North Carolina Train Accident Lawyer

Home / North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer / North Carolina Train Accident Lawyer

Train Accident Attorney

train accident lawyer
North Carolina is home to multiple railways for both passengers and freight. For some, riding a train is a good way to commute to and from where they need to go. Others may never ride a train but may drive over railroad crossings every day. Trains also bring some of the items that we buy. While most of our interactions with trains are positive, sometimes accidents can happen, and people may be seriously hurt or even killed. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a train, a railroad accident lawyer can help you get the compensation you need to recover. 

Talking to an attorney about your train accident can help shed light on your situation and options. Until then, here are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand some general issues with train accidents:

What Are The Different Kinds Of Train Accidents?

Train collisions can occur in several different ways. Here are the most frequently reported kinds of train accidents: 

  • Collisions at railroad crossings where the train strikes a car or other vehicle, or a pedestrian or bicyclist. This is one of the most common types of train accidents.
  • Collisions with other trains.
  • Train derailments.
  • Collisions with equipment or other large objects in the train’s path.
  • Incidents where defective train doors trap or crush a person, causing injury.
  • Injuries from a passenger falling or being thrown against something when a train stops or starts suddenly.
  • Slip and fall incidents that may occur on the train, on the train platform, or elsewhere in the train station.
  • Violent encounters on a train or at a train station as a result of a lack of security.

What Are Some Common Injuries From Train Accidents?

For each kind of accident, there are multiple ways a person may be hurt. Unfortunately, many brain injuries are very serious. Trains are very large, fast-moving vehicles, and they take a long time to stop. As a result, they can be very destructive when they hit a person or even someone inside a passenger vehicle.

Because there are so many kinds of train accidents, there are many possible injuries, but here are some of the more common situations we see:

  • Broken bones.
  • Head injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Soft tissue injuries such as whiplash, an injury that occurs when the head jerks back and forth quickly.
  • Back, neck, or spinal cord injury. These can be very serious and may lead to either chronic pain, paralysis, or both.
  • Crush injuries, including internal bleeding or organ damage.
  • Severe lacerations and blood loss.
  • Physiologic shock, resulting in reduced blood flow due to severe blood loss.
  • Burns, smoke inhalation, and electric shock can all occur if the train catches on fire.

What Causes Train Accidents?

It depends on the type of accident and the specific situation, but there are some common causes that we see a lot of:

  • Operator Error. Unfortunately, even a minor mistake can have major consequences when it involves a swiftly-moving vehicle the size of a train. Amtrak 188 is an example of such a situation. The train crashed in Philadelphia in 2015, killing eight people and injuring more than 150 others. The NTSB’s final report on the crash revealed that the train’s engineer was “distracted” by radio talk about someone throwing rocks at another train. As a result, he accelerated the train to 106 MPH in an area with a speed limit of 50 MPH. Unable to handle a curve at that speed, the train went off the tracks and derailed. The engineer was criminally charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment but was acquitted. However, human error remains the cause of the accident. Amtrak settled with victims in a $265 million settlement. 
  • Aside from speeding, operator errors can include improper loading of freight, erroneous signaling or failing to signal, and miscommunication about whether a train is authorized to continue down a particular track.
  • Mechanical Or Electrical Issues. There is a wide range of issues that can cause injuries on a train, including malfunctioning or failure of brakes, coupler and draft systems, axles and journal bearings, wheels, doors, and train cars. A train accident lawyer may spend some time considering which entity was responsible for the malfunctioning system – the train company, the manufacturer of the component, a repair company, etc.
  • Track And Railroad Problems. Sometimes the malfunctioning part is outside of the train entirely. This can include issues like a misaligned or loose track, uneven crossings, a failing railroad bed, a buckled track, or a malfunction in a switch or other track component. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reports that broken rails or welding are the most common causes of train derailments in the country, followed by track geometry and bearing failure. Again, determining responsibility for the failed area is of the utmost importance in learning the options for moving forward with a claim. In general, railroads are responsible for the upkeep of their own tracks, but an outside party hired to work on a track may sometimes cause issues.
  • Track obstructions. In other cases, there may not be a malfunction of the track so much as something there that doesn’t belong. For various reasons, a vehicle or other large object may become lodged on the track. An engineer who is paying attention may spot the obstruction and try to stop the train, but even so, it may not be possible to avoid hitting the object. This in turn can lead to the train derailing. Additionally, sudden starting/stopping can cause injury to passengers on the train.

What Are My Options If I Was Hurt In A Train Accident?

If you or a loved one were injured in a train accident, you may have a large collection of medical bills to deal with, while being out of work. Your injuries may be painful and severely impact your quality of life, and you may even have suffered a permanent disability or need continuing care. You deserve to receive compensation from the responsible party, or in most cases, their insurance carrier.

Large train accidents that involve many plaintiffs (people who suffered injuries) are often complex cases that can take months or even years to resolve. First, you will need to wait for the final report on the accident and its causes. In some cases, this can take a year or more. Keep in mind that during this time you will be in treatment for your injuries, and when it’s time to move forward, your attorney will have a better idea of the total costs of your care.

Your lawyer will be with you each step of the way and can advise you about dealing with the ramifications of your injuries in the meantime. For example, they may be able to recommend applying for disability benefits if you’re out of work or advise you on options for dealing with bill collectors and getting your treatment covered.

In situations where only one person was injured, such as a slip and fall accident, it may take less time to resolve your claim. Your railroad accident lawyer will need to demonstrate that you were injured and that some negligence by another party was the cause. In many cases, they may begin by filing a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company, but in some less common situations, they may recommend suing the negligent party directly.

Like the Amtrak 188 case, most railroad accident lawsuits ultimately settle out of court. Although it may still take months to settle the case, this is much faster than going through a lengthy and stressful trial. Also, in many train accident cases, there is ample evidence that the negligent party was at fault, and little chance they will win in a court case. As a result, the other party may be more willing to settle, avoiding court costs and the publicity of a trial. 

Determining how much you should settle for is a complex matter. Your attorney will take into consideration many factors, including your injuries, their severity, how long you were out of work, how much pain and suffering you went through, any permanent injury or disability you’ve sustained, lost wages and earning potential, and your current and future medical bills. If they believe the insurance company’s offer is too low, they will advise you of this. They will also negotiate with the other party if you want to seek a larger settlement. This negotiation process may also take some time, but most people are glad they held out for the amount of compensation they deserved.

What Should You Do After A Train Accident?

As with cars or other types of accidents, it’s recommended that you gather as much evidence as you can. Of course, train accidents can be very serious, and sometimes victims are in no shape to do anything. They may be unconscious, pinned under wreckage, bleeding profusely, or in too much pain to think straight. If this happened to you and you weren’t able to get much evidence at the scene, that’s okay. Your lawyer will likely be able to work with the contents of the accident report. They may also send an investigator to talk to other witnesses from the scene and gain further information.

If you are able to think somewhat clearly and move around after a train accident, try to get photos of the accident scene from as many angles as possible. Also, take pictures of your injuries if you can.

Seek medical care right away, even if you don’t think your injuries are that bad. Sometimes people don’t experience much pain immediately after an accident, due to shock or adrenaline. But they may find themselves in a lot more pain a few hours or even days later. It’s best to see a doctor and get checked out and go back to the doctor if you have a sudden increase in pain later on. This is especially important if you’ve had any kind of head injury – there are some situations where a person might feel fine after a head injury, then suddenly suffer a medical emergency later due to bleeding in the brain or other issues. Seeing a doctor for imaging can identify any problems so the doctors can prevent a potentially fatal problem later. Getting medical care also creates a record you may need of your injuries. 

If you have health insurance, your medical provider will likely file a claim on your behalf. Keep track of any communications you receive from them, especially any letters that say your claim was denied. If you’re having difficulty getting your treatment paid for due to the insurance company’s refusal to pay, talk with your attorney. They may have some advice that can help with the situation.

If the train accident involved a train hitting your vehicle, you will also need to contact your car insurance company to report the accident. In most cases, the at-fault party’s insurance carrier will be expected to pay for your car repairs, so your insurance company may not pay due to another party being at fault. However, your insurance company will still need to know about the accident.

Following the crash, you should keep track of all medical bills, as well as reports on your injuries, treatment plans, etc. It’s a good idea to scan these in and keep electronic copies in the cloud in case anything happens to the paper copies, but you should try to maintain both. Your attorney will need to see them when working on your case. You should also keep a journal or make daily notes about your injuries, how you’re feeling, and any progress (or lack thereof) you’ve made with your recovery. Be sure to note any difficulties that prevent you from going back to work or returning to other daily activities.

Finally, speak to an experienced railroad accident lawyer as soon as you can. They can help answer your questions and explain your options for seeking compensation. It is especially important that you talk with a lawyer before having any conversation with another party’s insurance carrier. If someone calls you from another party’s insurance company before you’ve had a chance to seek legal representation, you don’t have to talk to them. You can decline the call, or say you’ll call them back later if you’ve already answered. Often the insurance adjuster may want to pressure you to accept a settlement that’s much too low, and you shouldn’t have to deal with that alone. Contact an attorney right away for a free consultation.

Fatal Railroad Accidents

Although fatal railroad crashes have been decreasing in recent years, there were still 757 railroad deaths in 2020 alone. About 12 percent of these happened at railway crossings, down from 18 percent in 2019.

If you’ve lost a loved one in a fatal railroad accident, you may be suffering in many ways – physically, emotionally, and financially. Nothing can replace your loved one, but you and your family shouldn’t have to struggle to pay the bills while trying to come to terms with your loss. Seeking compensation can allow you to support yourself and your children or other dependents while you work on putting your life back together.

Our goal at Tatum & Atkinson, PLLC is to help our clients throughout NC quickly and effectively with their personal injury cases. We know that time is of the essence in filing a claim after an accident, and we always get to work right away after taking a case. That is why if you call now, you can speak to Robert Tatum or Season Atkinson. We’ll work hard to get you the settlement you deserve quickly, and hopefully avoid a lengthy court case. Contact us now by email or call 800-LAW-0804 (800-529-0804).