Travelers on the morning Amtrak train from San Antonio to Houston on Friday, August 2 received an unpleasant shock when their train hit a pickup truck coming out of a private drive on FM 78. According to law enforcement, no one on the train was harmed, but the driver of the pickup truck was killed. The train could not stop immediately, but did eventually halt so that law enforcement could process the scene. Train accidents are very rare, thankfully, but they do happen in Texas, especially in the Houston-San Antonio corridor where the tracks can be extremely busy. If you have been involved in a train accident, and you believe the train was operated negligently, you may be able to try and seek compensation for your injuries.
Train Accidents Are Devastating
Train-car crashes are not always fatal, but often are. Those who survive are left with serious medical bills for a host of injuries, from broken bones, cuts, and bruises to whiplash and traumatic brain injuries. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics does not include highway-grade rail crossing accidents in their annual tally, but even without them, one can see that there are hundreds of train-related injuries and fatalities each year.
The causes are many, though most have to do with either carelessness on the part of the train operator or on the part of the auto driver. The most common examples include:
- Defective or nonexistent equipment – bad signals, malfunctioning gates or lights at crossings, or in the case of private crossings like the one on FM 78, no protective equipment at all
- Failure to use the proper lights or horn when approaching crossings
- Obstructed crossings, such as fallen trees on railway lines
- Speeding or driving recklessly to try and ‘make it’ across before a train comes through
- Distraction on the part of the train operator or the driver; and many others
How to File Suit
If you believe that your injuries were caused by the negligence of the train operator or company, you may be able to bring suit in civil court to try and recover for your bills, and your pain and suffering. The question of exactly who to sue can be a confusing one, but it is generally decided by the status of the train company. For example, in the FM 78 accident, had the man in the pickup lived and been injured, he would likely have brought suit against both Amtrak and their operator – because it was a private commercial train operated by someone on the job, he would be able to assert a doctrine called vicarious liability (when a company can be held liable for the torts committed by their employees while at work). Suing a government-owned train company would be much more difficult.
Do not let any perceived culpability of your own stop you from bringing suit if you have been injured. Texas upholds the comparative negligence doctrine, which means that even if a judge or jury holds you were partially at fault for your own injuries, you may still be able to recover some of your expenses, minus your own percentage of fault. For example, if you were held to be 20 percent liable, and your damages were $100,000, you might receive $80,000 – the award minus 20 percent.
Contact a New Braunfels Train Accident Lawyer
While train accidents might not occur as often as, say, truck accidents, it is still important to understand your rights if you should ever find yourself in that unlucky position of being injured by a train. The dedicated New Braunfels personal injury lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm have years of experience with injured plaintiffs and we will work hard toward getting you the fairest outcome for your case. Contact us today at 888-392-0039 for a free consultation.