Missouri Train Accidents Cost Millions
Each year, train accidents cost Missouri taxpayers almost $10 million in damages. Jackson County, Clay County, and St. Louis City reported the most train accidents in 2018 with twelve, nine, and eight accidents, respectively. However, just two train accidents in Clark County resulted in over $2 million dollars worth of damages. Missouri train accidents are primarily caused by human error and track defects, which are preventable causes. This means if you are in a train accident, you may have a claim for personal injuries against multiple entities. If you’ve been injured in a Missouri train accident, contact the experienced train accident lawyers at The Cagle Law Firm today. Train accident claims are complicated and time sensitive, so don’t delay taking advantage of your free, no-risk personal injury consultation by calling (314) 276-1681 or contacting us online.
The Risks of Train Travel
It’s no secret that, next to air travel, trains and subways are among the safest methods of transportation in the United States. According to research out of Northwestern University, you’re seventeen times more likely to be injured in a car accident than a train accident. You’re even seven times more likely to be injured in a ferry accident than on a train. But rail travel in the United States isn’t as safe as it could be.
It’s reported that Amtrak passengers are fifty-eight times more likely to be injured in a train accident than high-speed train passengers in Western Europe. As many of these trains in Western Europe are high-speed rails, they are going substantially faster, covering more ground, operating more frequently, and transporting a higher percentage of passengers, this statistic is even more surprising. These numbers mean that safer ways of operating American trains are available but not being implemented in the United States. The presence of safer equipment and technological alternatives that could have reasonably prevented a train accident may help injured railroad passengers recover damages in a court of law.
Common Types of Train Accidents in the United States
Train accidents are caused by a number of factors. While derailments and vehicle-train collisions are the leading causes of train accident injuries in the United States, human error and track defects cause the majority of train accidents in Missouri. Accidents related to human error often involve intoxication, fatigue, and lack of training. Both federal and state laws regulate conductor hours of service, intoxication, and training, but human conduct is difficult to police. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, the following types of train accidents are the most commonly reported:
- Track damage
- Track defects
- Human error
- Signal malfunctions
- Rail car decoupling
- Collisions between trains
- Collisions between trains and cars
- Collisions with track obstructions
- Employees injured at train yards
- Equipment failure
The nature of your train accident often dictates whether and from whom personal injury compensation is available.
The unique facts of your case are essential to making a personal injury claim. For example, if lightning strikes a train signal and causes an immediate accident, this “act of God” and may prevent substantial recovery. However, if the signal was malfunctioning, and the railroad did not take safety precautions, you may have a case for personal injuries. These small facts often make the difference in personal injury litigation, and it takes experienced train accident attorneys to know what facts to look for after a Missouri train accident.
Personal Injuries Often Sustained in Train Accidents
One of the major differences between train and car travel is the lack of safety features on trains. Because trains are a safer form of travel, many railroads aren’t legally obligated to include certain safety features. For example, most commuter trains and subways do not have seatbelts or airbags. It’s reported that seat belts have saved over 300,000 lives, and your risk of suffering a serious or fatal injury decreases by 50 percent with the use of a seatbelt in a car. Commuters injured in a Missouri train accident may suffer more serious injuries than automobile passengers. These common train accident injuries commonly include the following:
- Spinal trauma: Neck and back injuries are the most common disabling injuries in the United States. The sensitive nerve fibers in your spine and gelatinous disks between your vertebrae weaken as you age. As such, even minor whiplash can cause serious damage to your spinal cord with radiating pain. When a train stops short or collides with an object, passengers’ necks may jerk forward or backward. This quickly strains neck and back tendons and may cause serious spinal cord damage. In especially severe train accidents, such as high-speed collisions and derailments, a hard impact may cause the spinal cord to sever, resulting in paralysis.
- Traumatic brain injuries: The lack of safety features on commuter trains may lead to an increased risk of head trauma during a train crash. Many passengers are sleeping, reading, or working in a forward position immediately before a train accident. Sudden accidents don’t give these passengers time to protect their heads, which often take the brunt of the impact. Open and closed brain injuries can be life-changing, if not fatal.
- Fractures: Extremity fractures, i.e., wrist, ankle, leg, and arm, may occur during a train accident. Standing passengers may suffer ankle or knee fractures as they fall. More commonly, passengers will brace themselves with their hands and arms. This may lead to painful wrist and arm fractures from a forceful impact.
- Facial damage: Not all train seats are padded. Hard seats are especially common on older subway cars and local trains. Without airbags or seat belts, train accidents can throw seated passengers into a hard surface causing severe facial damage such as orbital and nose fractures. Such injuries may leave permanent scars.
- Burns: Mass casualty accidents increase your risk for serious third and fourth-degree burns. Fewer exits per passenger mean more time trapped on a damaged train. If a derailment blocks emergency exits, it’s more difficult to escape a spreading electrical fire.
- Crush injuries: Passengers seated in the front rail car, pedestrians, and motor vehicle operators may suffer from crushing injuries after a train accident. Pedestrians’ feet and legs also often get stuck in the gap between the train and platform, resulting in bone-crushing injuries. Vehicles struck by a train can trap a driver inside his car as it’s crushed, and a high-speed multi-train collision can crush front rail car passengers.
Train accidents are unique in that no injury is unexpected. Passengers sit, sleep, stand, and lean on trains. They may be hit by falling luggage, dislocate their shoulder while holding subway handles, or break their wrists while bracing themselves. If you suffered physical or severe emotional injuries after a Missouri train accident, a qualified St. Louis train accident lawyer may be able to help. To discuss FELA claims, do not hesitate to contact us at The Cagle Law Firm.
They are professional, knowledgeable and they care. From the day I met Zane, I didn’t worry anymore about the outcome and it was a relief. They break the stereotypes of personal injury attorneys. When you’re hurt, you need someone who is knowledgeable and aggressive and is going to be on your side.
Prerequisites to Recovery after a Missouri Train Accident
If you’ve been injured in a Missouri train accident, you may have to file a claim under the Missouri Torts Claims Act (MTCA). Most trains and/or train tracks are state-owned, which means your ability to file a claim is limited. The MTCA expressly waives sovereign immunity if a government employee negligently causes an injury while operating a motor vehicle during employment. Trains are included in the definition of motor vehicles in Missouri. Sovereign immunity is also waivable if the public entity, i.e., the train company, has liability insurance to cover personal injuries. Further, you are permitted to make a claim for personal injuries against a government entity if all of the following are true:
- The property (tracks, signals, or train cars) was in a dangerous condition before the accident
- The dangerous condition created a foreseeable risk of harm, and
- An employee created the dangerous condition, or
- The public entity had sufficient notice of the dangerous condition with enough time to take protective action.
Each train incident is unique and ninety-nine percent of the time, you may not know who owns the tracks or the trains. The specifics of the train incident will determine the parities one can pursue, the amount of coverage, the statue of limitations and the notice due. These are not easy answers that are just available online, you actually need to talk to an expert.
If you are involved in a train crash, then the above information can be overwhelming. You don’t have the answers to those questions, so call a train accident attorney immediately at (314) 276-1681 and we can assist you in gathering that information.
Prior to the enactment of this MTCA, injured passengers couldn’t recover damages from a public entity. Strict adherence to the provisions of the MTCA is essential in certain cases or you may risk forfeiting your claim for personal injuries. If a defective condition or railroad crossing caused the train accident, you may have to file a notice of claim with the mayor of the city where the train accident occurred no later than 90 days after the crash. This written notice of claim must include the following:
- The place where the accident and injuries occurred
- The approximate time of the accident and injuries
- The circumstances of how the injury was obtained, i.e., train derailment causing a broken bone, and
- Notice that you intend to claim damages.
Many citizens injured in a Missouri train accident don’t contact a train accident lawyer until it’s too late. So, call immediately to learn the basic information that you need in case you need to proceed with a claim. Call us for a free consultation (314) 276.1681 or toll free at 1-800-685-3302.
Federal Legal Considerations After a Train Accident
Amtrak has a major presence in the Midwest, with prominent stations throughout Missouri and St. Louis. Amtrak is not a federal entity, but it does receive federal subsidies. You do not have to file a claim under the Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA) before filing litigation against Amtrak itself. However, there are a variety of federal laws applicable to railroad safety, and the federal government owns and oversees certain stretches of railway used by passenger trains. Personal injuries caused by negligent rail maintenance or design may require claimants to abide by the FTCA. Furthermore, the FTCA includes special notice requirements and adherence to certain administrative procedures.
Federal law mandates adherence to the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. This act implements certain hours of service requirements, safety mandates, operator certifications, technological controls, and rail-crossing protections all interstate railroads must abide by. Experienced train accident attorneys will review the evidence of your case to determine whether the Rail Safety Act was violated. Federal rail safety violations may be strong evidence of negligence in personal injury cases.
Positive Train Control Regulations
One of the major federal regulations governing railroad safety is Positive Train Control (PTC). PTC is a fail-safe computer system designed to prevent train accidents caused by human error. It works by automatically stopping a train if it determines an accident is imminent. This includes preventing:
- Train-to-train collisions
- Excessive speed
- Unauthorized train movements
- Incorrect track switching.
PTC isn’t fully implemented in the United States, although certain primitive versions of the technology are available on major routes. It’s believed that the vast majority of train accidents and fatalities would have been avoided with PTC. Since 2008, federal law has mandated the development and implementation of PTC in the United States, but it is not complete. Your train accident attorney may review whether PTC was available for and would have prevented your injuries. Failure to implement this technology as required may aid your negligence claims.
Recoverable Damages After a Missouri Train Accident
Mass casualty accidents often result in multiple claims for serious personal injuries. This can be problematic in cases where damages are capped by “incident.” For example, the federal government caps recovery for Amtrak accidents, and the MTCA only allows for a maximum of $300,000 per claimant. It also limits special or punitive damages. With private claims, there are practical insurance liability limits after a train accident. Insurance policies are not unlimited, and railroads only pay for a certain level of coverage. If the policy “maxes out” after a mass casualty accident, claimants may receive a proportional settlement. Recovering additional damages from the railroad itself, as opposed to the insurer, can be more difficult. Further, claimants that don’t make a timely claim may get nothing from an insurance settlement. This is another reason why it’s essential to contact a St. Louis personal injury attorney immediately after a Missouri train accident.
Contact an Experienced St. Louis Train Accident Lawyer Immediately
Call a Missouri train accident lawyer at The Cagle Law Firm immediately after a train accident. Your personal injury claims may be subject to a time deadlines, and other claimants may already be working with the railroad’s insurance provider. You must diligently protect your right to recover compensation after you were negligently injured by railway negligence in Missouri. To schedule your free, no risk Missouri train accident and personal injury consultation, call us today at (314) 276-1681 or contact us online.