Trains and subways are some of the transportation vehicles you are likely to suffer catastrophic injuries from. The severity of these injuries will depend on the type of accident in which you are involved.

California allows you to recover damages from the train and subway accident if you can prove the negligence of the defendant. You must also show that the injuries resulted from the defendant's negligence.

Establishing fault in train and subway accidents can be a complicated matter. You need to determine ownership of the train or station, the cause of the accident, and the negligent actions of the defendant.

You might have to sue the government, which also presents its own set of challenges. Therefore, you need The LA Personal Injury Law Firm working on your behalf to ensure you are compensated for your injuries.

Overview of Train and Subway Accidents

A majority of students, workers, and tourists rely on subways to attend school, work, or visit various tourist attractions. Trains and subways provide an efficient and affordable public transportation system. They are safer than cars, but they also present a significant risk in case an accident occurs.

The US suffers more than 2,500 train accidents annually. These accidents can affect passengers, bystanders, or workers. The common types of train and subway accidents include:

  • Derailment accidents are those that occur when the wheels of the train run off the rails. The common causes of these accidents include collision with other objects, mechanical failure of the tracks or wheel, and operational errors.
  • Train collisions accidents are rare and usually catastrophic accidents. They occur when two trains collide, especially if both were traveling at high speeds. The common causes of train collisions are miscommunication, human errors, design defects, and mechanical problems. Collisions can be rear-ended, head-on, side-impact, raking, broken train, or railroad crossing collisions.
  • Gap incidents where a passenger misjudges the gap between the boarding platform and the train causing him or her to fall into the gap
  • Collisions between trains and vehicles, especially any criss-cross These accidents are often the fault of the driver of the car since the law requires that he or she yield to the train.
  • Other train accidents happen when a train collides with pedestrians who are walking on the path of an oncoming train
  • Explosion detonation accidents, especially when the train is transporting hazardous materials. The common causes of these accidents are poor loading of the material.
  • Slip and fall accidents are common on subways, especially on platforms and escalators. These accidents are often due to poor maintenance, inadequate warning about the slippery nature of the floor, and carelessness of the people in the station.

Being involved in any of these accidents can be traumatizing, and you often suffer serious injuries. In cases such as trains colliding with pedestrians, the results are usually fatal.

The FRA requires that a railroad report accidents that affect employees and non-employees. The reporting requirements vary depending on the victim(s) and the nature of the injuries.

If the victim is not a railroad employee, the railroad must report an injury that:

  • Requires medical attention beyond first aid
  • Leads to loss of consciousness
  • Is a significant injury
  • Occurred on the railroad’s premises
  • Occurred in connection to the operation of a train

The railroad company might have to contact the parties involved in an accident to determine the extent of the injuries. If you are contacted, make sure you report everything about the accident. Failure to do so can affect your claim later. You must, therefore, seek medical attention soon after the accident so that you know the full extent of your injuries.

A train or subway accident can occur due to one or several factors contributing to the accident. The common causes include:

  • Negligence by the rail conductor (for example, he or she fails to supervise whether a train is safe for travel)
  • Poor maintenance of the tracks
  • Faulty equipment
  • Unrepaired bridges
  • Faulty level crossings
  • Intoxication
  • Dangerous conditions on the subway including luggage, rubbish, spills which can cause slips and falls

Subway and railroad companies are responsible for injuries that occur on their premises. Liability also depends on whether the accident resulted from a negligent action by the subway or the injured party.

Common Injuries in Train Accidents

Train and subway accidents are common and can lead to minor injuries and catastrophic ones. These injuries vary based on the type of accident, the speed of the train, and the number of passengers.

Catastrophic injuries are a major concern for those injured and their families due to the high cost of medical care, the disabilities that arise, and the difficulties in returning to work. The injured party might have to depend on others for basic care activities.

Most of these accidents are avoidable if the concerned parties maintain the subways and trains in good condition. Besides, operators can avoid causing an accident by being vigilant and alert (including avoiding intoxication and fatigue).

You can sustain minor injuries such as lacerations and cuts, which often heal by themselves without high medical costs. However, injuries such as severe burns or traumatic brain injuries require substantial medical care and a significant stay in the hospital. Such injuries could also kill you or leave you with permanent conditions.

Traumatic brain injuries are the most severe form of head injury. They occur when the impact of the accident on the head reaches the brain. These injuries can be mild to severe, with severe injuries more likely to cause death.

Traumatic brain injuries are also the leading cause of disability in more than five million Americans.

A concussion is one of the milder forms of traumatic brain injuries. They can be of six different types, including cognitive, vestibular, ocular, post-traumatic, anxiety, and cervical concussions.

Concussions may present a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Memory problems
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Confusion
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Problems with concentration
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Sudden changes in mood

While most concussions will clear off with time, some persist and develop into a post-concussion syndrome. The characteristics of the syndrome include headaches, fatigue, nausea, light and sound sensitivity, and dizziness.

A person who suffers a severe traumatic brain injury will experience similar symptoms to those of mild traumatic brain injury. However, he or she will also have additional symptoms, such as:

  • An extended loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Persistent headaches
  • Drainage of fluid from the ears and nose

Traumatic brain injuries are a medical emergency. Therefore, if you are still conscious and notice any of these symptoms, you must get immediate medical care.

The outlook for traumatic brain injuries depends on its severity. Some of the possible outcomes include chronic headaches, post-traumatic epilepsy, and permanent brain damage.

The quality of life is often low in people with traumatic brain injuries due to the long-term symptoms of the conditions. The employment prospects are also lower. If you survive traumatic brain injuries, you are at a higher risk of developing degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Whiplash injuries can affect the quality of your life, make it hard to work or sleep. Whiplash occurs when the head is jerked forward and backward or sideways. These injuries can happen during a train collision.

Whiplash is sometimes a silent injury, which is hard to detect, especially in the few hours or days after an accident. However, you can recognize the condition early by getting a medical checkup following the accident.

Some of the symptoms associated with whiplash include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders
  • Stiffness and soreness of the jaw
  • Headaches especially from the base of your skull
  • Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • Pain or weakness in the arm

Spinal injuries are another type of catastrophic injury common in a train accident. Spinal cord injuries are those that damage any part of the spine or nerves on the spine. Spinal injuries often leave permanent effects, including disability and paralysis. Spinal injuries can be a result of the train accident or fall in the subway (especially in the elderly).

Spinal injuries are of different types, including:

  • Fractured vertebrae
  • Herniated or ruptured discs
  • Bulging discs
  • Paraplegia
  • Quadriplegia
  • Pinched nerves
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolysis

Spinal injuries can affect either the thoracic or cervical spine. Some of the symptoms of spinal injuries include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of sensation and touch
  • Problems with breathing
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Stinging sensation in the back
  • Numbness

If you notice the following symptoms, you must get emergency care immediately:

  • Extreme back pain or pressure in the back, neck or head
  • Weakness, paralysis of poor coordination in any part of your body
  • Loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, toes or feet
  • Problems with bladder and bowel control
  • Problems with balance and walking
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • A neck or back that is in an odd position

The spinal cord is a crucial part of the central nervous system that facilitates communication between the brain and other parts of the body. When the spine is injured, you might develop additional complications that might require rehabilitation or lifetime care. These complications include:

  • Problems with bladder control, particularly knowing when to empty your bladder which also increases your risk for urinary tract infections
  • Problems with bowel control
  • Loss of part or all of your skin sensation which also increases the risk of developing bedsores
  • Problems with circulatory control
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • Weight loss and muscle atrophy
  • Muscle spasticity and flaccidity
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Reduced lubrication for women and changes in erection and ejaculation in men

Burns can also occur if the accident involved a hazardous material or a train fire. The severity of burns increases as the injury penetrates more layers of skin.

First and second-degree burns are of lesser severity than third and fourth-degree burns. Third-degree burns penetrate deeper into the skin and reach the adipose (fat) tissue. They could result in nerve damage leading to numbness and require extensive medical care and specialized treatment.

Fourth-degree burns are the worst burns as they penetrate beyond the skin layers and reach the muscles and bones. These burns typically require skin reconstruction surgery and grafting. They also lead to complete nerve damage, and the patient might not feel any pain.

Such burns are an emergency because they could expose you to secondary conditions, including tissue swelling and fluid loss. Severe burns will leave you with permanent scars and, sometimes, loss of certain functions. Burns that extend to the muscle and bone are often fatal. 

Issues in Train and Subway Accidents

Train and subway accidents present a unique problem compared to regular personal injury lawsuits. An understanding of these issues is essential if you are to recover compensation for the damages you suffer.

One of the common issues is the ownership of the train or subway station. Most subways are government property, which means that you must follow certain procedures and timelines to file a lawsuit. Some trains, however, are privately owned, and lawsuits follow the typical personal injury timeline in California. You must first establish ownership of the train and subway before you can establish fault or begin the process of recovering the relevant damages.

Establishing liability in train and subway accidents could also be complicated if different private and government entities own parts of the railway tracks, subway station, or the train. In such instances, you have to establish the owner, their liability, and negligent actions that led to your injuries.

Government bodies are also protected under sovereign immunity; therefore, it might be hard or impossible to sue them. Some government bodies that agree to be sued may place caps on the damages you can receive from a personal injury lawsuit.

You must also file a notice of claim if you intend to sue a government authority. You must file the claim within the specified timeline to sue that agency. If you miss these crucial deadlines, then you cannot recover any damages from the negligent agency.

Liability in Train and Subway Accidents

Being injured in a train or subway accident can throw your world into chaos. The confusion compounded by the injuries can result in a lot of suffering after the accident. Fortunately, you can help the recovery process by suing the liable party to recover the damages you suffered.

You must establish the liable party before you can file the lawsuit. Liability in California depends upon the duty of care that each party has towards you. That party must have breached the duty of care in some way that led to your accident.

Trains are also categorized as common carriers. They, therefore, have a duty to ensure that its passengers are safe by making regular maintenance to trains and the railroad system. Also, they must ensure that the subways or stations are safe, or provide adequate warnings about a present danger to protect the passengers.

Liability in these accidents can fall on a single or multiple parties depending on the circumstances. For instance, a manufacturer and train operator might be liable for an accident due to design defects and operational errors.

The common liable parties in train accidents include:

  • The company or public agency operating the train – Train operators must keep train cars, trains, and equipment working properly. They must have the right training and qualifications and must work within hours set by federal regulations. The company responsible for the train operator must also supervise the operator to ensure that he or she does his work effectively.
  • The driver of the car - Collisions between trains and vehicles are often the fault of the driver of that vehicle. Motorists must yield the right of way to trains since they are easier to stop than trains.
  • Manufacturer – Manufacturers have the responsibility to design and produce equipment and parts that are safe to use. When these equipment or parts fail because of design defects or manufacturing errors, then the manufacturer is responsible for all the accidents and injuries that arise.

If you are an employee injured in a train and subway accident, you will file your claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act. FELA provides regulations that protect a railroad worker who is injured while working.

You must prove that the railroad was negligent if you file your claim under FELA. Some negligent actions include:

  • Failure of the railroad to provide the right safety training
  • Failure to provide the right safety equipment to employees
  • Working longer shifts than is allowed by law
  • Failure to supervise employees adequately

Whether you are an employee or passenger injured in a train or subway accident, you must contact an attorney who has an understanding of the relevant laws to work on your case.

Damages You Can Recover

You are allowed by law to recover the costs for physical and emotional injuries and any property you lose in the accident. You can recover compensatory damages (economic and non-economic) and punitive damages (in some cases).

Economic damages account for all the financial expenses related to the accident. These will include:

  • Medical costs (past, present, and future expenses)
  • Lost income
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Damage to property
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Household services
  • Renovation to the home to accommodate a disability resulting from the accident

You can also recover non-economic or general damages for the physical and emotional pain you suffer from the accident. A train accident can result in physical pain at the site of the injury, or as a symptom and long-term effect of the injury. You could also develop post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects your mental health and well-being.

Some of the general damages you will recover include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Humiliation
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

These damages are difficult to substantiate, but that does not lessen their impact, during and after recovery. You should, therefore, not ignore or minimize them. Record the pain you feel and its intensity, and where possible, contact an expert witness to testify on your behalf.

Punitive damages are not part of the compensatory damages available in all personal injury cases. These are damages awarded at the discretion of the court, where the defendant was grossly negligent.

You can also recover wrongful death damages if your loved one is killed in the accident. These damages compensate you for costs such as:

  • The medical expenses the deceased incurred before death
  • Funeral expenses
  • Burial expenses
  • Loss of services and support
  • Loss of financial contribution
  • Loss of companionship and consortium

Recovering damages from the responsible party can take months to years, depending on the complexity of the case. However, you must start the investigation process soon after the accident to collect any relevant facts related to your case.

Gathering evidence is important to ensure that you capture crucial evidence while it is still fresh at the scene. Time, weather, and people can clear out the relevant evidence, which makes it harder to piece together the events of the accident.

Determining the value of your settlement starts with calculating the total economic damages. Courts, attorneys, and insurance companies do not use the same method to calculate the value of the damages you recover, particularly for general damages such as pain and suffering. Most of them choose to multiply the value of economic damages by a multiplier of between one and five depending on the severity of the injuries.

Find a Los Angeles Train Accident Attorney Near Me

The danger of train and subway accidents is evidenced in the fatality and catastrophic injuries the victims suffer. Trains are heavy and move at high speed, taking almost a mile before it can stop completely. Therefore, the damage they can cause is catastrophic and with significant injuries.

These injuries can prevent you from working or reduce the quality of your life. The LA Personal Injury Law Firm works with people injured in train and subway accidents to help them recover compensation for their injuries. We help you in determining liability and filing the right documents to ensure that your rights are protected. We work on a contingency basis and are paid when you win. Contact us at 310-935-0089.