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Train Accidents

New York Train Accident Lawyers

In New York City, people depend on trains. With limited parking and traffic always a problem, the subway is the fastest way to get around town. The MTA estimates that almost 2,000,000 people ride their cars every day. Even more, people ride trains to the city as far away as Connecticut and Washington D.C.

All those riders depend on the trains to be fast and safe. Unfortunately, accidents are more common than we want them to be.

Although major collisions are rare, minor accidents are common due to malfunctioning doors, badly maintained stations and platforms, and falls on stairs and walkways.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault on a train or at the station, you should contact an attorney who knows how to get you the compensation you deserve. Call Harris Keenan & Goldfarb at 800-724-6529 for a consultation about your accident and claim.

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New York Train Accident Lawyer

Causes of Train Accidents

Hundreds of tons of steel hurtling down a narrow track at 50 miles per hour may seem like a recipe for disaster. The remarkable thing is how few accidents happen despite the number of trains and passengers on the rails every day. Train accidents have a limited number of causes.

Human error

Despite the seeming simplicity of the job (the train is on the tracks, and there’s no need to steer), operating a train requires skill and attention. The operator must pay attention to signals, be alert for incidents on the track ahead, and be ready to respond in an emergency.

Maintenance failure

Trains are complex mechanisms and depend on proper maintenance to run. They also require the tracks to be kept up, gates and turnstiles to be operational, and even doors and seats must be in top shape. Any failure can result in injury or losses to passengers and crew.

Weather and human actions

Wind can blow debris onto tracks or bring trees and other objects down, blocking the rails. Rain and sleet are as dangerous for trains as they are for cars on the road. Pedestrians may be on the tracks trying to beat the train to the crossing or to break into rail cars.

Poorly maintained stations and platforms

Improper maintenance of the facilities that people use to board the trains is responsible for many train-related injuries. A bad fall down poorly lighted stairs can cause injuries as serious as any train collision.

Types of Train Accident Injuries

Train collisions and accidents cause the same injuries as any bad accident. Because of the train’s size and weight and the impact speed, a collision may result in far more casualties than even the worst of motor vehicle accidents on the road.

Along with the usual injuries that occur in accidents, some injuries are unique to trains and stations.

Broken bones can occur from slips and falls, whether in the station or on the platform. Falls may also be caused by train cars lurching forward suddenly or stopping abruptly, throwing passengers off their feet.

Lacerations and crushing injuries may result from broken equipment, being caught in doors that close too quickly, and entrapment in locked or broken turnstiles.

Electrical burns and electrocution hazards may exist where the rails or lines are poorly maintained. Even after the power is turned off, third rails may remain charged, leading to deadly shocks.

Smoke inhalation and toxic fumes can become trapped in underground stations and tunnels if the ventilation system is shut down or inadequate. Even a small fire can lead to deadly concentrations of smoke.

Injury due to criminal activity may also occur. Depending on the location of the train or station, different authorities may be responsible for policing the area. However, it is the responsibility of the city and the agency to provide a safe and secure location for passengers.

No matter what type of injury you have suffered, if it was due to negligence by the New York City Transit Authority or other government agency responsible for the train and tracks, you may have a claim against them for your injuries.

If you have been injured due to the New York City Transit Authority’s negligence or that of any train operator, you should hire an attorney right away. A few things about filing a suit against the New York City Transit Authority make it challenging for the layperson.

Filing of A Notice of Claim and A Lawsuit

If you were injured in a New York City train accident, a Notice of Claim must be filed within 90 days of the accident date. Although there are exceptions for “excusable delay,” failing to make this deadline can mean your case is barred from proceeding.

You have a year and ninety days to bring a personal injury case against the New York City Transit Authority before your action is time-barred. If you were injured by a train operated by a different legal entity, contact your personal injury attorney to determine how much time you have to file a lawsuit.

Making certain that all deadlines are met, and responses are sent to the correct places is something that your attorney and the legal team can handle.

New York Train Accident Attorney

Vicarious Liability and Accidents

Just because an accident happened on or near a train does not automatically mean the New York City Transit Authority is responsible. Sometimes accidents happen that are the fault of a third party.

When determining fault in a New York City Transit Authority or other train accident, your attorney will look at all possibilities for where the original fault might be. For the New York City Transit Authority to be liable, some elements must be proven.

An employer may be responsible for the actions of an employee under certain conditions. 

This is known as “vicarious liability”

The employer knew or reasonably should have known the employee was prone to such behavior. We expect businesses, including cities and public transportation, to carefully screen their employees before they are hired and to hold them to a certain standard. The employer should have methods of tracking the employee’s performance and ways to discipline them in cases of wrongdoing.

For instance, if a train operator is found to be intoxicated after an accident, that might only be the fault of the operator. However, if the employee had a history of drinking on the job, and the company knew that before they hired the employee, vicarious liability would make the company liable for the accident as well as the operator.

If the employee was acting within the scope of their employment, but the employer knew or should have known that the way the job was described or required to be performed could cause injury, then the employer is automatically liable for any harm that results. The best example of this is a bar that hires bouncers and instructs them to keep undesirable people out of the bar. The owner knows that the bouncers may have to get physical with patrons, so the bar accepts liability for the bouncers’ actions.

If a certain activity has been found to be harmful or potentially harmful, and the company instructs employees to do it anyway, then the company is fully liable for any harm that results. For instance, if a company ordered its train operator to skip certain safety checks in the name of keeping on schedule, the company would not be able to blame the operator if accidents occurred.

In some cases, vicarious liability can include third-party actions. We expect businesses, including cities and public transportation providers, to ensure that anyone who has access to their property in a business capacity has been checked to ensure they are competent and unlikely to cause harm to visitors. If the company fails to do so, and this failure can reasonably be shown to have caused harm or injury, then the company would be liable.

For instance, if the New York City Transit Authority contracts an outside janitorial service to clean a station, they should check with the service and their own agents that the service is safe and reliable. If they learn that the janitorial service has several complaints about theft against them but contract with them anyway, they might be liable for any thefts against passengers, as would the janitorial service.

Why This Matters

New York courts follow a legal theory called “pure comparative negligence.” This means you can still recover when involved in an accident, even if you are partially at fault. New York State Statute section 1411 says that an injured party may collect compensation for their injuries and losses caused by someone else, but any compensation they are eligible to obtain will be reduced by the percentage of fault the injured party bears for their own injuries.

How pure comparative negligence works

If you are found to be 25 percent at fault in causing your accident or injury, you may still recover up to 75 percent of whatever compensation is determined for your case. For instance, suppose your leg was caught in the slow-closing door of a subway. The cost of repairing your broken leg is $100,000. If it is determined that you were 25 percent at fault for the accident because you were trying to get off the subway just as the door closed, you could still receive $75,000 from the train company.

If an accident involves several people, this formula still works. Suppose you are 25 percent responsible for your $100,000 broken leg, and the person that tripped over you in the doorway and broke your leg again is ten percent responsible. In that case, you can recover 65 percent of your damages from the train company and ten percent from the person who stepped on you. You may not recover the entire amount of your losses if you were to any degree at fault for your injury.

After an Accident

If you have been involved in a train accident, you should do a few things immediately, assuming the accident was not so bad that EMS took you out. You should ensure your accident is properly documented and recorded if you can.

The first thing you should always do is seek medical attention. If you have any injuries, they should be treated. Even if you feel fine, you should be examined. Some injuries can take time to develop, and proving they were caused by the accident can be difficult unless a doctor sees you immediately.

If you cannot do this yourself, ask someone you can trust to collect this information. For instance, if EMS insists you must go to the emergency room, have a friend or family member try to obtain this information while they are still at the scene.

All this information will be important to your attorney when it is time to file the Notice of Claim, the insurance paperwork, and the lawsuit if the case goes that far. The more information you can gather at the time of the accident, the better it will be for your case.

After the Accident

If you were hurt in a serious accident on a train, chances are it will make the news. Never speak to anyone about the accident once you have decided to file a claim. Avoid putting anything on your social media about your accident. And never talk to anyone who purports to be from the media. Some other dos and don’ts:

Don’t discuss your injuries

Insurance companies will look for any way they can find to deny your claim. Even polite comments like “Oh, I’m fine” can be taken to mean your injuries are not serious. On the other hand, describing every detail at length may sound like you’re trying to pad your claim. If anyone asks, tell them your lawyer said not to talk about it.

Don’t speculate about the accident

Everyone loves gossip, and they would love to hear about how your leg was broken in the door of a moving subway car. Avoid making guesses about why the door was so slow or why the train was moving before the door shut all the way. It’s okay not to know everything.

Do be completely honest with your attorney

If the subway door had a habit of closing slowly and you knew it, let your attorney know that you were aware of the problem. Your attorney can minimize or work around your knowledge, but not if you don’t tell them about it.

Do refer all official questions and documents to your attorney

The best thing you can do to shut down any awkward phone calls from other lawyers or insurance agents is, “I’m sorry, you’ll have to speak to my lawyer.”

Do be sure to let a legal professional review all documents or settlement offers before you sign.

Even if you don’t retain an attorney, you should have someone look over any offers or settlement agreements before you sign them. Even something as simple as having them pay for a scraped elbow can contain other legalese you might not understand.

Finally, know that you can speak to an attorney before signing anything. Unscrupulous insurance agents may get you to agree to a quick settlement without telling you about any hidden strings. The offer should never contain wording like “must be signed by this date or all offers are rescinded.” You should not feel pressured to settle after an accident.

When It’s Time to Call Us

If you’ve been involved in an accident on a train, you should seek legal advice right away. As noted, you have a very narrow window to file a Notice of Claim. Even if you’re not sure about filing a lawsuit Contact Harris Keenan & Goldfarb at 800-724-6529 and let us review your case or fill out our intake form, and a member of our team will call you. We want to see you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Call us today.


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