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 legal representative 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.
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.