Newport Beach Train Accident Lawyers Discuss Some Basic Facts About Train Accident Cases
Train accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, and the types of injuries typically suffered can be catastrophic. Newport Beach train accident lawyers can tell you about some of their most common causes, as well as help you understand how to pursue compensation in the event you or a loved one suffers from such an injury.
Common Types of Train Accidents
Newport Beach train accident lawyers know that train accident injuries can occur from a variety of different incidents. Derailment, head-on collisions with other trains, railroad crossing accidents, and pedestrian accidents are just some of the incidents that can cause devastating injury and/or death.
Regardless of the type of accident, the law treats train cases under the laws of negligence. In order to hold someone liable for negligence, the injured party must prove the wrongdoer owed them a duty of reasonable care to prevent injury. If that duty was breached and an injury resulted, that makes up the basic elements of a negligence claim.
Determining Who Bears Legal Responsibility
As Newport Beach train accident lawyers can explain, one of the most critical determinations that must be made is who may bear legal responsibility. For an injured claimant, it’s likely you would seek to hold the train operator responsible for your injuries. As indicated above, in order to be held legally responsible, the train operator must have breached a basic duty of care which caused your injury.
Liability of the Train Owner
The company who owns or operates the train may also bear legal responsibility in the event an accident happens and people are injured. If the train operator was acting within the scope of his or her duties, liability can also attach to the company that owns the train. This is called vicarious liability. Now, if the train operator engaged in gross misconduct like operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, this can complicate the case against the train company. Gross misconduct is generally considered outside the scope of the operator’s employment.
The injured party also has certain legal responsibilities to look out for his or her own well-being. If the claimant’s own negligence contributed to the accident, this can drastically reduce or even prevent recovery from the railroad company. Contributory negligence often arises in accidents involving pedestrians or railroad crossing collisions. For example, if the driver of a car tries to “beat the train” by ignoring flashing signals and crossing gates, then he or she will likely be held responsible for their own injuries. This would also apply to “suicide by train” cases where a pedestrian deliberately runs in front of a train.
Defining the Duty of Care
Train operation is governed by state and federal law. In most cases, the train conductor is bound to follow strict regulations and rules in the operation of a moving train. For example, he or she must follow rules about maximum speed, giving the right of way to other trains etc. If his or her failure to do these things caused the accident, then negligence may be clear.
Pursuing a Claim
Train accident cases are time sensitive. That is, if you feel you have a case for compensation of your injuries, you must file it within the appropriate statute of limitations, which your attorney will explain to you in further detail.
Your claim will likely first be filed with an insurance company. An adjuster will then investigate the extent of your injuries and whether there are any contributory negligence issues that might limit your recovery. As such, you should expect to provide extensive medical records detailing your injury and its impact on your daily life. You should also be prepared to give a witness statement and provide records supporting any claim you have for lost wages or replacement services. Your family members, particularly your spouse, may also have a claim for loss of companionship or survivor’s benefits depending on the circumstances.
After an extensive investigation, the insurance company may offer settlement or they may claim you are not entitled to anything. Your attorney can discuss what happens next in either event.
What Happens If Your Case Doesn’t Settle
If your case does not settle, you may need to file a lawsuit to pursue your benefits claim. A lawsuit starts with the filing of a legal complaint against all parties you feel are responsible for your injuries. As indicated above, this will likely be the train operator individually as well as the company who owns the train. Your attorney can discuss special issues that may arise if the train is owned by a municipality, such as a city transit authority.
Once the lawsuit is filed and served on the appropriate defendants, they will have an opportunity to file a written response. Settlement negotiations will likely be ongoing. Just because you have to file a lawsuit does not mean your case will never settle. To the contrary, most lawsuits end in settlement rather than trial. While there is no guarantee that your case will settle, your attorney can advise you of the strengths and weaknesses your claim has each step of the way.
If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident, it’s critical that you seek qualified legal help from train accident attorneys in Newport Beach. To set up an appointment for an initial consultation, contact the law offices of Russell and Lazarus APC by calling 949-851-0222.