records may be important if you pursue legal action.
- Document the accident – If you are able, take as many pictures as you can of the accident, your injuries, and the surrounding area. Gather contact information for any witnesses.
- Keep records – Keep records of your medical treatments, lost wages, and any other financial expenses the accident may have caused.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer – If you were injured in a train accident, you may have suffered catastrophic, life-altering injuries. To protect your rights, consult the experienced, dedicated Fort Lauderdale train accident attorneys at The Levin Firm. For more information or a free consultation, call (954) 715-3260 or contact us online.