FAQ - Train Accidents

Q: Where do most train accidents occur?

Except for railroad employment related injuries, most train accident injuries occur at railroad-roadway crossings. Railroad-roadway accidents occur at a rate of almost two per day.

Q: How soon after a train accident do I have to file a lawsuit?

It depends on your status to the railroad and the kind of claim you are bringing. Every state has certain time limits, called "statutes of limitations," which govern the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit against a railroad. FELA has its own statute of limitations and notice requirements, which control claims against railroads brought by railroad employees. Consequently, it is important to talk with a lawyer as soon as you receive or discover an injury so that you do not miss any legal deadlines.

Q: What should I bring with me for my meeting with a lawyer?

You should provide a lawyer with any and all documents that might be relevant to your case, including any police or investigative agency reports, such as NTSB reports. A report may contain eyewitness information and details about the conditions surrounding the area where the accident occurred that may be helpful to your claim. You should also bring copies of medical reports and bills from doctors and hospitals because they will help demonstrate the extent and nature of your injuries. Also important are any photographs you have of the accident scene, your property damage, and your injury. The more information you are able to give your lawyer, the easier it will be for him or her to determine if your claim will be successful. If you have not collected any documents at the time of your first meeting, however, don't worry; your lawyer will be able to obtain them in the investigation of your claim.

Q: What is "negligence?"

Negligence is the failure of one to exercise the degree of care expected of a person of ordinary prudence in like circumstances in protecting others from a foreseeable risk of harm in a particular situation. The critical issue in train accident cases is just how a "reasonable railroad" would have been expected to act in the particular situation that caused the injury. A railroad is negligent when it fails to meet ordinary standards of reasonable conduct. Whether the railroad has met this standard is often a matter that is resolved by a jury after presentation of evidence and argument at trial.

You should provide a lawyer with any and all documents that might be relevant to your case, including any police or investigative agency reports, such as NTSB reports. A report may contain eyewitness information and details about the conditions surrounding the area where the accident occurred that may be helpful to your claim. You should also bring copies of medical reports and bills from doctors and hospitals because they will help demonstrate the extent and nature of your injuries. Also important are any photographs you have of the accident scene, your property damage, and your injury. The more information you are able to give your lawyer, the easier it will be for him or her to determine if your claim will be successful. If you have not collected any documents at the time of your first meeting, however, don't worry; your lawyer will be able to obtain them in the investigation of your claim.

Q: What if the person involved in the train accident dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?

It depends on whether the person died as a result of injuries from the accident or from unrelated causes. If a person injured in an accident subsequently dies because of those injuries, that person's wife, children and/or parents and at least to the pre-death medical expenses and personal injuries an heir may recover money through a lawsuit known as a wrongful death action. Also, even if a person with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the personal injury claim survives in most cases and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person's estate.

Q: What can I receive if my lawsuit against the railroad is successful?

When a railroad is liable for an injury, the railroad or its insurance company usually must pay an injured person for medical care and related expenses; income lost because of the accident; permanent physical disability or disfigurement; loss of family, social, and educational experiences; emotional damages, such as stress, embarrassment, depression, or strains on family relationships; and damaged property. You will be awarded "damages," which are money intended to restore you to the position you were in before your injury. This money is not considered income and is not usually taxable as income by the federal government or the states.

Q: What determines the legal responsibility a railroad owes someone injured on or around a train?

The rules governing a railroad's legal responsibility for accidents on and around a train depend upon the relationship of the injured person to the railroad. The duty or degree of care the railroad owes the injured person differs whether they are an employee, passenger, or nonrelated third party, like a motorist or pedestrian.

Q: What legal responsibilities do railroads have to their passengers?

Because railroads are common carriers they owe their passengers the highest degree of care and vigilance. This increased responsibility of a railroad to its passenger for his or her safety may make recovery for injuries suffered while a passenger on a train easier to obtain than in other personal injury situations, even if another passenger was partially responsible for causing the injury.

Q: What legal responsibilities do railroads have to their employees?

The Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) covers a railroad's legal responsibilities to its employees. FELA is a federal statute that was passed by Congress in 1908 to provide for fair and just compensation for railroad employees injured on the job due to negligence, hazardous working conditions, or dangerous equipment.

Q: What legal responsibilities do railroads have to motorists and pedestrians injured by trains?


A railroad's legal responsibilities to injured motorists and pedestrians will depend upon the factual circumstances of the actual train accident. Usually pedestrian and motorist claims against railroads will be decided under the negligence laws of the state where the accident occurred. For example, for injuries occurring at railroad-roadway crossings, the general rule is that cars must yield and trains have the right of way. Individual circumstances may change or increase a railroad's duties. For that reason, you should always contact an experienced attorney if you have been injured in a train accident.

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