Proving Negligence in a Train Accident Lawsuit
New York City is home to hundreds of miles of train tracks, and hundreds of train stations. The subway system – operated by the New York City Transit Authority – alone features over six hundred miles of tracks, and over four hundred stations and station complexes. Add to this the four other train systems that operate within New York City’s limits – including the Long Island Railroad (operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority), the MetroNorth Commuter Railroad (also operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority), Amtrak (the name under which the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, a quasi-public company subsidized by the United States Federal Government and various State governments, operates interstate rail travel) and PATH (the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, a subsidiary of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which runs between New York City and northern New Jersey) – and it is quite obvious that New York City is among the places in the world most dependent on, and enamored with, train travel. These organizations publish data indicating that over 1 billion individual train rides are taken throughout the City during any given calendar year.
It should thus come as no surprise, given the multitude of train operators, tracks, stations and train riders throughout New York City, that hundreds of people every year are killed in train accidents in New York City; and that scores more are severely injured. Statistics demonstrate that the majority of New York City Train accident injuries and deaths are accidental (as opposed to injuries or deaths caused by “intentional” conduct, such as a suicide attempt or being pushed in front of a moving train). Under New York law, train operators – the motormen, engineers, security staff and others involved in the operation of the various train systems throughout New York City – are charged with a “duty of care” to protect users of the train systems from injury. Though often a very difficult task, if someone is injured because of the negligence of a train operator (a breach of their “duty of care” to the injured person), significant compensation for their often-horrific and life-threatening injuries sustained in a train accident in New York City may be available.
Under New York law, railroad operators are considered “common carriers” (a term used to describe a provider of public transportation services, such as a bus, a taxi, a train or a passenger aircraft), and are charged with the duty to operate their trains in a reasonably prudent and safe manner. This duty applies, for example, to passengers on the train, as well as to persons who may have fallen on the tracks. If it is proven, taking into account all of the circumstances relating to a particular case, that the train operator failed to operate a train with reasonable care and caused an injury as a result, the injured passenger will be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering, lost earnings and wages, medical bills and other consequences of the train operator’s negligence. Though there are, of course, additional ways – including by proving statutory violations and violations of other duties of care and standards applicable to certain circumstances – in which a person injured in a train accident can hold a train operator responsible, as a general matter, proof that the train operator failed to operate the train with reasonable care and prudence is the gold standard of proof in train accident lawsuits.
Finally, train accident victims should know that, under certain circumstances, train operators – whom are often government entities – may claim that they are entitled to immunity from lawsuits for certain types of negligence related to the operation of a train system. These issues of “qualified immunity” can be very tricky, and can be fatal to a train accident negligence claim if not properly identified and accounted for during the preparation of a train accident litigation. If you are involved in a train accident and are considering hiring an attorney to represent you, you should be sure to ask the train accident lawyer how, if at all, issues of qualified immunity may affect the outcome of your case; you should make sure that they lawyer you hire is knowledgable in these areas before retaining him or her. This is just one of many tricky and significant legal issues that can affect the outcome of a train accident lawsuit, and you should make sure that the lawyer you hire is aware of, and accounts for, all of the possible defenses to your claims, as train operators take these types of cases very seriously and often refuse to settle even the most meritorious of cases.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a train accident, do not hesitate to call Jesse Minc at (718) 354-8000 to discuss your case. He has experience litigating train accident cases, has significant knowledge of the law involved in litigating train accident lawsuits, and will fight for you and your family to make sure you get every penny of compensation to which you are entitled if you are injured because of the negligence of a train operator.