Railroad Accident Attorneys
The attorneys at Briggs & Wholey know the devastation that can result from a railroad accident. Trains are large, heavy, and fast, and any impact is likely to result in death or catastrophic injury. Our Maine railroad accident attorneys know how such injuries can result in severe emotional trauma in addition to financial hardship. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a railroad accident, contact us immediately so we can begin helping you seek compensation for your injuries and loss.
Over 200 People Killed in Railroad Crossing Accidents Each Year
According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there were 1,969 “highway-rail” incidents in 2012. A highway-rail incident is defined by the FRA as “any impact between a rail and a highway user at a crossing site.” This statistic includes automobiles and pedestrians at public and private crossings. Of those incidents, 207 resulted in fatalities, with a total of 232 fatalities and 940 nonfatal conditions. In 2011, there were 2,059 highway-rail incidents, with 250 fatalities. 2010 saw 260 fatalities. These numbers only include incidents involving impact at railroad crossings and therefore do not reflect the hundreds of people who die each year in other types of train accidents or incidents.
Federal and State Law
Railroads are subject to both federal and state law. The FRA is the primary agency responsible for regulating the railroad industry and promoting and regulating railroad safety. Federal regulations address a number of safety issues, including track safety, the sounding of horns, safety equipment and inspections. Although federal law will often preempt state law with regard to railroads, Maine law regulates railroad crossings and other safety requirements.
If a person is injured in a train accident, he or she may have a claim for negligence against the railroad company. In a negligence claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Often, the duty is a duty to exercise reasonable care. A railroad may have a duty of reasonable care to drivers or pedestrians crossing the tracks, for example.
Trains, like buses and airplanes, can be common carriers. Common carriers are entities that hold themselves out to provide transportation services to the general public. Under state and federal law, common carriers have a heightened standard of care to their passengers. Even if the common carrier’s actions fall within the standard of reasonable care, they may not meet the heightened duty they have to their passengers.
Excessive speed, operator distraction, failure to signal a warning, and failure to maintain the track, train, or crossing are all examples of activities that could constitute negligence. Although Maine does not recognize the doctrine of negligence per se, the violation of a safety statute or regulation may be evidence of negligence.
Holding the Responsible Party Liable
A person injured in a train accident may be entitled to recover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.
If a person is killed in a train accident, his or her personal representative may be able to bring a wrongful death claim. Distribution of the proceeds from a wrongful death claim is set forth by law. Under Maine’s wrongful death statute, damages may include compensation for the pecuniary injuries resulting from the death, reasonable medical expenses, reasonable funeral expenses, and up to $500,000 for the loss of comfort, society and companionship of the deceased. The statute further allows recovery for the deceased’s “conscious suffering.”
Limitations on Recovery
If the injured person was negligent, his or her recovery may be reduced by comparative negligence. The recovery of a person who is partly at fault for his or her own injury is reduced by the amount the jury finds to be equitable and just in consideration of the person’s own fault. If the injured person’s fault is equal to that of the other party, the injured person is precluded from recovering.
Furthermore, Maine law provides that a railroad corporation is not responsible for the death of a person who is walking or present upon the railroad’s road illegally or in violation of the railroad’s rules. Unfortunately, many train fatalities are trespassers, whose families, under Maine law, are precluded from recovering for their deaths.
Helping You Recover
The complexities involved in the law and facts surrounding train accidents require prompt investigation. The Maine railroad accident attorneys at Briggs & Wholey have nearly 30 years of combined experience handling personal injury claims across the state of Maine. We have the skills, knowledge and dedication to thoroughly investigate and pursue your railroad accident claim. Call us at (888) 596-1099 today to schedule your free consultation or contact us online.