Spokane Train Accident Attorney
Trains are an integral part of Spokane’s and the Inland Northwest ’s history. Today they are used more than ever, hauling oil and coal through Spokane on a daily basis. Everyone takes precautions to avoid train accidents. Tragically, despite our best efforts, nearly 2,500 accidents occur across the country each year. Sometimes these accidents result from unforeseeable circumstances, and sometimes they are the direct result of negligence or recklessness. You need an experienced team to help if you have been involved in a train-related accident.
Railway Employees Injured on the Job
Injuries to railroad workers are regulated under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) and thus are treated differently under the law than normal workplace injury claims. The first step in evaluating a workplace injury claim is to see if FELA applies. FELA applies to most injuries that happen at work if not caused by a third party. Depending on the nature of your injury and accident there may be multiple parties responsible. When an injury is caused by someone who is not your employer or co-worker, you are still entitled to recover all of the damages you’ve suffered from the work accident injury. These types of claims are called third-party liability claims. The chance of getting full compensation for injuries dramatically increases when an accident is caused by a third-party—like another contractor on the job, not your employer.
Non-Railroad Employees Injured in Train Accidents
People who are injured that are not railroad employees can pursue a claim in the normal fashion under state or federal law. Usually, the legal concept for recovery is someone like the railroad company, train engineer or railroad worker was negligent in some manner, below are a couple of examples.
1. Improperly Marked Crossings
Wherever a road crosses railroad tracks, there must be some type of sign notifying drivers and pedestrians of the potential for a train crossing. There are many locations across the country where the legally required railroad crossing signs are either not in place or are not visible.
Causes of improperly marked crossings can be:
- A sign that is knocked down after being damaged by a collision
- A sign that has been removed and not replaced in a timely manner
- A sign that has been hidden by overgrown vegetation
- Inadequate and poorly maintained traffic control warning and alerts
- Broken traffic control mechanisms
- Trains that fail to sound their horns or lights when approaching crossings.
- Negligently marked or designed railroad crossings.
In all of these cases, drivers may not be aware of an upcoming railroad crossing until it is too late. Such unfortunate individuals and their families should not have to shoulder the financial burden of their accident alone.
2. Rail Defects and Malfunctions
Rail defects and malfunctions can occur in a number of different ways and can have various effects on a train’s performance. When the companies that design and manufacture trains make a mistake, however small it may be, there is the chance that this can lead to a serious railroad accident later on by hindering the desired and expected performance of a train. Sometimes these defects lead to derailments or serious injuries.
Additionally, train accidents can be caused by a multitude of other reasons like:
- trains colliding
- poor maintenance
- improper track or bridge design
- traveling too fast
- train operator fatigue
- brake failure
- traveling too fast for conditions such as limited by weather
Train Accidents Aren’t Always the Result of a Collision or Derailment
Accidents can happen to passengers on trains while traveling by derailment or negligent operation. Pedestrians and bystanders can slip and fall under trains and be crushed. The laws surrounding railroad accidents are complicated and any lawsuit where a train or railroad is involved requires the special expertise of an experienced train accident attorney.
Responsible Parties in Train Accidents
In some cases, determining the responsible party is easy, and in others, it’s very difficult. Railroad companies keep very good records of train crews, engineers, dispatcher recordings, video records, and maintenance. These records must be examined in more complicated cases to determine what caused the accident and who the responsible party is. Some cases require hiring investigators and experts to examine evidence and provide testimony to figure out the facts of the case.
Government shields Amtrak With a Cap to it’s Financial Liability
In case of a catastrophic event, Congress has placed an artificial limit on the total amount of damages that Amtrak will ever be required to pay from a single accident. Pursuant to 49 U.S.C.A. § 28103 and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”), total tort liability for any single occurrence is $295,000,000.00, regardless of the number of victims or actual damages. That means that no matter how many are killed, no matter how many are injured, and no matter how serious the injuries are, the maximum dollar amount all the plaintiffs combined can recover from all the defendants combined is $295 million.
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Steps to take if you’ve Been Involved in a Train Accident
If you have been in a train accident it’s important to follow some basic steps in the minutes and days following the incident to protect yourself. Below is a brief outline.
1. Evaluate Your Injuries
Seek additional medical attention even if the injuries seem minor. Serious injuries may not be readily apparent immediately following an accident.
2. Document Your Experience
Document everything you can. If possible, take photographs and video of the accident scene. Write down what you remember as soon as possible. Include dates, times, names of witnesses and their contact information.
3. Track Expenses
Keep track of any expenses related to your injury, include medical bills, lost wages, transportation costs etc.
6. Contact Us Before You Speak to an Insurance Company
Be careful what you say when filing an insurance claim, even if you’re speaking to your own insurance company. Insurance companies are not on your side and will look for any opportunity to devalue or deny your claim. The very people who are insuring you and who agree to pay you in the event of an accident are also the people who review your claim to see if you have grounds to recover compensation. It’s always best to have very limited conversations with the insurance company and let your attorney discuss any issues with them for you—that way you’ll be protected.
To learn more about insurance companies read our article 8 Things You Should Know About Insurance Companies.
Personal Injury Train Accident Attorney Robert Hahn Can Help
Claims for an injury filed against the railroad industry are challenging. The laws governing railroads are complex and obtaining the best results requires investigation, research, and a comprehensive understanding of the law. For over 20 years personal injury attorney Robert Hahn has represented hard-working Americans who were hurt, and families of those who have died as a result of unsafe situations. We have the experience to answer your questions, find solutions, determine the responsible parties, and move forward to pursue those responsible for your injuries or loss of life. We are here to help—contact us today at (509)921-9500 for experienced, compassionate, and aggressive representation. Or submit our free no-obligation consultation form.