Train and railway-related injuries occur in Seattle more frequently than you might imagine. If you’ve been injured in a train accident, you understand this from first-hand experience. Trains derail. They collide with vehicles at railroad crossings and encounter rail obstructions. Railroad employees deal with railyard dangers while loading, maintaining, or servicing trains. Railway passengers sustain injuries while entering and exiting trains, railway stations, and access platforms.
When a train derails, multiple passengers sustain injuries. When a train collides with a car or a truck, the power-driven impact can destroy a vehicle. If the occupants survive the crash, they rarely walk away without injury. Trains and pedestrians occasionally cross paths, as well. When they do, fatal injuries are inevitable. Train accident injury victims sustain catastrophic injuries and impairments that change the way they live their lives.
If you or a loved one were hurt in a train-related accident, you need a Seattle Train Accident Lawyer who is willing to face the responsible parties and do what it takes to protect your legal rights.
Responsible Parties Must Pay for the Injuries They Cause
At Boohoff Law, we understand that railway injury cases require dedication, skill, and a willingness to take on powerful opponents. These cases often involve complex legal issues, horrific injuries, and high-profile defendants. Recovering damages for our injured clients is our primary concern. We know what’s at stake, and we have no problem confronting a major national railway institution or a local transportation icon. Our attorneys have always committed our knowledge, experience, and law firm resources to provide the best outcomes for our injured clients.
We have understood that a financial recovery can’t fix our clients’ injuries or take away their pain. We’ve worked hard to recover damages because they provided the income our clients’ needed to care for their families, return to normalcy, and improve their lives.
Our Law Firm’s Results
Tatiana Boohoff and Boohoff Law handle cases for injured clients only. Our personal injury lawyers are skilled and experienced. We understand the subtleties of evaluating liability and injuries. We can look at the evidence and determine which parties share responsibility for the damages.
When possible, our attorneys have negotiated injury claims directly with defendants, self-insured entities, insurers, and their legal representatives. We have participated in dispute resolution forums and resolved cases through facilitated negotiation. We’ve worked hard to deliver the outcomes that best meet our clients’ current and future needs. If that meant preparing a client’s case for an inevitable trial, we’ve had no problem meeting that challenge.
Boohoff Law attorneys are proud of the settlements and verdicts we’ve recovered for our injured clients. As each case is unique, we can’t guarantee a specific result. We can, however, promise to dedicate our firm’s resources to achieving the best possible outcome. We believe the comments on our Client Testimonials page demonstrate our firm’s dedication.
Train Accidents in Washington and Seattle
Trains are playing an increasing role in meeting Seattle’s transportation and freight needs. Link Light Rail and Seattle Center Monorail transport passengers to the Sea-Tac Airport, University of Washington, Downtown Seattle, and other key destinations. Amtrak delivers passengers to regional and national destinations. Commercial rail companies carry goods throughout the state and across the country. The Washington Utilities Transportation Commission lists 31 commercial railroad companies operating in the state, with four located in Seattle. With so much rail activity, accidents and injuries become an inevitability.
When the Amtrak Cascades train derailed near Seattle in December 2017, the tragedy became frontpage news. The new train lost control while navigating a curve on an overpass. It fell to the highway below, killing three passengers and injuring 57 crew members and passengers. The derailed train and its detached components damaged eight vehicles on the highway and injured 8 vehicle occupants. The accident caused 25.8 million dollars in property damage, including the damaged train cars.
After a lengthy investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that excessive speed while navigating a curve was a significant contributing factor to the accident. The train didn’t have Positive Train Control or another system for effectively mitigating the dangers of a hazardous curve. Also, the train was new and the crew was inadequately trained to handle the equipment.
The NTSB’s final Railroad Accident Report also listed Amtrak rail car issues that increased the potential for passenger injuries.
- The new rail cars didn’t meet regulatory strength standards
- No passenger restraints
- Rotating seats reduced passenger safety
- No infant and child safety seating or securements for passengers’ child safety seats
- Secondary collisions due to failed rail car connections
- Improperly secured wheelchair lifts ejected during the crash
Incidents like the Amtrak derailment and other major train accidents remain in the headlines long after the occurrence. Multiple pending lawsuits keep the curiosity from waning. You hear very little about less dynamic accidents but state and federal agencies document the incidents and track the numbers. The Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis documents and categorizes fatal and non-fatal incidents nationwide.
- Rail crossing incidents
- Railyard incidents
- Contractor incidents
- Fatal and Non-fatal incidents
- Worker, Non-worker, and trespasser injuries
Locally, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission compiles Washington State Crash Statistics. The casualties listed as “trespass fatalities” often involve pedestrians injured while crossing over rails or walking within a railroad’s right-of-way.
- 2019 Trespass Fatalities: During the first three months of the 2019 three pedestrians lost their lives in fatal rail accidents in Yakima, King, and Skagit Counties.
- 2018 Grade Crossing Fatalities: Five pedestrians and 1 vehicle driver died in railroad crossing incidents in Pierce, Lewis, Snohomish, Benton, and King County.
- 2018 Trespass Fatalities: 17 pedestrians and 1 vehicle driver were fatally injured in Washington train accidents: Six in King County, three in Snohomish County, three in Pierce County, two in Yakima County, and one in Spokane, Cowlitz, and Whatcom Counties
Train Accident Injuries
The Amtrak Cascades derailment provides insight into the nature and extent of potential railroad accident injuries. The passengers who died sustained catastrophic injuries consistent with severe physical body trauma or ejection from an overturned train. When pedestrians collide with a high-speed train, fatal injuries are usually inescapable. When injured train accident victims survive, they live with disabilities caused by spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and multiple traumas. Common injuries include:
- Severe burns: Fourth, fifth, and sixth-degree burns inflict significant damage. They cause damage and scarring through all skin levels, and through fat, muscle, and bone.
- Crushed limbs and amputations: The crushing weight of a train easily destroys a limb. Amputation is often instantaneous when a body part is crushed by a heavy object.
- Traumatic brain injuries: The effects of a severe traumatic brain injury often last a lifetime. As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains, severe brain injuries cause long term problems with thinking, memory, learning, balance, and other critical bodily functions.
- Multiple fractures: Severe fractures often require internal surgical fixation with plates and pins to maintain a bone’s strength and integrity as it heals.
- Internal organ damage: Internal organ damage occurs with crushing injuries, spinal fractures, and pelvic fractures.
- Spinal cord injuries: An injured spinal cord can lead to paralysis from the damaged portion of the spine downward. The damage severity also plays a role in bodily function losses.
- Fatal injuries: Train accidents often cause fatalities due to severe trauma or multiple catastrophic injuries.
Who Is Responsible for Train Accidents?
Washington Administrative Code, Chapter 480-62, and Federal Transportation Code, Title 49 Subtitle B Chapter I outline railroad safety standards and requirements. As with other companies, railroads must keep their equipment, rail lines, locations, and operations safe and prevent harm to others. They must also operate their railroads safely to avoid collisions with vehicles and pedestrians. When railroads and their employees fail to protect their passengers, coworkers, and pedestrians, the railroad company is responsible for the damages they cause.
- Railroad personnel: Conductors, engineers, and other train crew members must perform their duties properly to prevent an accident. This includes operating a train at reasonable speeds, learning correct equipment operation procedures, eliminating distractions, and watching for obstacles on the rails, including pedestrians.
- Maintenance crews: Those in charge of maintaining trains must be proficient at servicing trains and complicated operating systems.
- Management: Management and supervisory personnel must hire and train only qualified employees. They must supervise their performance and implement a preventative and monitoring strategy to prevent substance abuse, distracted operation, and other issues.
- Railroad owners: The NTSB suggests that Positive Train Control collision avoidance technology could have prevented the 2017 Amtrak derailment and other collisions. All trains were required to meet PTC requirements in 2015. Some railroad companies requested extensions to delay implementation.
- Rail car manufacturers: Passenger cars in the Amtrak derailment weren’t strong enough to prevent the compartments from coming apart under the force of multiple impacts. This allowed passenger ejection and reduced the safe space within compartments. Rotating seats, lack of safety restraints and child restraints, and adequate wheelchair management were also potential design flaws.
- Rail system design: Pedestrians often cross rail lines as they have no other reasonable alternatives to move from one place to another. This design issue encourages pedestrian/train accidents.
What Damages Can I Recover for My Injuries?
Traditionally, injury settlements include economic damages and noneconomic damages. Washington courts occasionally award exemplary damages to punish a defendant. Courts consider punitive damages when the evidence proves that the defendant acted with malicious disregard for the plaintiff.
Economic damages pay a plaintiff’s out-of-pocket costs. When treatment is ongoing and indefinite, an economist or other specialist projects future costs for settlement purposes. We also rely on experts when projecting future net income losses for a wrongful death case. Economic damages include:
- Income losses
- Current and future medical expenses
- Mobility devices and structures
- Prosthesis and limb replacements
- Corrective surgery
- Physical and emotional therapy
- In-home care and support expenses
- Medical transportation
- Replacement services
- Funeral and burial costs
Noneconomic damages or general damages consider a plaintiff’s emotional, psychological, and lifestyle issues. They are often difficult to calculate as they are based on the injured person’s subjective self-assessment. Noneconomic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Impairments and disabilities
- Emotional distress
- Changes in family dynamics
- Losses to spousal relationships
- Loss of bodily functions
- Scars and disfigurement
When an accident injury case involves a wrongful death allegation, a decedent’s settlement includes incurred economic costs and pain and suffering endured prior to death. We also rely on an economic expert to project future net income losses.
Can Negligent Parties Avoid Payment?
When a train accident occurs, it often causes horrific injuries. As death is a frequent result, the consequences affect grieving families for the rest of their lives. When a train engineer and its crew are guilty of egregious acts such as in the Amtrak Cascades tragedy, defendants will likely still use every available avenue to reduce their own liability to victims.
Despite the numerous injuries, three deaths, and extensive property damage, Amtrak can still minimize their responsibility for damages. The 1997 Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act placed a 200 million dollar cap on damages for all plaintiffs killed or injured in a single event. Amtrak is required to provide a 200 million dollar liability policy to cover losses caused by their negligence. Their insurance company will assume their full responsibility for damages.
In other accident cases, rail company defendants rely on the injured or deceased person’s actions to support their defense.
- Status: Train incident reports often list an injured or deceased victim as a “trespasser.” A victim is considered a trespasser even though it’s often difficult to avoid traveling over or through a railroad’s easement. Washington common law dictates that a premises owner owes no duty to a trespasser.
- No negligence: When a train engineer, rail company or other defendant convinces a jury they committed no negligent acts, they avoid paying damages.
- Contributory fault: Under Washington’s Contributory Fault Statute, RCW §4.22.005, a court reduces a plaintiff’s settlement if they determine the plaintiff contributed to the accident. Washington’s “pure” comparative fault statute lets a plaintiff recover damages even if they are negligent.
- “Fault” definition: Washington’s definition of fault, RCW §4.22.015, assists defendants in proving a plaintiff’s contributory fault. The fault definition, “…unreasonable assumption of risk, and unreasonable failure to avoid an injury or to mitigate damages.” includes language that helps substantiate a viable defense.
- Damage mitigation defense: Train accident damages are often catastrophic and difficult to dispute. A defendant may still claim that some or all of the alleged damages are unrelated to the accident.
- No defect: If a plaintiff or defendant alleges a train defect, defective repair, or defective maintenance, a defendant company can avoid paying damages if they prove there is no defect.
Whether dealing with a high-profile corporate defendant or an auto insurance carrier, we’ve always expected courtroom confrontations and prepared our cases ahead of time. Our firm has always put our energy, knowledge, and resources to work when presenting our clients’ cases. We’ve relied on evidence and case integrity to overcome litigation defenses.
Seattle Train Accident FAQ
Rail transport, as a means of transporting passengers and goods across the nation, has driven economic opportunity throughout the United States. However, many people have a nostalgic, almost romantic, notion of trains. Riding in a passenger car watching the scenery pass before you is a thrilling, exhilarating experience.
From Amtrak’s three intercity routes from Seattle to Portland, Vancouver, and Chicago to the city’s several rail lines (Sound Transit’s Link light rail, the South Lake Union streetcars), passengers have plenty of train options. BNSF’s freight trains rumble through Seattle as well.
However, the joy and efficiency of rail transportation also come with a cost. Although train accidents are relatively infrequent, when they do occur, they often have devastating consequences.
Reported statistics show that there were over 11,000 train-related accidents in the United States in just one recent year. For comparison, the number of train accidents reported is far fewer than the number of automobile accidents, totaling nearly 6 million per year.
Although they occur less frequently than car accidents, train accidents are much more likely to cause serious or fatal injuries. According to the National Safety Council, in a recent year, nearly 1 in 9 train accidents resulted in fatalities—a far higher percentage than fatalities caused by automobile or motorcycle accidents.
Because train accidents are rarely discussed in the news media or popular culture, many Americans may not be aware of the dangers posed by trains. However, it’s important to know some basic information about why train accidents happen and what to do if you are involved in one.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about train accidents.
Why do Seattle train accidents happen?
Like motor vehicle accidents, train accidents happen for a variety of reasons. In fact, it’s rather rare for two train accidents to be caused by the same specific factors. Nonetheless, human error and equipment failure are reported as the most common causes of train accidents.
Human error leading to a train accident is a fairly self-explanatory concept. However, it can be far more complicated than a conductor merely failing to drive a train properly. To operate effectively, trains require the expertise of several highly skilled technicians working collaboratively. Under normal circumstances, there are safeguards in place that help prevent one employee’s mistake from causing a catastrophe. If multiple errors occur close in time, safeguards may fail to keep operations in order.
Human error on the part of the engineers and technicians that inspect and maintain trains before clearing them for operation may also contribute to causing an accident. With trains, proper maintenance and repair require highly specialized skills. If a few out of place screws go unnoticed or a cracked engine piston is neglected, an accident may occur.
Equipment failure, too, can be more complicated than it seems. Modern trains are remarkably complex machines that require multiple systems working together harmoniously to ensure safe operations. An accident may result from equipment failure if only a few gears fail to stay in sync. Beyond the train itself, to operate smoothly, these machines require that external mechanisms, such as switchboards and electronic signals, function properly.
Despite years of experience among mechanics and technicians, equipment defects may be undetectable by visual inspection. For example, a hairline fracture in the center of a metal gear may go unnoticed until the crack becomes more pronounced or the entire gear shatters under pressure. Thus, the root causes of train accidents may be out of the control of even the most scrupulous inspectors.
Where do train accidents happen in Seattle?
Train accidents can happen almost anywhere, although they most commonly occur at unmarked railroad crossings.
Railroad crossing accidents may happen when a train strikes an automobile that tried to “beat” the train across the tracks. Many drivers underestimate how fast a train is approaching, or how long it takes a train to come to a complete stop. A train traveling at full speed can require nearly a mile of track to fully stop! In other circumstances, a driver simply may not notice that an oncoming train is approaching. For example, a broken traffic signal at a rail crossing may fail to put an automobile driver on notice.
Not all train accidents involve full-on collisions with automobiles or pedestrians. In fact, some train accidents involve no direct contact between the train and another vehicle or person. Rather, many train accidents stem from derailments, cargo spills, or leaks. Trains often transport hazardous chemicals or waste, which can cause serious bodily injury to individuals in the vicinity if they are improperly secured and overturned.
Does an investigation occur after a Seattle train accident?
Yes, in fact, multiple investigations by multiple entities may occur in the aftermath of a train accident. Due to the complexities associated with trains, completing accident investigations may require a significant amount of time.
By design, railways travel through many different states, regions, and localities. As a result, federal agencies may be inclined to investigate an accident.
There are two federal entities charged with investigating train accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration. Agency investigations usually involve forensic analysis of the scene and interviewing witnesses. After the investigation, the TSB and FRA will issue a report discussing contributing causes and responsible parties. An accident report contains critical evidence should victims later pursue legal action.
Who can be liable for a Seattle train accident?
A single train accident may implicate multiple potentially liable parties. Generally, any party or person whose negligence at least partly contributed to causing the accident may share responsibility for the accident and any accident-related damages.
Although the engineer, train technicians, and railroad companies are under the most scrutiny after an accident, liability may extend to many individuals or entities. For example, if a defective part caused the accident the part manufacturer may share liability for resulting damages.
On the other hand, individuals who have no involvement in the design or operation of the train share responsibility for an accident. For example, a driver may park their vehicle too close to the railroad tracks and cause an accident. In that case, the vehicle owner may be liable for accident-related damages.
Oftentimes, it’s difficult to determine who is at fault before agencies and attorneys complete their investigations.
If I was in a Seattle train accident, should I see a doctor?
Yes, even if you believe you have only sustained minor injuries, you should seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible following a train accident. Many serious injuries and even life-threatening injuries may go undetected for days or weeks after an accident. Injuries that do not immediately exhibit symptoms may require diagnosis by a medical professional. Ultimately, the quicker your injuries are diagnosed the sooner you can begin receiving treatment.
Should you decide to pursue legal action, documentation of your medical expenses is necessary for determining the value of your claim. Seeking an evaluation by a medical professional in the best way to demonstrate the extent and severity of your injuries.
When should Seattle train accident victims call a lawyer?
Accident victims should consult with an experienced attorney as soon as they are able. Even if you are uncertain whether you will file a claim, an attorney can help you understand and weigh your options. Additionally, as train accident lawsuits can require an extensive investigation, scheduling an initial consultation right away provides more time for an attorney to develop a legal strategy and begin strengthening your claim.
Boohoff Law Train Injury Lawyers
If you or a loved one has been injured in a train or railway accident, you need a law firm that’s dedicated to results. At Boohoff Law, our attorneys have worked hard to recover damages for our injured clients. Let us determine if we can help you. Contact Boohoff Law at (877) 999-9999 or complete our contact form at Boohoff Law online. We’ll schedule a consultation to review your case.