In 2020 alone, there have been 8,558 train accidents in the United States that resulted in 5,402 injuries and 783 deaths. This leaves thousands of victims and families of victims suffering from the physical and mental trauma of a train accident. Because of these unfortunate statistics, a Chicago train accident lawyer at Curcio Law Offices wants to fight for you. You deserve to recover damages for your pain and suffering and we can help you do that. Call us today at 312-321-1111 for a free consultation.
Types of Train Accidents
Although many people consider trains to be one of the safest ways to travel, accidents still happen every day. The most common types of train accidents include:
Train on train collisions
Train on vehicle collisions
Train on bicycle collisions
Trains hitting pedestrians
The most common type of accident is a train on vehicle collision which generally happens at railroad crossings. In fact, there are approximately 6,000 train on vehicle collisions every year in the United States according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
What Causes Train Accidents?
There are countless causes of train accidents. The most common causes are train conductor error, track problems, no warning signals, defective warning signals, obstructive view of railroad crossings, stalled vehicles, distractions, and faulty equipment.
Train Conductor Error
Humans are flawed, therefore a lot of our work and inventions are flawed. This fact of life doesn’t exclude train conductors. Errors that could potentially cause train accidents include poor training, fatigue, inexperience, mental disorders, or reckless behavior. Errors such as these will generally qualify for a negligence lawsuit.
A real life example of train conductor error happened in 2016 and 2017. A New Jersey Transit train and a Long Island Rail Road train crashed due to driver fatigue. In both cases, the operators or engineers were suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing starts and stops repeatedly during sleep. Coincidentally, sleep apnea causes many trucking accidents as well.
Problems With the Track
Train tracks sustain gradual wear and tear due to decades of use. This wear and tear can lead to serious accidents if gone unchecked. Broken and buckled tracks specifically can cause train derailments.
No Warning Signals
Approximately 50% of the 129,500 have automatic warning signals according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Even worse, most of the 80,500 private highway-grade crossings don’t have automatic warning signals. Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians may not know a train is coming until it’s too late due to the incredible lack of warning signals along U.S. railroads.
Defective Warning Signals
Defective warning signals are just as dangerous as no warning signals. For example, if a train is coming and the warning signal doesn’t indicate that, then a car or pedestrian could cross the tracks right as the train goes by. The most common cause of defective warning signals is lack of maintenance.
Obstructed View of Railroad Crossings
Another common cause of train accidents is overgrown vegetation that can hide train tracks or warning signals entirely. This issue can obviously be very dangerous for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Again, obstructed view of railroad crossings is generally caused by lack of maintenance on and around railroad tracks.
A common cause of train on vehicle collisions is malfunctioning cars stopping or getting stuck on railroad tracks.
Distracted driving by both drivers and train conductors can cause train accidents. Common distractions can include texting, talking on the phone, talking to a passenger, etc. Distracted driving can certainly cause a driver to not see railroad tracks or warning signals. Similarly, distractions can cause train conductors to not see oncoming cars at railroad crossings.
Lastly, faulty train equipment and mechanical defects can cause accidents. Mechanical issues including broken wheels, brake failure, and various axel defects can prevent trains from stopping on time to avoid a collision.
Types of Train Accident Injuries
Many people consider rail travel to be safer than car or plane travel. However, injuries from railroad accidents can be devastating. Injuries can include but are not limited to:
Railroad companies dedicate an enormous amount of their budgets to dealing with lawsuits. Railroad companies and their insurers hire the most experienced train accident attorneys in order to minimize their liability.
How to Avoid Train Accidents
You alone can’t prevent train accidents because of previously listed reasons such as human error and mechanical defects. However, you can take steps to protect yourself from train accidents.
Always be on the lookout for hidden railroad tracks or warning signals.
Remember that a train could arrive at any moment.
Never walk on or near railroad tracks.
Only cross railroad tracks at approved crossing sites. This rule is equally important for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
Never try to race a train across the tracks when you see one coming because trains can’t stop quickly.
Don’t stop your car on train tracks for any reason.
If your car stops on train tracks due to a mechanical issue, get out of the car immediately and call for help.
Don’t ever try to jump into an open box car while a train is moving.
How Much is a Train Accident Settlement?
A train accident lawyer can’t make promises about settlement amounts. However, we can show you some of the latest train accident settlement amounts. Fortunately for victims, Congress passed a law after an Amtrak crash that raised the liability cap. The maximum for damages used to be $200 million. But now the maximum is $295 million.
Amtrak reached a $265 million settlement after a 2015 train derailment in Philadelphia. This accident killed eight people and injured over 200. The train engineer was going 106 mph around a curve in a 50 mph zone. The engineer faced over 200 criminal charges as a result of the accident.
After a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in Virginia, a gas station attendant suffered life-threatening injuries. His traumatic brain injuries prevented him from accomplishing minor tasks. He received $46 million in damages, which later added up to $60 million with interest.
The CTA Blue Line train derailed at O’Hare International Airport in 2017. A U.S. Transportation Security Administration employee was seriously injured. Due to the injuries she sustained in the derailment, she no longer can perform her duties as a TSA officer.
Do I Need a Chicago Train Accident Lawyer?
In short, yes. All victims of train accidents need an experienced train accident lawyer on their side. This is because train accidents are incredibly traumatic for both victims and the families of victims. A Chicago train accident lawyer at Curcio Law Offices can help you deal with your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages by assessing liability after the accident. While we focus on the legal complexities of your case, you can focus on healing and recovery.
Damages for Train Accident Victims
In many circumstances, train accidents are the result of negligence from a railroad company’s negligence or an engineer. Victims of negligence can receive both economic and non-economic damages as a result of their suffering.
Economic damages compensate victims for monetary losses for the following:
Past Medical Bills
Fees for emergency room visits
Bills for extended hospital stays
Costs of assistive devices
Bills for appointments with medical professionals
Future Medical Expenses
For accidents that cause long-term disabilities and medical issues, many victims will require extended care.
In the event that a train accident causes severe injuries, some victims may not be able to return to work either temporarily or permanently. Under the law, victims may receive compensation for lost wages between the time of the injury and the conclusion of the lawsuit.
Lost Earning Potential
Train accident victims can receive compensation for the amount of money they would’ve earned from their jobs if they were never injured.
Non-economic damages provide compensation to victims for losses that monetary value can’t measure. Common non-economic damages include:
Pain and Suffering
Compensation for the physical pain suffered from injuries sustained in a train crash.
A court will determine monetary amounts by:
With physical pain from a traumatic accident comes mental pain. Mental anguish damages compensate victims for:
Loss of Consortium
This refers to loss of affection, aid, and companionship of a loved one. A surviving spouse or child can receive compensation for the loss of these familial benefits.
Punitive damages punish the train company or engineer for their negligence by compensating the victim. The goal of punitive damages is to defer the company or the engineer from making the same mistakes in the future.
Railroad Worker Injuries
Railroad workers can also suffer train accident-related injuries due to the dangerous nature of their job. If you’re a railroad worker and you were injured on the job, you deserve justice and compensation too. However, instead of filing a personal injury lawsuit or utilizing worker’s compensation, it’s best for you to file a FELA lawsuit.
What is FELA?
Congress created the Federal Employers Liability Act in 1908 in response to hundreds of injured railroad workers. Presently, a FELA lawsuit is best suited for an injured employee who works for a company that transports goods nationwide. To qualify for a FELA lawsuit, the employee must have been injured on the job.
Compensation From a FELA Lawsuit
FELA claims can provide more benefits and compensation for railroad workers compared to worker’s compensation. For example, those who file for workers compensation may only receive 80% of their lost income while those who file a FELA claim may receive 100% of their lost income. Additionally, FELA claims can provide damages for pain and suffering while worker’s compensation generally can’t.
Call an Experienced Chicago Train Accident Lawyer Today
As a top Chicago personal injury and wrongful death firm, Curcio Law Offices has the experience needed to handle any case involving train accidents. Like with all personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, you have limited time to file a lawsuit. Contact us today at 312-321-1111 so that we can handle the complexities of your case while you heal from your accident.