Whether riding the L or taking an Amtrak in or out of the city, trains form an important part of Chicago’s transportation system. Unfortunately, as helpful as it can be to have the option to take a train here—with over 140 L stations throughout the city—trains carry hazards that can injure passengers.
If you experienced an injury in a train accident, a Chicago train accident lawyer from Zayed Law Offices can explain the process of seeking compensation for your injuries. Give us a call for your free case evaluation.
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About Zayed Law Offices
Adam J. Zayed leads his firm in the relentless pursuit of justice for injured clients. Since 2009 the team has striven to maintain a record of success that speaks to their integrity and dedication. The firm focuses on personal injury and has a long list of impressive case results and recognitions.
Zayed Law Office’s case results have recovered millions of dollars, providing our clients with the funds they needed to pay for medical treatments and compensate them for their pain and suffering.
Have you experienced an accident and need help? Call our Chicago personal injury lawyers for your free case evaluation.
Types of Train Accidents that Occur in Chicago
The L (now the official name, but it originally stood for “elevated”) is part of the second-largest regional transit authority in the nation, providing more than 76 million train rides each year. Additionally, Illinois maintains four intercity passenger rail corridors that connect to 32 Amtrak stations, with many of these routes offering quick connections to ferry or bus services in the area. Numerous cargo trains also travel into and through the area.
There are many different ways that a train accident can occur and result in the injury or death of passengers inside the train and others outside it. Here is a look at some of the most common types of train accidents.
Train derailments result in dozens of injuries to passengers and rail crew each year and are most commonly the result of issues with the track, such as broken welds or rails, improperly designed tracks, buckled tracks, joint bar issues.
Equipment failures, such as the train’s brakes, wheels, electronics, or axles, can also cause accidents. Natural phenomena such as high winds, flash floods, or even a buildup of snow on the tracks can also cause the train to derail.
The danger of a derailment doesn’t simply end with the risk of injury or death to people inside the derailed train’s cars. This type of accident can also result in further harm to people and the environment due to hazardous materials that the train can be carrying spilling out or even a fire breaking out from flammable fuels igniting.
Crashes With Other Trains, Vehicles, or Pedestrians
U.S. train tracks and roads intersect in over 240,000 places, including 14,000 highway-rail crossings in Illinois, which makes it the nation’s second-highest state for rail crossings. Unfortunately, highway-rail crossings are a common site of train accidents, as individuals fail to heed crossing signals, become stuck on the tracks, or—in some cases—use the crossing as a method of suicide. Crashes with vehicles or pedestrians can often result in a derailment, which can cause injuries or fatalities among the passengers and crew on board.
Accidents at highway-rail crossings in Illinois account for the deaths of 80 people each year, and about 60 percent of these accidents occur at crossings with automatic warning systems, including flashing lights and gates. A motorist involved in an accident with a train is more than 20 times more likely to die of their injuries than motorists involved in collisions with other cars.
Crashes involving two trains colliding with each other most often result from miscommunication between the trains’ operators, leading to two trains traveling on the same track in opposite directions.
Accidents Resulting from Train or Track Maintenance Issues
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, rail carriers must maintain the tracks and highway-rail crossings. They’re also responsible for performing regular train maintenance to ensure that they can safely make the journey. Trains are complex machines with several different systems required for proper operation. These systems include the tracks, the brakes, and wheels.
The most common cause of accidents resulting from improper track maintenance involves broken or cracked rails.
As with other types of vehicles, the most common cause of train accidents is operator error.
Negligent conductor behaviors can result in a train accident:
- Distractions such as texting, eating, or daydreaming can cause the conductor to miss important clues that an incident is about to occur.
- Speeding. Like vehicles on the roadway, a safe posted speed limit controls trains. Traveling higher than this posted speed limit can result in a derailment, particularly when taking curves. The Federal Railroad Administration determines the speed on any rail track, based on the class of trains that use the track (cargo-carrying trains tend to require slower speed limits than passenger trains do), the condition of the track, any sharp curves on a particular sketch of tracks, and whether highway-rail crossings are present. The maximum speed limit for any train on most U.S. tracks is 80 miles per hour, which is the limit for a Class Five track.
- Alcohol or drug impairment by the conductor or crew, including track signal operators. Impairment can diminish the skills that the crew needs to operate the train safely, including the ability to track moving targets, maintain speed, and respond appropriately to emergencies.
Accidents Occurring at the Station or On the Train
Issues with the track or train are not the only source of injuries for the passengers traveling on trains in, out, and through Chicago.
The rail carrier also has a responsibility to protect the train passengers from:
- Slip and fall accidents resulting from flooring hazards at the station or cluttered walkways on the train.
- Injuries incurred from criminal acts at the station and for which the carrier did not attempt to mitigate through security guards, surveillance cameras, and metal detectors.
Seeking Compensation After a Chicago Train Accident
Chicago train accidents claims are complex because so many factors can come into play, including determining all sources of liability, obtaining documentation and evidence from the railroad carrier, and more.
Due to these complexities, claimants are highly encouraged to seek the guidance of an experienced train accident lawyer throughout the process.
An attorney can:
- Determine all sources of liability and insurance resources that are available to provide your compensation. Federal regulations require railroads to maintain a higher level of liability insurance than the operators of roadway vehicles simply because of the greater chance of injury or property loss, and multiple injured parties may claim these losses. Even the smallest carriers must carry liability insurance in the millions.
- Establish a value to your claim, which is based on the severity of your injury, the time you missed for work because of the injury, any impairment the injury will cause to your future earning capacity, and the injury-related expenses you have already incurred or will likely incur.
- Manage communication with the at-fault party’s insurer to protect the value of your claim from common insurance company tactics and negotiate a settlement that fairly compensates you for the expenses and impacts of your injury.
- Gather evidence and witness testimony to prove your claim. The evidence needed to prove liability after a train accident can include on-board video; the event data recorder (EDR), which automatically records most of the train’s operations as they happen; dispatch records that can provide a detailed accounting of all the trains moving in either direction on the track in any geographical location that can be used to show negligence on the part of the railroad following a head-on train collision; maintenance records for the train and the track; track profiles which can reveal issues such as minor flaws in the steel that can lead to a derailment; the radio communications that occurred between the dispatcher’s office and the locomotive; and reports from federal investigating agencies such as OSHA, FRA, NTSB, EPA, or the local police.
- Litigate your claim, including the delivery of opening and closing arguments, the presentation of evidence, and the examination of witnesses.
- Collect your settlement or award.
- Guide your case through the process. You need an attorney when seeking compensation after a train accident, but you get to make all the decisions about your claim. The mission of Zayed Law Offices’ legal team to that end is to ensure that you have the information you need about your case to make decisions in your best interest.
Every train accident has unique elements, including sources of liability.
Potential sources can include:
- The train engineer or the railroad.
- The carrier or entity responsible for maintaining the station, the tracks, and the trains.
- Other roadway users, including drivers or pedestrians whose carelessness caused a train accident that injured passengers.
To prove that someone was liable for the train accident that caused your injury, you must prove:
- The at-fault party had a duty in a given circumstance to take reasonable actions to avoid injuring people or damag
- The at-fault party breached the duty when they took actions that endangered the safety and property of others.
- This breach resulted in a train accident in which you became injured and subsequently incurred expenses and impacts.
The Type of Compensation You Can Seek for Train Accident Injuries
Individuals who were injured in a Chicago train accident that someone else caused can seek to recover damages (obtain compensation) for both the expenses of your injury (economic damages) and the psychological impacts they incurred (non-economic damages).
Some commonly claimed expenses and impacts from a train accident include:
- All medical expenses associated with the treatment of the injury or related complications, including emergency services, ambulance or air transport, diagnostic tests, services provided by physicians or surgeons, hospitalization, prescription medication, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and the provision of assistive devices such as prosthetic limbs, a wheelchair, or crutches.
- The replacement of wages you lost due to missing work due to your injury.
- The loss of future earning capacity caused by permanent disabilities that prevent you from earning a living.
- Property damages you incurred in the accident, such as your vehicle the train struck, or personal belongings the accident damaged.
- Physical pain and suffering due to the injury itself, the treatment of it, or associated complications.
- Emotional distress from post-traumatic stress, financial distress, loss of the enjoyment of life, and more.
Affording an Attorney After a Chicago Train Accident
Many people hesitate over the notion of hiring an attorney because they fear that they cannot afford one. However, the contingent fee billing method that most train injury attorneys use ensures that anyone who needs assistance with a claim can receive it regardless of their financial ability.
The contingent fee billing method allows you to withhold payment for your attorney’s services until there is a positive outcome to your claim. Your attorney will receive a percentage of the recovery once a settlement or award is received. The contingent fee agreement you enter into at the start of your partnership outlines this percentage so nothing surprises you.
Contact A Chicago Train Accident Lawyer
Let the professional and compassionate legal team at Zayed Law Offices help you understand your legal options for recovering damages following a train accident. For your free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (312) 726-1616.