Train Accidents

Philadelphia Train Accident Lawyer

Philadelphia train accident lawyers

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reports that almost 5,000 train accidents or incidents have occurred in Philadelphia County over the last 15 years. This includes railroad crossing accidents, derailments, and train equipment accidents that resulted in injury or death. Train accidents have many causes, but most involve some sort of preventable human error. A train accident is a devastating event that can cause catastrophic injury and death, sometimes for a multitude of people.

If you sustained injuries or lost a loved one in a Philadelphia train accident, then Pennsylvania law may permit you to take legal action against at-fault parties seeking compensation for your injuries. The experienced Philadelphia train accident lawyers at The Levin Firm Personal Injury Lawyers understand the gravity of a serious train accident and how it can damage your life. We are here to help. We serve clients in the Greater Philadelphia area. Call us today at 215-825-5183 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your train accident injuries and to determine the best course of action for your circumstances.

Common Types of Train Accidents

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, most severe railroad-related injuries and fatalities occur in connection with train collisions and derailments.

  • Collisions refer to accidents between two trains on the same track or accidents that occur at railroad crossings between trains and motor vehicles.
  • Derailments refer to events involving a train leaving its track. A derailment is not always fatal or dangerous, but under some conditions it can lead to severe injuries and death to those involved.

Of course, train crashes do not constitute the only circumstances in which someone can suffer an injury relating to rail travel. A passenger can also get injured in a fall on a train or in a train station, for example.

No matter what circumstances caused someone to suffer an injury relating to a railroad, the experienced lawyers at The Levin Firm Personal Injury Lawyers have the skill and resources to build the strongest possible case for compensation against any party with legal liability.

Top Railroad Accident Reporters in Pennsylvania

The FRA regulates rail companies in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. It drafts, implements, and enforces railroad safety regulations. Each time a train accident or incident occurs, a railroad must file a report with the FRA to initiate a formal investigation.

FRA accident and incident data available online dating back more than a decade reveals that some rail companies report far more accidents than others. They are:

  • Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) (3,022)
  • Amtrak (1,474)
  • CSX Transportation (128)
  • Consolidated Rail Corporation (81)
  • New Jersey Transit Rail Operations (41)

The remainder of Philadelphia rail companies filed reports for 10 or fewer accidents or incidents since 2004.

Philadelphia Train Accident FAQ

Trains usually offer a reliable and safe means of transporting goods and people around the Philadelphia/South Jersey region, and across the United States. After large trucks, trains carry the second-most amount of cargo in the country, and they enjoy many advantages over trucks, including the ability to move large amounts of cargo in a less-expensive, eco-friendly manner, over transportation corridors that do not suffer from the unpredictability of traffic jams and road hazards.

Still, that does not mean railroads have a spotless safety record. Trains get into accidents. Recent U.S. train accidents featured derailments and collisions, for example. These accidents tend to cause catastrophic damage and severe, if not fatal, injuries. However, train crashes represent only some of the incidents involving trains that can lead to someone getting badly hurt.

Below, we answer some common questions our clients have about Philadelphia train accidents. If you have specific questions about a train accident that left you or a loved one badly injured, then contact our experienced Philadelphia train accident injury attorneys today.

1. What types of accidents do lawyers handle involving trains?

People can get badly injured in incidents involving trains in a variety of scenarios. We handle just about all of them.

Here are a few of the most common incidents that lead to clients hiring us to help them recover compensation for their injuries and losses:

  • Derailments. A train derailment occurs when a train’s wheels leave (or jump) its tracks, often because the train has traveled too fast for track conditions. A derailment can cause massive injury to anyone on or around the train at the time of the accident, and also has the potential to destroy property and injure people in the surrounding area. Few Philadelphians will soon forget the tragic and catastrophic derailment of an Amtrak train Philadelphia that killed eight and injured 150.
  • Collisions. Trains can collide with vehicles at crossings, with pedestrians, or with each other. No matter the type of collision, however, the accident can cause severe injuries and catastrophic damage.
  • Slip and falls. Train passengers can fall while getting onto, off of, or moving around inside, a train car. They may also fall onto tracks while waiting for a train. Any of these incidents can lead to serious or fatal injuries.
  • Explosions and spills. Sometimes, a train poses a danger to the public because of the cargo it carries. Philadelphia has avoided an explosion of a so-called bomb train for now, but many city residents worry about the potential danger of trains carrying flammable or toxic materials through the population centers of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

No matter how an injury involving a train occurs, an experienced Philadelphia train accident injury attorney can help victims recover the compensation they need and deserve.

2. Can I sue for injuries I suffered in a Philadelphia train accident? If so, who can I sue?

Chances are good that you can. The law generally entitles people who suffer injuries in train accidents caused by someone else’s dangerous conduct to take legal action for compensation. Because of the highly-regulated nature of railroad operations, few accidents happen that do not involve wrongful, harmful actions on the part of someone involved in operating or maintaining a train.

Who you might have the right to sue can vary widely.

Let’s look at some of the parties who commonly have liability for harm done to victims in Philadelphia train accidents:

  • The federal government. Train accidents involving Amtrak or any other rail system operated by the federal government can result in the government having legal liability for harm to victims, such as when a federal employee causes the accident. A body of federal law governs how these claims can proceed, and the amount of money a victim might recover.
  • City or state government. In Philadelphia, SEPTA operates public transportation including commuter rail lines. An accident involving a SEPTA train or facility and caused by a SEPTA employee or contractor can leave city and/or state governments liable for damages to victims.
  • Private rail operators. Many trains owned and operated by private entities traverse the Philadelphia area. An accident involving a privately-owned train can result in the owner/operator having legal liability.
  • Others. Under Pennsylvania law, anyone whose unreasonably dangerous decisions or conduct leads to a train accident can face potential liability for the harm done to victims. For example, a pharmaceutical manufacturer might have liability for a train accident if it failed to warn of dangerous side effects of taking its products, and a train conductor who took them fell asleep at the controls as a result. Or, a private railroad maintenance company could face liability for failing to keep tracks or crossings in safe working order.

More than one party can have liability to victims in a Philadelphia train accident. Identifying all parties with potential liability is one of the most important jobs of an experienced Philadelphia train accident attorney, because every party with liability represents a potential source of payment of damages to accident victims.

Speak with our experienced Philadelphia train accident injury attorneys today to find out who may owe you compensation for your injuries and losses.

3. How much money can I receive?

The amount of compensation a Philadelphia train accident victim has a right to receive will vary widely depending on the facts and circumstances of the individual case.

To get a rough idea of the amount of money you might recover, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How big were your medical bills? The amount of medical expenses you face after a train accident will typically depend on the severity of your injuries. Catastrophic trauma like spinal cord injuries or brain damage can leave a victim facing hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars in medical expenses. Even injuries that may not cause permanent disability can run up huge healthcare costs. These costs commonly constitute a significant portion of any Philadelphia train accident injury claim.
  • How much time did you miss at work? Serious injuries after a train accident can leave you missing a substantial amount of work. Broken bones, for example, may make it impossible for you to complete job responsibilities, while traumatic brain injury can interfere with your ability to focus and make work-related decisions. Victims of Philadelphia train accidents can typically seek to recover all of the wages they missed-out on earning, and may not earn in the future, as damages in a lawsuit.
  • How did the injuries impact your life? The more serious an injury, the more physical pain, emotional suffering, and disruption to daily activities. In a lawsuit seeking damages after a Philadelphia train accident, the so-called non-economic harm a person has suffered also figures into the calculation of the amount of money a victim might receive.
  • How many people suffered injuries in the accident? Some train accidents, such as the 2015 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, cause widespread injury to hundreds of people. In these and similar circumstances, the victims may all receive payments from a common fund that effectively caps the amount of damages any one of them might receive. Federal law, for example, caps the total amount of money that is available to passenger victims of a single Amtrak accident at $200 million.

The most reliable way to get an idea of how much money you may seek in a claim related to a Philadelphia train accident is to speak with an experienced Philadelphia train accident lawyer as soon as possible.

4. If the railroad offers me a settlement, should I accept it?

The complicated, regulated nature of train accident matters would make this unusual. However, if anyone offers you a settlement after you suffer injuries in a Philadelphia train accident, do not accept until you have first consulted with our experienced Philadelphia train accident injury attorneys. Agreeing to a settlement means releasing the railroad from liability to you in the future. So, you need to be sure that the amount of money offered reflects the true value of your claim. An attorney works to ensure that you know how much money you deserve, and to hold the parties with liability financially accountable to you for every last penny available.

5. Why do so many train crossings in Philadelphia lack signals and gates that could prevent accidents?

Recent advances in technology have made it easier to provide for the safety of both train passengers and those who use the roads around a train. Unfortunately, local government authorities may not have the money in their budget to implement those advances, and personnel qualified to install and operate safety equipment are often in short supply. As a result, it can prove difficult for local governments, including the Philadelphia government, to install the safety precautions that could help prevent accidents.

If, however, a local government failed to install or operate safety equipment in a manner that made a crossing unreasonably dangerous, then you may have rights to compensation for injuries suffered at a train crossing. Speak with an experienced Philadelphia train accident injury lawyer today.

6. Do I need to retain an attorney after a train accident?

Yes, you do.

Victims of any kind of accident virtually always benefit from consulting an experienced Philadelphia train accident attorney. Although it is theoretically possible to represent yourself in a train accident case, from our years of experience we know that is always a terrible idea that costs injured victims dearly.

When it comes to train accident claims, in particular, going without a lawyer is not just a bad idea; for all-intents-and-purposes, it is practically impossible. Train accidents almost always involve complicated legal issues, because the railroad industry operates under a vast and complex system of state and federal regulations. Many railroad accident cases require seeking compensation from a government entity, a process far more intricate and complicated than an ordinary legal claim against a private citizen or company. Private railroad companies facing huge liabilities for mass casualty events may also run to the bankruptcy courts for protection.

In other words, tackling a railroad accident injury claim on your own is not remotely realistic for most people. Instead, they need the help of a Philadelphia lawyer with significant experience representing clients in connection with train accident injuries.

We emphasize, too, the importance of finding a lawyer with specific train accident experience. Philadelphia is home to lots of very talented personal injury lawyers, but only a fraction of them have the skill and know-how to tackle a train accident case and all of the legal complexities it involves. Be sure to ask any lawyer you meet with about that lawyer’s experience with train accident cases.

7. How long after a train accident do I have to file a claim?

The amount of time you have to take legal action for injuries you suffered in a Philadelphia train accident will likely depend on who might have a legal liability to you. Claims against private entities may have different time limits than claims against government agencies. Before a lawyer can file a claim on your behalf, the lawyer may need to investigate the facts and circumstances of the accident to identify parties with legal liability. That can take some time, particularly in mass casualty train accidents.

Missing a deadline to take legal action means losing your legal rights to compensation, in most cases. To protect yourself, do not wait to talk to our experienced Philadelphia train accident injury attorney about how you got hurt. Seek legal help as soon as you can to give yourself the best chance of recovering the compensation you deserve.

8. Can I recover compensation for a train accident as a railroad employee?

As an employee of a railroad, you may have the right to seek compensation for injuries you sustain on the job. However, your rights likely differ substantially from the rights of employees of other types of businesses. Federal laws and collective bargaining agreements covering railroad employees make seeking compensation for a railroad job-related injury a potentially complicated task. Do not wait to speak with an experienced train accident injury attorney about your injury.

To learn more about your rights after suffering injuries in any kind of train accident in the Philadelphia area, contact a skilled Philadelphia personal injury attorney from The Levin Firm Personal Injury Lawyers today.

Common Causes of Philadelphia Train Accidents

The FRA may find a variety of causes of a railroad accident it investigates. Common causes of train accidents include:

Engineer Error

Train engineers take charge of their trains like pilots take charge of an airplane. If an engineer makes poor choices while operating a train, dangerous accidents can occur. Engineers who regularly do not get enough sleep risk fatigue and drowsiness.

If the engineer falls asleep while operating a train, he or she cannot react to any hazards. Similarly, engineers who get distracted by a smartphone, eating and drinking, or other activities that take their mind away from operating the train, put passengers and motor vehicles at risk for accidents. Another dangerous engineer error is operating the train at too high a speed, which can lead to a collision or derailment.

Worn Tracks

Light rail passenger trains, Amtrak trains, and cargo trains all operate on tracks. Federal and state governments, in conjunction with railroads, must regularly inspect tracks and perform preventative maintenance to make sure they can safely carry the weight of a train. Dangerous train accidents can occur when those responsible for track maintenance and repair fail to do their jobs or do not complete their tasks quickly enough.

Inadequate and Malfunctioning Traffic Control Devices

In your road travels, you’ve likely noticed that some railroad crossings are unmarked and others have a combination of signs, crossbars, and warning lights. Railroad crossings without markings pose a high risk of deadly crashes. These are often in rural areas, so it’s unlikely you will run across completely unmarked crossings in Philadelphia. Yet, even marked railroad crossings can be dangerous if the sign isn’t easily visible to drivers. The busiest railroad crossings typically have mechanical arms and safety lights. If either malfunction, a deadly crash can occur between a train and motor vehicle.

Poor Train Maintenance

The FRA regulates railroads in much the same way the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates airlines. Railway companies must comply with regulations about maintenance, inspections, and repairs. Rail carriers must also keep detailed maintenance records to prove their compliance. Carriers who do not adhere to FRA standards risk operating trains that are not mechanically sound. If a mechanical failure occurs at a critical time, it can cause a severe, sometimes deadly accident.

When Rail Carrier Workers Suffer Injuries

Most Philadelphians who suffer an injury on the job can rely on employer-provided workers’ compensation insurance to cover their expenses. Railway workers who suffer work-related injuries, however, have slightly different benefits. They are protected against the cost of workplace injuries under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA).

FELA works similarly to Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system, to the extent that an injured worker must file a FELA claim for benefits after getting hurt on the job, which is similar to a workers’ compensation claim. The major difference between a workers’ comp claim and a FELA claim, however, is that FELA claims require an employee to prove the employer’s negligence caused the train accident, whereas workers’ comp is a no-fault insurance system in which proving employer negligence generally is not necessary.

If you have suffered injuries as a railway worker, it is virtually always in your best interest to consult with an experienced train accident lawyer to assist you with your FELA claim.

Having skilled legal counsel handle a FELA claim gives you the strongest chance of getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries, which may require that your lawyer prove your employers:

  • Failure to maintain a safe work environment’
  • Failure to train employees properly;
  • Failure to provide employees with proper equipment and tools for their roles; or
  • Failure to appropriately staff a train in operation.

If your FELA claim is approved, then you can receive compensation for medical treatment costs and lost wages as well as so-called non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) related to your injuries. This makes the financial outcome of an approved FELA claim somewhat similar to prevailing in a personal injury lawsuit, in contrast to a workers’ compensation claim that typically does not allow for non-economic damages.

Philadelphia Office
Attorneys Gabriel Levin and John Mattiacci at The Levin Firm welcome the opportunity to meet and work with you.
Toll Free: 877.825.8542