Tip 1: Know Your Rights
After you've lost a loved one in a train crash, you're grieving. However if you're the parent, spouse, or child of the victim, you have valuable legal rights you need to protect as soon as possible. You have the legal right to file a wrongful death claim and a survival action against the train company, whether it is Union Pacific, BNSF, or another railroad.
A wrongful death case will allow you to hold the company responsible for your loved one's death as well as be compensated for all the money your spouse would have made if their life hadn't been cut short by this tragedy.
A survival action is a personal injury claim for the injuries and pain your loved one suffered in the train crash. Even though your loved one is deceased, their survival claim belongs to their estate.
These claims typically involve a civil lawsuit as well as actions in the state's probabe court, so you need to hire an attorney experienced in handling these cases. Find out more about your legal rights in wrongful death cases and survival claims.
If your spouse was a member of a union, they will most likely have a pension and death benefits. We have seen companies try to confuse clients about their rights by telling them they only have the right to their loved one's pension and death benefits and they only need to hire a probate lawyer. If you've received a letter from the company about death benefits, don't be fooled - you have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit and/or survival claim on top of claiming their pension and death benefits. An attorney experienced in wrongful death cases can help you navigate your claims and ensure you aren't being taken advantage of by the company.
Tip 2: Preserve Evidence and Start Investigating Right Away
In the moments after you learn your loved one has died in a train crash, nobody expects you to take action. That's where the train company's attorneys and adjusters take action. We've seen time and time again companies remove evidence from the scene of the accident before you have the chance to hire lawyers and get a judge to file an order to protect all the evidence from the accident.
Because of our experience, we know you have to get involved right away - you can't rely on the company's investigation or the government's investigation to learn the truth about why your loved one died. Most of the time, they won't even let you see their reports unless you have a lawsuit filed or an order from a judge.
After talking to an attorney about your rights, you need to have an attorney file a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) with the judge. This TRO last usually for about two weeks - long enough for your attorneys to hire investigators to go over the scene of the accident, all the evidence, and conduct a thorough investigation into what happened. Your independent investigation will allow you to determine right away if you also need to file a defective product claim against a manufacturer if a brake, switch, tie, or component was defective and caused the crash.
Filing a TRO allows you to prevent the company from hiding or destroying crucial evidence that would potentially help you make a case against them. Many of these large, national train companies think they're above the law and will do whatever it takes to prevent a jury from holding them accountable for your loss.
Train companies are only required to keep certain evidence, such as communications and logs for a short amount of time, and filing a TRO allows us to make sure those are not destroyed. These are important pieces of evidence to your case - they help show what was happening in the moments leading up to the crash.
The train company is focused on their bottom line, not how real the death of your beloved spouse, parent, or child is to you. They see dollar signs, not people - no matter what they say on their websites or in their letters. You have the right to hold them responsible for your loss.
Tip 3: Talk to an Experienced Railroad and Wrongful Death Attorney
We've mentioned twice already needing to talk to an attorney, but this is huge. Not every attorney can help you when you've lost a loved one in a train crash. You need to talk to an attorney who specializes in - and who has a track record of winning - railroad cases and wrongful death cases. We recently obtained a $17.72 million verdict on behalf of the family of an ironworker who drowned in the Brazos River while building the Baylor football stadium.
While it's not a railroad case, it covers many of the same issues you'll find in a railroad wrongful death case. Our clients' husband and father was an experienced ironworker who wasn't given the appropriate safety rules for the job because the contractor, Austin Bridge and Road, chose to plan the job for speed rather than safety. We sued Baylor and the multiple construction companies involved in the project. Trial lasted for three weeks. The jury returned a verdict that placed 100% of the responsibility on Austin Bridge and Road and awarded our clients one of the largest single wrongful death verdicts in Harris County in the past decade.
What that means for you is that, on top of our experience handling railroad cases, we have the experience to take on the largest corporations in the world and succeed. We have taken our experience handling these cases and written books on what to know if your loved one is involved in an accident working for a railroad and what to know if you're pursuing an injury or death case. In addition to our years of experience handling these cases, three of our attorneys, Brian Beckcom, Vuk Vujasinovic, and Curtis Bickers have undergone the rigorous testing process of becoming Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Personal Injury Trial Law. Less than 2% of all attorneys in Texas are board certified in any specialty. This certification is a valuable asset to our clients, because it means their lawyers bring that experience and specialization into the courtroom with them when we take on their cases.
Our goal is to get you the best result possible for your case. To get started, contact us today at 877-724-7800 or by filling out a form on our site.