Richmond Virginia Railroad Accident Attorneys
Railroad accidents are more common than you might expect. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Office of Safety Analysis reports that three out of the last five years, Virginia had more than 40 railroad accidents that involved motor vehicle collisions, which resulted in dozens of fatalities. These incidents typically occur where a railroad and highway intersect. While collisions between trains and cars are the most common occurrence, trains running over a person or derailing and causing damage, injury, or death also happen.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a railroad accident, or you are a surviving family member of a loved one who died in a railroad accident, you are most likely overwhelmed with physical, emotional, and financial stress. Contact one of the experienced Virginia railroad accident attorneys at Emroch & Kilduff for a free consultation and to determine if you are eligible to seek compensation.
What Causes Railroad Accidents?
Railroad accidents might involve collisions with cars, people, or other things on the tracks, derailment, or two trains colliding. Regardless of the specific type of accident, causes might include:
- Conductor negligence might lead to an accident. For example, fatigued conductors might fall asleep while driving; they might be distracted by texting, eating, or other things; or they might operate the train at too high of a speed.
- Railroad tracks that haven’t been repaired, inspected, or maintained properly might lead to an accident.
- Poor railroad crossing signs or other markings might cause a vehicle to cross tracks when it isn’t safe, resulting in an accident. Additionally, warning lights and bars might not be functioning properly.
- Poorly maintained trains break down and cause accidents.
What Types of Injuries Might Result from a Railroad Accident?
Railroad accident injuries vary greatly in severity based on the circumstances of the accident and the speed of the train. It’s fair to assume that most railroad accident injuries will be serious given the nature of such accidents. Some examples of railroad accident injuries include:
- Broken, fractured, and crushed bones
- Deep lacerations caused by metal shards and other debris
- Internal bleeding and organ injuries from puncture wounds or broken ribs
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries, which might include broken vertebrae, herniated discs, or paralysis
- Burn injuries, some of which might lead to scarring and disfigurement
- Long term conditions, such as a coma or permanent vegetative state
Filing a Wrongful Death Suit After a Railroad Accident
Train accidents frequently involve fatalities. If you have lost a loved one in a train accident, you will need to talk to you railroad accident attorney about filing a wrongful death suit. Your attorney will represent you and guide you through the process. Virginia does not allow surviving family members to directly file a wrongful death suit against a potentially liable party. Instead, Virginia law requires that a personal representative of the decedent bring suit for a wrongful death; the personal representative may be a family member. If a court awards damages to the deceased, they will be distributed in the following order, according to Virginia law, after attorney’s fees, medical expenses, and funeral expenses are paid out by the estate:
- Surviving spouse, children of the deceased, and children of any deceased children of the deceased
- Parents and siblings of the deceased or other dependent relatives
- Parents and a surviving spouse may share the award if there are no surviving children or grandchildren
FELA Claims Against a Railroad
If you work for a railroad and you sustain an injury on the job in a railroad accident, the process you need to go through to get compensation is different than for other individuals. You will need to file a claim under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), which is similar to filing a workers’ compensation claim. Unlike a workers’ comp claim, however, you need to prove that your employer’s negligence caused your injury, cementing the need for an experienced railroad lawyer that has experience handling FELA claims. Under a FELA claim, you may recover similar damages as you would in a personal injury lawsuit against a railroad. Surviving family members of a railroad worker who has died on-the-job are also eligible to file a wrongful death claim under FELA.
What Kinds of Damages Might Be Recovered from a Railroad Accident Injury?
Under Virginia law, railroad accident victims may be entitled to collect damages for losses that are directly related to their injuries. Below we discuss some of the most common economic and non-economic damages that a court might award following a railroad accident.
- Medical expenses, including ambulance services, emergency department services, hospitalization, x-rays and other scans, surgery, and prescription medication
- Future medical expenses if a railroad accident results in a permanent disability or a long recovery time that requires multiple surgeries
- Rehabilitative costs, including physical therapy services and assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and prosthetic limbs
- Lost wages for time missed from work due to injury
- Future lost wages, referred to as lost earning capacity, in the event of a long-term disability that prevents the injured party from returning to their job
- Other economic costs such as replacement domestic and household services or the expenses to make an injured individual’s home more accessible with ramps and/or hand railings
- Loss of consortium or loss of family relations due to injuries
- Pain and suffering, including mental anguish
- Future pain and suffering in the case of a permanent or long-term disability
- Scarring or disfigurement and associated humiliation
- Inconvenience of the injury, as well as reasonably expected future inconvenience caused by the injury
Contributory Negligence in Virginia Train Accidents
If you or a loved one sustains a serious injury in a railroad accident, those who are named defendants will do what they can to deny claims and avoid paying damages. Virginia’s contributory negligence rule in personal injury cases gives the defense incentive to shift the blame to the victim in an attempt to avoid damages. Under Virginia law, if the defense proves that the claimant was partially at fault for his or her own injuries, then the claimant is barred from collecting any damages. A good lawyer will defend against defensive tactics aimed at shifting liability. Here are some examples of arguments that insurance companies, railroads, governmental entities, and any other potential defendants might make to shift some or all of the fault to the victim:
- The victim was driving a motor vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance.
- The victim ignored railroad crossing signs or signals.
- The victim was driving while distracted or fatigued.
Most important is to always remember to drive safely, especially near train tracks. Individuals often incorrectly assume that a train can and will stop if it sees something or someone in its path; however, trains may be unable to stop depending on the circumstances and conditions. Furthermore, many individuals have tried to beat a train across the tracks, only to lose and sustain treacherous, often fatal, injuries. Be sure to exercise caution at all railroad crossings, regardless of alerts or warnings.
Evidence in Virginia Railroad Accidents
Trains are heavily regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), much like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates airplanes and air travel. Federal regulations mandate that certain records are kept on trains, which can provide valuable evidence to a court about how an accident occurred. Below we discuss some of the most common evidence introduced in railroad accident cases:
- Onboard video. Almost all trains have cameras that record activities at the front of a train. Video footage from the time of the accident may reveal the cause of a railroad accident, whether a vehicle or person is on the train tracks.
- Radio communications. During travel, a train’s engineer generally remains in constant radio contact with dispatch to discuss operations or to relay emergencies that might arise. Most companies record all of theses communications, which might offer valuable insight into why or how a railroad accident occurred.
- Event Data Recorder (EDR). The EDR is akin to a flight data recorder, also known as the little black box, found on airplanes. The EDR records data about the trip, including brake usage, horn usage, speed, and more. The EDR is accurate and may contradict a conductor’s or engineer’s statement about how an accident unfolded.
- Records from the railroad’s dispatch office. Dispatch officers spend their day communicating with one another and with engineers to route trains so that they don’t collide with each other. Dispatch officers must keep detailed and accurate records of all trains in their assigned area, which includes the direction the train is traveling, arrival and departure times, and cargo information. Dispatch records can determine if a dispatch error led to a collision between two trains, whether an engineer made a wrong turn, or whether something else contributed to the accident.
Hire an Experienced Virginia Railroad Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has sustained an injury in a Virginia railroad accident, you and your family are likely going through a difficult time given the extra physical, emotional, and financial stress that accompanies a serious injury. A reputable personal injury attorney with railroad accident experience will investigate your case, guide you through the legal process, and advocate for you to ensure that you receive compensation for the full cost of your injuries. At Emroch & Kilduff, we offer free consultations, during which we will evaluate your case and determine your eligibility for compensation. We will handle these types of cases on a contingent fee basis, which means we recover attorney fees from any compensation that we secure for you.
Let one of our skilled railroad accident lawyers handle the details of your case and navigate the complexities often involved in railroad accident cases while you focus on rehabilitation and recovery. Call Emroch & Kilduff at (804) 358-1568, or contact us online, for a free consultation and to discuss the details of your case. If you lost a loved one to a railroad accident, we understand how difficult it is to cope with such a loss. While no settlement amount will cushion the deep loss that you and your family have experienced, holding those responsible for your family member’s death accountable often relieves some of the economic stress that comes with losing a family member.