Orlando Train Accident Lawyer
When it comes to traveling, passenger trains are one of the safest modes of transportation. According to the Washington Post, trains rank just behind airplanes, subways, and buses in terms of safety. In fact, traveling by train is 17 times safer than traveling by car. But while you are far less likely to be in a train accident than an auto accident, the results of these accidents can be devastating.
Sadly, Florida ranks among the worst states when it comes to train safety. The state has seen an increase in fatalities in the past few years, particularly along the space coast. If you or a loved one has been involved in a train accident, an experienced Orlando train accident lawyer can help you understand your rights.
Why You Want Michael T. Gibson PA as Your Train Accident Attorney?
As a lawyer, Michael Gibson understands the stress that comes from a personal injury claim. Having had first-hand personal experience as well as professional experience, Michael knows the tremendous physical, emotional, and financial strain an accident can have on you and your loved ones. That’s why our firm treats each case with the personal attention it deserves.
We believe that you deserve fair compensation for your injuries. This means two things. One, we will fight aggressively to achieve a fair settlement, taking the case to court if necessary. And two, the client will always take home a larger share of the settlement that the attorney. At Michael T. Gibson PA, we want you to feel like family. If you have suffered injuries from a train accident, don’t hesitate to contact our offices at (407) 490-1271.
Are Train Accidents Are on the Rise?
Florida has seen a marked increase in train accidents over the past few years. These accidents typically occur at railroad crossings. According to the Miami Herald, Florida reported 462 railroad crossing accidents between 2014 and 2018. Only five states had more accidents than Florida during this time. Of these accidents, 16 percent resulted in fatalities and 25 percent led to injuries. Statistics show that train safety continues to be a serious problem in Florida and across the nation.
- 2,214 highway-rail grade crossing collisions happened in 2018. Of these, 100 occurred in Florida.
- In 2018, there were 13 deaths caused by collisions at highway-rail grade crossings and 36 injuries.
- There were 37 deaths in Florida related to railroad trespassing. This ranks Florida with the third-highest number of deaths, behind California and New York.
- According to a 2017 Forbes report, one person is hit by a train every three hours.
- The most dangerous state in the country for train travel is Texas, with over 1,200 accidents per year.
- 65 percent of all fatal accidents involve a pedestrian.
What Are Common Causes of Accidents?
In Florida, a train is a common carrier. The term common carrier simply refers to a mode of transportation that is responsible for carrying persons or freight for a fee. Airplanes, buses, and taxis are all examples of common carriers. In Florida, common carrier laws are designed to protect residents and prevent tragic accidents. Though laws are in place to prioritize safety, accidents still happen. Some of the most common causes of train accidents include:
- Collision with an object on the tracks: Most often, these accidents happen when a vehicle or pedestrian enters the path of the train. In many cases, improper warning signs fail to alert traffic of an upcoming railroad crossing. Other times, the driver or pedestrian chooses to ignore and go around the crossing gates.
- Poorly maintained railroads: Broken tracks continue to be a leading cause of train derailments. A 2019 crash in Alabama and a 2018 crash in Pennsylvania both attributed broken tracks as the leading cause of the accident.
- Malfunctioning safety devices: Drivers depend on crossing gates and bells to alert them to an oncoming train. If this device malfunctions, a vehicle may not be aware that a train is approaching and drive into the path of an oncoming train. If you see a malfunctioning safety gate, report it right away.
- Mechanical problems: Mechanical problems can occur due to poor maintenance or defective parts. Serious issues can cause the engineer to lose control of the train.
- Human error: Human error can be deadly. In 2017, an Amtrak train en route to Portland, Oregon from Seattle, Washington derailed from the tracks while taking a curve, falling onto an interstate below and killing three passengers. An official investigation found that the train was traveling 80 mph when the posted speed was 30 mph. Other examples of human error include fatigue, drug and alcohol use, and poor training.
Who Can Recover Compensation for Train Accidents?
Legal protections extend to anyone injured as a result of a train accident, regardless of whether that person is on or off the train. While the most common victims include passengers of vehicles hit by trains and pedestrians, a train’s passengers can be injured during a collision as well. When a train collides with another object or derails from the tracks, the impact of the accident can move passengers about the train, causing injuries. Falling luggage or other objects can be a hazard as well. In some cases, there may be other victims involved in an accident. In the 2017 accident near Seattle, 10 motorists were injured after the train fell on their vehicles.
What Are Common Train Accident Injuries?
Due to the sheer size and weight of trains, even minor accidents can lead to catastrophic injuries. For accidents involving trains and pedestrians, the aftermath is almost always deadly. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, many victims require extensive treatment and often deal with lifelong pain. Some of the most common injuries that result from a train accident include:
- Spinal cord injuries: A traumatic impact like a train accident can full or partial paralysis. Often these injuries are permanent and cause lifelong impairment.
- Traumatic brain injuries: Traumatic brain injuries can range from a mild concussion to a debilitating brain bleed. Someone who has a TBI may have speech impairments, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and sensory problems.
- Crush injuries: Crush injuries usually occur when a part of the body becomes pinned between two hard objects such as parts of a vehicle or falling luggage. Repair for these injuries can be extensive and may not return full function to the affected areas.
- Back injuries: Herniated or bulging discs can cause persistent and chronic pain. Patients with disc issues may require physical therapy or may need surgery to eliminate the pain.
- Burns: High-speed collisions can cause explosions that can result in mild to severe burns. In addition to the pain caused by the injury, severe burns can cause permanent scarring that affects the victim’s quality of life.
What Are Train Accident Liability?
If you were injured in a train accident, the question of liability will likely come into play. Several parties may hold partial liability for the accident. Responsible parties may include:
- The railroad company: The railroad company holds responsibility if it failed to exercise the duties required of them by law. This could include failing to sound the train’s whistle, not properly maintaining the locomotive, and poor driver training.
- The train engineer: The train engineer may be responsible if their negligent or unsafe actions contributed to the accident. If the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or knowingly ignored safety protocol, they may hold complete or partial responsibility.
- The manufacturer: The train manufacturer will only be liable if equipment on the train fails or is defective.
- The company responsible for maintaining the tracks: This party may be liable if poorly maintained tracks led to the accident.
- The driver or pedestrian: The vehicle driver may hold some level of liability. One of the most common causes of train collisions is drivers ignoring safety devices. Accidents can occur when a driver goes around railroad gates or stops on the tracks. If poor vehicle maintenance caused the car to stall on the tracks, the driver may also be found at fault.
Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help You Recover Damages?
Proving liability is a critical component of recovering damages from an accident. Due to the nature of train accidents, the damages can be extensive. An experienced lawyer can help prove the cause and extent of your injuries. Various factors can affect the value of a personal injury claim, but common damages include:
- Medical costs: Commonly accepted costs include surgical procedures, office visits, rehabilitation, physical therapy, prescriptions, and medical devices.
- Loss of wages: Lost time associated with an accident is usually quantified as lost income for the time you were away from work. Time loss includes the time of the accident and any time lost as a result of treatment or recovery from your injuries. For severe injuries, lost wages may apply to future earnings.
- Vocational rehabilitation: If you have a physically demanding job, severe injuries can prevent you from returning from your normal line of work. The same argument can apply to a TBI that affects a person’s ability to concentrate or perform tasks they were able to before the accident. If you cannot return to your old job, retraining may help you secure a new position.
- Home modifications: Traumatic injuries may make it difficult for you to climb stairs, stand without assistance, or get into the shower. If this is the case, a personal injury attorney can help you recover the cost of necessary home modifications.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering is most often associated with physical pain and emotional distress. Common injuries include chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Loss of consortium: Loss of consortium occurs when the victim of an accident is no longer able to participate in activities that they typically would in a relationship. This typically refers to the relationship between a married couple. This can include loss of earning capacity, loss of companionship, or loss of affection, including sexual relations.
Florida PIP and Train Accidents
All Florida drivers are legally required to carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP). This coverage can help offset the cost of medical bills and lost wages and will cover 80 percent of all related bills up to your policy limits and 60 percent of lost wages.
While PIP insurance is typically associated with motor vehicle accidents, most people don’t realize that pedestrians involved in an accident are eligible to use PIP coverage as well. To use your PIP insurance, you must visit a qualified medical professional within 14 days of the accident.
To qualify for your policy limits, you must be diagnosed with an emergency medical condition. Many times, the medical costs associated with a Florida accident extend beyond a driver’s PIP coverage. If this happens, a personal injury lawyer can help connect you with providers that will allow you to postpone payment until after you have received your injury settlement.
Orlando Train Accident FAQ
The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Office of Safety Analysis estimates that over 3,100 train accidents or incidents have occurred across Florida’s railways over the last several years. This includes derailments, accidents at crossings, and other equipment-related accidents that led to death or injury. Train accidents are often severe and traumatic events that do not end well for those involved. Making matters worse, the vast majority of train accidents are preventable. If a train accident has caused you or a loved one to suffer injuries, or a loved one has died in a train accident, Florida law may permit you to take legal action, depending on the circumstances of your case.
You likely have many questions surrounding the idea of taking legal action after a train accident. It’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced train accident attorney to learn about your options. Until you have that chance, we have provided this guide to answer some frequently asked questions about Orlando train accidents.
How long do I have to take legal action after an Orlando train accident?
It’s always best to take action as soon as possible after suffering an injury in any type of accident. However, some situations require that you wait longer than you would like. Florida law generally requires train accident victims to bring a lawsuit against the railway company or other liable party within four years from the date of injury. If a train accident resulted in the death of a loved one, Florida law allows eligible surviving family members two years to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the allegedly liable party.
Florida law also requires courts to comply strictly with these time limits, formally called statutes of limitations. Although rare exceptions exist, a court will not hear your train accident case if you file your lawsuit after the applicable statute of limitations has lapsed. Your lawyer can advise you if your particular circumstances qualify for an extension.
Who may I sue if I suffered injuries in an Orlando train accident?
Individuals who might be financially liable for a train accident vary based on the exact circumstances of the accident. Sometimes two or more parties share liability, making train accident cases especially complex.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit after an Orlando train accident, you may name one or more of the following parties as defendants:
- Railroad company. Florida railroad companies have a legal obligation to provide safe transport for passengers and operate trains in a manner that also protects drivers, pedestrians, and others. Railroad companies who have poor hiring, training, and/or safety practices open themselves to full or shared financial liability when a train accident occurs.
- Train engineer/train conductor. Train engineers are primarily responsible for operating trains, and conductors typically supervise everything. Many people look to the train engineer when an accident occurs because he or she monitors speed, air pressure, and other instruments to ensure smooth operation. Additionally, engineers must use throttles and air brakes for operation. If an engineer is under the influence, fatigued, or simply makes an error, the results may prove catastrophic. In most cases, conductors simply oversee the crew and deal with passengers on passenger trains, but some conductors operate track switches and inspect the equipment, putting them in a position to cause mechanical failure if they perform poorly.
- Train manufacturer. If a train manufacturer designs or builds a defective train, it can lead to mechanical failure. A breakdown or failure at a critical time leads to dangerous, sometimes deadly, train accidents. Train manufacturers are often liable when defective equipment leads to an accident.
- Rail construction/rail maintenance company. The companies that build and maintain railroad tracks have a legal obligation to build safe tracks, regularly inspect them for weaknesses, and make necessary repairs. Poorly maintained tracks lead to derailments and other potentially dangerous train accidents.
- Drivers or pedestrians. Some of the most dangerous and deadly train accidents occur at railroad crossings. Drivers and pedestrians who ignore signals and signs can cause train accidents if they stop on the tracks when they shouldn’t. The same is true for those who walk or drive along tracks. Drivers and pedestrians may hold some or all liability in these situations if train passengers suffer injuries.
Do I have to appear in court after an Orlando train accident?
Many personal injury cases, including those involving train accidents, settle out of court, long before litigation. If you take legal action, your Orlando train accident lawyer will handle communication with the insurance company and attempt to reach a fair agreement that compensates you for your train accident injuries or the death of a loved one.
In some situations, the railroad or other liable party outwardly denies liability for the accident or attempts to devalue your claim. A settlement is not likely in these situations, so your attorney will need to take your case to trial. If your case goes into litigation, it’s highly likely that you will have to appear in court to tell your story and share how your injuries have impacted your life.
Does my mandatory PIP insurance apply to train accidents?
Florida requires all residents who register motor vehicles to carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage as part of the state’s no-fault insurance regulations. When an accident occurs, drivers file a claim under their own PIP policies to cover 80 percent of their medical expenses and 60 percent of their lost wages, up to their policy limits. In Florida, PIP insurance also extends to pedestrians.
If you were involved in a train accident while driving a passenger vehicle or as a pedestrian and have been fortunate enough to live through the accident, you can begin to recover some of your losses by filing a claim under your PIP policy. You can receive benefits regardless of fault, but you may quickly meet or exceed your policy limits. Train accidents lead to severe injuries that sometimes require surgery and long periods of hospitalization, so you will need to take legal action to receive compensation beyond your PIP limits.
What compensation will I receive after my train accident?
If you choose to take legal action to seek damages related to losses and injuries from a train accident, you can receive compensation for different types of losses if a court rules in your favor or if you reach a settlement before litigation.
If you prevail in your claim, you may receive compensation for the following:
- Emergency response teams. Sometimes train accidents occur in remote areas and require helicopter rescue. In other situations, train accident victims must pay for their ambulance rides to the nearest hospital.
- Cost of medical treatment. Train accident victims quickly amass medical expenses, such as doctor visits, surgery, hospitalization, x-rays, prescriptions, and travel to and from the hospital for follow-up care.
- Estimated future medical treatment costs. Many train accidents lead to severe and catastrophic injuries that require extensive treatment and recovery, and some injuries lead to permanent disabilities that require lifelong care.
- Rehabilitation expenses. Train accident victims who suffer severe injuries must follow a rehabilitation regimen that may include a team of specialists for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counseling.
- Lost wages. If a train accident causes someone to miss weeks or months from work, insurance companies and courts include lost wages and benefits in the final compensation award.
- Estimated future lost wages. When train accidents lead to catastrophic injuries that prevent accident victims from returning to their jobs or seeking future gainful employment, lawyers include future lost wages in their clients’ train accident claims.
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Decreased quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Punitive damages when gross negligence is involved or when a railway company intentionally violates federal regulations.
Can I take legal action if a loved one died in a train accident?
If a loved one died in an Orlando train accident, Florida law entitles eligible surviving family members to seek compensation for damages from liable parties in civil court by bringing a wrongful death lawsuit. Eligible survivors may recover some losses listed above as well as funeral and burial expenses. Your Orlando train accident attorney can answer specific questions related to your family’s circumstances, evaluate the viability of your claim, and determine your eligibility for compensation.
Should I accept an early settlement offer?
Train accidents are costly. Insurance companies who represent railroad companies and their employees are not eager to pay out claims, especially large ones, even though railroad companies carry massive amounts of liability coverage.
One way insurance companies try to mitigate financial responsibility, especially when they know that their policyholder is at fault, is by approaching victims soon after an accident and making an attractive settlement offer. These offers look nice, especially for train accident victims and their families who are financially struggling because of lost income and mounting medical bills. However, they rarely provide the level of compensation that an accident victim deserves for a negligent railroad company’s actions or inaction.
Making matters worse, those who accept early settlement offers waive their right to sue for additional damages, which may prove devastating once victims realize that they haven’t received fair compensation. It’s always in your best interest to take advantage of a free consultation with an experienced train accident attorney when you receive a settlement offer. Attorneys are trained negotiators who understand how to communicate with insurance companies and often elicit much higher settlement offers for clients.
Can I sue a railroad if I suffered injuries in an Orlando train accident as an employee?
Railway workers who suffer on-the-job injuries in train accidents must take a different path to receive compensation for their injuries. The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) protects injured railway workers in the same way that the Workers Compensation Act protects those who work for other companies. Injured workers must file a FELA claim, which differs from workers’ compensation because FELA claims examine fault. Prevailing in a FELA claim and receiving compensation for train accident injuries requires workers to prove that their employers’ negligence led to the injurious accidents.
Some examples of railroad negligence leading to a FEMA claim include:
- Failure to create and implement adequate safety practices
- Poor training practices
- Failure to provide workers with proper tools and equipment to perform their duties
- Failure to schedule or provide enough employees for safe operation
Compensation from winning a FELA claim models that of a personal injury lawsuit, which includes more loss than a workers’ compensation claim. Specifically, you can receive compensation for non-economic losses, like pain and suffering and emotional distress, that workers’ compensation benefits do not cover.
How can an attorney help your train accident claim?
Attorneys engage in many activities to advocate for their clients and help them maximize their compensation in train accident cases. Examples include filing the necessary paperwork, speaking to witnesses, obtaining necessary reports, and gathering evidence. Train accidents include specific types of evidence that a lawyer can obtain easier than the average person because of requirements by the Federal Railway Administration (FRA) for railroad companies to maintain specific records and equipment.
Some examples include:
- Video recordings from train cameras
- Audio recordings from communication between engineers, operations, and dispatch
- Information from the event data recorder (EDR), which is a train’s version of a black box recorder
- Dispatch records to review dispatcher error and train engineer error
Can I afford an Orlando train accident attorney?
Train accidents are life-changing events that devastate many victims and their families. Victims must suffer the pain of injury and recovery, but emotional stress and financial burden increase the devastation. We understand the challenges that train accident victims and their families face in the wake of a train accident, so we handle train accident claims on a contingency fee basis, like other personal injury claims.
You need not pay an upfront retainer for representation. Instead, we deduct our attorney fees from any compensation that we secure for you in the form of a settlement or court-awarded damages.
If you have suffered train accident injuries, contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible for a free consultation.
Michael T. Gibson PA Is on Your Side
After you have been in an accident, the only thing you should have to worry about is moving on with your life. At Michael T. Gibson, we believe that you shouldn’t have to stress about paying medical bills and fighting corporations when you can focus on getting better. While a personal injury settlement will not take away the pain of an accident, it can help make recovery easier.
Our legal team will aggressively fight the responsible parties to ensure that you get the compensation that you deserve. Though we strive to settle most cases out of court, many times, cases involving large corporations will end up in front of a jury. If this happens, our team of experienced trial lawyers is ready to take your case to court. If you have been injured in a train accident contact our offices at (407) 490-1271 or visit us online to request a free consultation.