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Providing Representation To Victims Of Collisions And Derailment

Seattle and the state of Washington are home to dozens of railway lines that provide services to everyday passengers, tourists, and private companies who need to transport cargo and products across the country. This complex maze of trains requires constant maintenance, inspections, and oversight to ensure passengers, workers, pedestrians, and drivers are safe. When an engineer fails to sound a train horn or a maintenance worker improperly repairs a crossguard, local drivers can easily be struck by a high-powered locomotive.

Sadly, despite efforts to lower accident rates, railway collisions still occur on an annual basis across the United States, and Washington is no different. These tragic events often result in serious damages that devastate the lives of those involved. If you have been the victim of a train accident, chances are that you are facing not only costly medical bills but also temporary or long-term disability and mental trauma. However, an experienced Seattle personal injury attorney can provide invaluable legal advice that may assist you in regaining financial stability and getting the pieces of your life back together.

Located in Renton, Pendergast Law has provided high-quality legal services to injured clients throughout the state of Washington for many years. We have the knowledge, skills, and experience to take on even the most difficult cases. Whether the party liable for your damages is an individual, a government agency or a large company, please let us fight for your right to full and fair compensation. Call us today toll-free at 888-539-9211 for a free consultation.

Railway Accidents In The Seattle Area

Getting around Seattle can be difficult with consistent rush hour and traffic congestion, which is why many choose to utilize King County Metro to handle their daily commute. Locally, anyone of us can easily take a ride on the Seattle Streetcar or Monorail to dodge downtown traffic. In addition, if you are looking for a quick getaway, you can easily hop aboard a Light Rail train for a quick ride down to Sea-Tac Airport to catch an outgoing flight or enjoy a scenic Sounder ride all the way to Lakewood or Everett. We also have access to a variety of Amtrak routes that extend down to San Diego.

Beyond public transportation, the state of Washington is home to dozens of freight companies transport numerous goods and services across the country and up to Canada. These services are paramount to our economy and require constant upkeep to prevent delays – or, much worse, a catastrophic railway accident.

But Seattle is no stranger to train accidents. Most recently, in 2017, Amtrak Cascades passenger train 501 derailed, resulting in three deaths and multiple injuries for other passengers and workers. Beyond derailments, there have been an estimated 269 collisions at Washington railroad crossings, according to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, which includes accidents involving freight and passenger trains like Amtrak. These incidents are often fatal, and the few that do survive can suffer traumatic injuries and disabilities that last for years.

Train collisions are not only a danger for pedestrians and drivers crossing railways, but also for passengers. These vehicles move at high speeds and can cause devastating injuries to those onboard if they stop suddenly, either due to braking or striking another vehicle. In addition, derailments, as shown in the Amtrak Cascades accident, can lead to traumatic and costly injuries.

Causes Of Railroad Crossing Collisions

From 2006 to 2015, an estimated 2,000 railway accidents occurred every year in the United States, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The rate at which accidents occur is steadily declining and is a far cry away from the high numbers of the 70s, but devastating accidents still occur because of human error, track defects, and equipment failure.

To ensure you receive a fair shot at recovery, we will thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding your injuries to identify any acts of negligence that led to the incident, such as:

  • Malfunctioning crossing gates, lights, and alarms
  • Operational failure, such as braking improperly, speeding, and distracted driving
  • Poor track maintenance
  • Driver fatigue due to long work hours
  • Inadequate crew training
  • Inadequate signage or gates
  • Train conductor’s failure to sound warning horns or use lights when approaching crossings
  • Objects protruding from the train
  • Crossings obstructed by objects
  • Badly constructed tracks
  • Objects on tracks
  • Defective equipment
  • Excessive cargo

Protecting The Rights Of Washington Railway Employees

Although railroad employees are not protected by workers’ compensation laws, the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) grants them the right to sue for injuries caused by an employer’s negligence. Under FELA, injured employees may recover for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and even pain and suffering. Compensation is awarded based on the legal principle of comparative fault, which dictates that a claimant’s recovery is to be reduced by his or her percentage of fault, if any.

To prove a claim under FELA, the claimant must establish the following:

  • The injuries occurred as a result of working within the scope of employment with the train company.
  • The purpose of the claimant’s employment was to further the business interests of the company.
  • The injury resulted from the negligence of the company.

For a comprehensive explanation of the complex laws that apply to railroad accidents, speak with an attorney who is familiar with such cases. Contact Pendergast Law, as soon as possible to receive the aggressive representation you need when going up against a federal railroad company.

Liability For Train Accidents

Who is responsible when a train derails? That depends on the cause of the accident. Often, multiple factors will contribute to an accident. In Washington, you can pursue compensation from anyone who acted in a negligent manner that led directly to you or a loved one incurring damages. Liable parties can include:

  • Train engineers: Engineers have a duty to use appropriate caution when operating a train. Accidents happen when engineers speed, ignore safety regulations or operate the train while fatigued, inebriated, or distracted.
  • Railroad employees: Communication between the staff driving the train and railroad management employees is essential to a safe trip. Some train accidents happen when railroad employees fail to communicate with one another because they get distracted, are fatigued, or are inexperienced.
  • Railroad and train companies: Rail companies, whether managed by a government agency or freight company, have an obligation to ensure the safety of passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers during their trip. Companies must hire and train employees to do their jobs in a safe manner. They also must ensure that all equipment is properly inspected and maintained. If a company fails to fulfill its duties and that leads directly to an accident, you may have the right to file a lawsuit against the company. However, it is important to remember that the process for filing a claim against a government agency, such as King County Metro or Amtrak, is highly different from filing a claim against a private freight company like Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad, and you will need the aid of a skilled attorney to ensure your claim is handled correctly.
  • Negligent third parties: Most train accidents involve a negligent third party in some way. Commonly, a negligent driver will have his car stopped on the tracks and will be struck by an oncoming train. If a car is on the tracks, there is little an engineer can do to avoid an accident, as it takes passenger trains up to a mile to stop once the brakes are applied. However, passengers aboard the train may have a case against the driver, if their negligent or reckless behavior caused the passengers’ injuries.

Much like the trucking industry, railroad companies hire private investigators to quickly assess train accidents and ensure that they are not held accountable for the devastating and expensive aftermath. Train companies will even go so far as to blame the victim.

Do not give a statement to the train company, sign any documents, mention your accident on any social media site, or even talk about it with your friends or family without speaking to a Seattle train accident lawyer first. The train company will take advantage of any mistakes you make to discredit your claim and avoid paying you compensation. If you do not want to be left with your medical bills and other damages, consult with a trusted attorney as soon as possible.

Let Us Handle Your Difficult Legal Matters For You

Taking on a legal claim may be the last thing on your mind if you’re dealing with devastating injuries. However, the future will be made substantially easier if you receive the financial assistance you need to cover your damages. To get started on the road to recovery, contact Pendergast Law at 888-539-9211 today.

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