Railroad Injury Lawsuit

Railroad accidents and incidents cause thousands of injuries and hundreds of fatalities every year.[1] If you have suffered an injury or lost a loved one in a train accident, you may need to file a railroad injury lawsuit to recover damages.

What is a Railroad Injury Lawsuit?

A railroad injury lawsuit is a legal action a victim takes to recover damages resulting from harm caused by an accident on or involving a train. The dependents or spouse of a deceased victim may also file a lawsuit for damages. There are two main types of actions someone may take in the event of injury after a railroad accident:

  1. Personal injury lawsuit. Passengers or people harmed outside of a train after a collision or derailment may file a personal injury lawsuit. They must show the railroad, an employee, or someone else involved in the accident was negligent and is liable for damages. For instance, if an employee operated a train under the influence, causing a crash and injuring passengers, they could be found negligent and held liable.
  2. FELA claim or lawsuit. Railroad employees can file a FELA (Federal Employee Liability Act) claim to recover damages after an injury on the job.[2] They must show that the railroad was negligent at least to some degree in order to get compensation.

Should I File a Railroad Injury Lawsuit?

Knowing when it is appropriate to take this kind of legal action isn’t always clear. The best way to determine what to do next is to talk to a lawyer experienced in these cases. They can evaluate the incident and advise you.

Generally, a passenger or bystander might file a lawsuit if a train accident caused injuries and resulting medical bills. An employee can file a FELA claim if their injury and damages can be blamed on the railroad’s negligence. Usually, this means that the railroad violated safety guidelines. For instance, they may have failed to maintain equipment or provide adequate safety training.

Is There a Time Limit on Filing a Lawsuit?

Yes, if you are considering a personal injury lawsuit against a railroad or employee, there is a time limit called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations begins at the time of the accident and runs between one and six years, depending on the state in which it occurred.

For FELA claims brought by railroad workers, the time limit is three years from the time of the injury. The time of injury is not always straightforward. For instance, if you bring a claim of a repetitive motion injury, there was not one single time at which it happened. Years of doing the same job caused the injury. Your lawyer can help you determine when you need to file.  

How Do I Prove Negligence in a Railroad Injury Lawsuit?

If you are filing a personal injury lawsuit, there are four parts to proving negligence:

  1. Proving that the negligent party had a duty to act reasonably
  2. Showing that they did not act reasonably
  3. Proving that your injury resulted from their action or inaction
  4. Connecting significant damages to the injury

For a FELA claim, an employee must show that the railroad was negligent in their injury. This can be confusing because FELA is not the same as workers’ compensation, which does not require any proof of negligence. There are four main categories of negligence for valid FELA claims:

  1. Failure to create, follow, and enforce adequate safety rules
  2. Failure to train employees to do their jobs safely
  3. Failure to provide workers with the right equipment and tools
  4. Failure to provide adequate workers and manpower to work safely

What Can I Recover in Damages or FELA Compensation?

The amount of damages you may be able to recover if you file a lawsuit depends on individual factors. A decision takes into account:

  • Your current and future medical expenses related to the injury
  • Lost wages
  • Any lost future earnings
  • Degree of disability or disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering, both physical and emotional

Compensation for emotional harm and physical suffering is known as non-economic damages. Some states cap non-economic damages, so how much you can recover depends on the state as well as these factors.

Employees can get similar compensation with a FELA claim if they can prove negligence. This type of claim or lawsuit is not limited to the state in which the incident occurred. You can bring the claim to any court, state or federal. There is no cap on compensation through FELA.

How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit

A railroad injury lawsuit involving injury to someone other than an employee proceeds like any other personal injury case. Your lawyer begins the suit by filing a complaint to notify the defendants. Both sides then investigate the incident and collect evidence and witness and expert testimony to build a case.

The insurance company backing the railroad will likely agree to try to settle at this point. Your lawyer will negotiate on your behalf to get a fair amount of damages. If the negotiations fail, you can go to trial. In court, a jury hears arguments and decides if the defendants are negligent. The jury also awards damages, which are usually higher than settlement amounts.

How to File a FELA Claim

This process can be complicated and confusing, so work with a lawyer or firm that handles FELA cases. After an injury, you must file an incident report. The railroad will then investigate what happened. You must have an attorney at this point to investigate on your behalf. They have the experience, resources, and experts to uncover evidence of railroad negligence.

Once both sides have completed investigations, they will meet to discuss a settlement. If the railroad does not settle or offer an adequate amount, your lawyer can file a civil lawsuit. From here, each step proceeds as in a personal injury case, ending in a trial if necessary.

If you suffered an injury after a railroad accident, whether you are an employee or passenger, talk to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. They can clarify the situation and make sure you get the compensation you need.

  1. Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis. (2020, October 29). Total Accidents/Incidents, Jan. – Dec. (2019 preliminary).
    Retrieved from: https://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/officeofsafety/publicsite/summary.aspx
  2. Cornell Law School. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). 45 U.S. Code § 51. Liability of Common Carriers by Railroad, in Interstate or Foreign Commerce, for Injuries to Employees from Negligence; Employee Defined.
    Retrieved from: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/45/51