Railway Accidents: Causes and Safety Measures

Railway Accidents Causes and Safety Measures

When railway accidents occur, regardless of the causes or the safety measures that were in place, we can’t help but wonder about the safety of train travel. After all, when a vehicle as large and heavy as a train crashes, the resulting injuries and loss of life can be both tragic and extensive. What does the data show regarding the safety of trains? Why do train accidents happen, and what steps could be taken to make train travel less dangerous? Let’s take a closer look at the facts and statistics, including railway accident causes and safety measures that can prevent injuries and fatalities.

Causes of rail accidents

Causes of Rail Accidents

Recent studies have shown that although fatalities in railway accidents are relatively uncommon, the number of passenger injuries is increasing. Sadly, the rate of passengers injured while traveling on Amtrak trains is a shocking 58 times higher than for French rail passengers. Although high-profile accidents involving passenger trains more regularly make the news, studies show that a person or vehicle is struck by a train about every three hours. Trend data don’t provide much comfort, as The National Transportation Safety Board reports that deaths resulting from injuries sustained in train wrecks were up 6% in 2012.

So, why do rail accidents happen? The most common reason a train accident occurs is a derailment. The consequences can be more severe, depending on a number of factors, including the type of track involved (main, yard, siding or industry track), the length of the train, the number of cars which leave the track, the train’s speed at the time of derailment and the location of the first car when the train derails. Other causes include equipment and track problems, including damaged welds or rails, bearing failures and malfunctioning wheels. In addition to mechanical failure, a train can crash because of communication or signal problems and human errors made while operating the train.

Although trains have become more automated, operator error continues to contribute to accidents. For example:

U.S. Railway History and the Need for Safety Regulations

To understand the state of today’s U.S. railways, including train safety, it’s important to understand a bit about the history of our railroad system. America has a long, storied and deeply nostalgic relationship with trains. The modern railway industry in this country was born in the 1830s with the construction of the first mechanical passenger train. By 1850, over 9,000 miles of railroad tracks had been laid across the United States.

That figure had more than tripled just over a decade later, in 1861, when the Civil War began, with 22,000 miles of railroad tracks running across the Northern states and 9,500 miles across the South. Railways were a major part of the Civil War, as the Confederates depended heavily on trains for transporting munitions and other supplies. The Union army was able to take advantage of the fact that southern railways were disorganized, in disrepair and deteriorating fast, and this ultimately helped them win the war.

Post-war, more and more companies began using railroads to expand their business interests. It was during this time, as railway accidents occurred regularly and safety measures were nearly nonexistent, that the need for regulations became clear.

The railway industry has evolved quite a bit in the 150-plus years since. Environmental and financial concerns over the use of coal, a nonrenewable energy, along with other factors, have put the U.S. railway industry in a tricky position as far as adapting to shifting resources, increasing regulations and other industry demands. Trains are still heavily utilized all over the country, including commuter and passenger trains, as well as freight trains that transport products, chemicals and other items. Over time, train safety has emerged as one of the top concerns of the railroad industry as pressure to modernize increases.

Train accident statistics

Train Accident Statistics

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports rates of train accidents, employee injuries and grade crossing collisions. Grade crossings are intersections where railroad tracks and roadways cross each other at the same level; grade crossing accidents are typically collisions between trains and smaller vehicles like cars, trucks or buses. The Office of Safety Analysis within the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) maintains a database of train accidents and injuries and statistics about safety trends. The National Transportation Safety Board also keeps records of railway accidents.

If you are curious about the safety of train travel, here are a few findings recently reported by these agencies:

  • About sixteen Americans lost their lives because of a train each week in 2014, which was up 17% over the year prior, representing the most fatalities since 2007.
  • 2014 saw the largest number of non-passenger deaths of individuals struck by trains—255—in the four decades the FRA has been keeping records.
  • Of the 575 people who died on railroads in the same year, 70% perished in an accident involving a freight train.

The vast majority of railroad fatalities across the country actually occur not as a result of dramatic train crashes or derailments, but when trains accidentally strike individuals who are trespassing on railroad property. Still, rail safety has room to improve. Train accidents may be occurring with less frequency, but they still happen, and when they do, results can be devastating.

Railway accidents causes and prevention

Railway Accidents: Causes and Prevention

Causes of railway accidents are many and varied. As discussed earlier, train derailments can occur due to improper maintenance of railroad tracks, faulty equipment, a mechanical malfunction or a collision with another train. Trains can collide with cars, trucks and other smaller vehicles at grade crossings. These collisions often occur when the driver of the smaller vehicle disregards train signals or warning signs and chooses either to idle too close to the tracks or to drive over the tracks at an inopportune moment.

Train accident fatalities can also result from individuals on foot doing something dangerous, such as trespassing on railroad property or standing on or crossing railroad tracks at the wrong time. It takes lots of time and a long distance for a high-speed train to come safely to a stop, so a person or animal that comes too close to the tracks at the wrong time can cause a disaster. Still other railway accident causes include negligence on the part of the train operator, operator error (such as excessive speed or failure to brake properly), collapsed bridges and so on.

Fortunately, train safety has become a priority for the railroad industry. Train operators are now subject to more in-depth training time and stricter regulations than ever before. Industry regulations and oversight by the FRA are also more extensive. The FRA now oversees equipment and track inspections as well as signaling systems, employee certification, the speed at which trains operate and more. FRA and state inspectors work together around the country to evaluate railroad tracks and other facilities to ensure trains are being operated in accordance with safety regulations. Several other governmental entities, including the Department of Homeland Security, also have oversight over railway safety and regulations.

Ever-evolving technologies also play a big role in increasing train safety. Some of the newer technologies being used in the name of improving safety include both specialized vehicles and detectors that can detect flaws in railroad tracks and the ground beneath the tracks. Data related to individual train cars is also more detailed than ever, which means that sophisticated information technology systems can now flag specific cars in need of repair. Each of these technologies is designed to prevent train accidents before they have a chance to occur.

One safety initiative, a system of train control technology called Positive Train Control (PTC), has been in the works in Congress and railways around the U.S. since 2008. Some railroad lines already utilize PTC, and by the end of 2018, all Class I main lines that handle either hazardous materials or passenger trains (or both) are required to implement PTC. (Class I railroad lines are those that handle over 5 million gross tons annually.) However, as many as two-thirds of the 29 U.S. commuter railroads may not meet the deadline by the end of 2018.

PTC is designed to prevent several types of train accidents, including collisions between trains, grade crossing accidents and train derailments due to high speeds but is in operation on only 45% of tracks owned by freight railroads and 24% of tracks owned by passenger railways.

The train derailment in Washington State in December 2017 may have been prevented if PTC had been activated at the time of the crash (it had already been installed on the tracks). It would have alerted the engineer to slow down before the curve and would have automatically applied the brakes if the engineer failed to do so, according to the preliminary report issued by the NTSB. The FRA may grant an extension until 2020 for commuter railroads if they meet certain requirements. However, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office released in February 2018 said that 19 of the 29 commute railroads may not meet the deadline or may not qualify for the extension.

Train safety

Train Safety: Looking to the Future

Overall, according to statistical data from many of the major railway organizations and transportation authorities, train safety has vastly improved over the years. These improvements have come about through increased regulations and oversight, as well as the continuing adoption of more effective safety technologies. Additional measures can help improve passenger safety and reduce deaths and injuries.

Specific advances that can help avoid future railway tragedies include:

  • Onboard detection systems, including wheel impact load detectors and hot bearing detectors, that alert engineers of faulty components
  • Ultrasonic and geometric track inspection systems that gather data with lasers to help more accurately schedule and identify needed repairs
  • Sensors at railway crossings to detect when someone enters, by foot or by car, an area a train will cross
  • Drones to conduct aerial inspections without the need to conduct on-track monitoring
  • Workplace practices that emphasize passenger safety, including improved screening of job candidates, better training and enhanced reporting of accidents

Slack Davis Sanger Advocates for Victims of Train Accidents

Data that demonstrates increased train safety is no comfort to the families and loved ones of anyone who has been seriously injured or killed in a railway accident. If you or someone you care about has been affected by a railway accident and you’re considering filing a claim, the experienced, caring and compassionate attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger can give you advice regarding your potential case. We have the practical and technical knowledge needed to help you make the right decision about how to best pursue legal action. Contact us for a free consultation.

Compensation For Emotional Distress: What Are Your Rights?

Compensation for emotional distress

Many people are aware that someone who is injured, or worse, can recover damages from the entity responsible for their injury. Damages are almost always in the form of financial payments, and personal injury damages typically cover monetary losses or costs associated with the injury. These costs might include hospital or physical therapy bills, lost wages due to time away from work, mechanic fees for fixing a damaged vehicle and so on. But did you know you might also be entitled to compensation for emotional distress? What are your rights regarding emotional suffering that you have sustained from either witnessing or being involved in a life-altering injury or tragedy?

Can Emotional Distress Be Addressed In Personal Injury Lawsuits?

First, it’s important to know that you do have rights in a personal injury lawsuit when it comes to emotional suffering. If you have been injured or someone you love was injured or even killed due to someone else’s negligence, it could have a lasting effect on your entire life. This includes the very real psychological impact that injuries can carry.

When you are injured, whether in a car accident, on the job or in some other situation, you might grapple with profound feelings of depression or anger, along with the physical pain and difficulty of your injury and subsequent recovery. If your injury causes a permanent physical handicap or chronic pain, such as what might result from common construction site injuries or other traumatic work-related accidents, the effects of dealing with that will be both physical and emotional, and you may deserve compensation for both.

If you lose a family member or loved one in a tragic accident, you may also be entitled to compensation for your own emotional distress. The death of a loved one is a devastating event that causes significant stress in the lives of those left behind. If the death was caused by an accident that could have been avoided, this can provoke overwhelming, ongoing feelings of anger, sadness, helplessness and depression. These feelings certainly have a great personal cost, and they may carry a financial cost as well.

Examples of emotional distress

Examples of Emotional Distress

Some people must seek counseling or take medication to cope with the intense feelings they experience after a major accident or injury. Others endure a significant loss of quality of life due to the injury, and may even be rendered unable to work or otherwise function normally—major life changes that can have a profound psychological impact. When a traumatic injury or the loss of a loved one to a tragic accident leads to a medical diagnosis of some type of emotional distress, this may be considered in a personal injury lawsuit as deserving of financial compensation.

Some examples of emotional distress following a traumatic injury or loss of a loved one that could merit compensation in a personal injury lawsuit include a professional diagnosis of:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Substance abuse

Sometimes, a diagnosis of a physical condition can serve as further evidence of emotional distress following an accident or injury. Stomach ulcers, chronic headaches and insomnia or other sleep disorders that have developed as a physical manifestation of emotional suffering can all be important considerations in a personal injury lawsuit.

Emotional distress lawsuit settlement

Emotional Distress Lawsuit Settlement: Examples

Since emotional distress is a personal and therefore subjective experience, it does not always require a professional diagnosis in order to be considered in a personal injury lawsuit. Even if the injured person has not been diagnosed by a psychologist or medical professional with any of the above well-known diagnoses, the lawsuit can sometimes be settled in their favor, including damages for emotional distress.

Some examples of emotional distress that might not be professionally diagnosed but which might still be included in a personal injury lawsuit include significant, intense and repeated feelings or episodes of:

  • Fear or fright
  • Humiliation
  • Crying
  • Stress
  • Panic

Sometimes, emotional distress due to an injury or loss can lead to further, compounded effects later on. An example of this would be a job site accident resulting from oil rig dangers or other on-the-job hazards that causes a worker to lose his hand, which then makes him unable to work. The loss of his limb plus the loss of function and quality of life, in turn, caused depression and substance abuse, which could lead to tension and strain in his marriage, ultimately leading to divorce—which then compounded the emotional impact of the entire situation.

In an example like this, the accident and injury were the cause of everything that came after, including multiple stages of emotional pain and suffering. An experienced and competent personal injury law attorney can establish this cause-and-effect relationship between the injury and its multiple, compounding emotional effects for the client, and can work to secure much-deserved compensation.

Mental anguish and emotional distress

Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress

Mental anguish and emotional distress are closely related in the context of a personal injury case. As with emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish refers to conditions including depression, anxiety, fright, grief and other significant emotional trauma. Mental anguish damages are usually connected to cases involving wrongful death, disfigurement or serious bodily injury that led to profound sadness and distress for the injured individual.

In most cases and states, suing for emotional distress damages must be done in conjunction with a physical injury lawsuit, as opposed to emotional distress that was not caused by an injury or accident. In the state of Texas, however, a plaintiff may sue for mental anguish damages without physical injury in one of a limited number of circumstances. Those circumstances include:

  • Bystander cases (when the individual has witnessed a traumatic accident and suffered profound mental anguish as a result)
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Defamation (when the individual has suffered mental anguish due to his or her reputation having been damaged by malicious gossip, libel or slander)
  • Child abduction (when the abduction of the individual’s child caused profound mental anguish not just for the child, but for the individual as well)

Calculating emotional distress damages

Calculating Emotional Distress Damages

Due to the subjective nature of emotions, calculating emotional distress damages is not an easy task, and there is no established formula for doing so. To secure compensation for a client, a personal injury attorney must prove not only that the client’s injury had a significant emotional impact, but also that the impact was severe enough to carry a burden worthy of financial recompense.

Part of this might be a relatively straightforward calculation, such as if the client attended counseling sessions following the injury, or was prescribed antidepressant or antianxiety medication by a psychiatrist. Those situations come with receipts bearing dollar amounts—actual money that was spent on recovery.

But a large portion of emotional distress damages are not straightforward in the least. How can one attach a monetary amount to suffering? Grief, depression, anxiety, panic and stress—all of these are psychological conditions that fluctuate over time and can extend for months, years or even for the rest of a person’s life. How can a price be put on this type of damage?

There are several things a personal injury lawsuit client can do to help clarify the process of determining damages for emotional distress. One way is by writing regularly in a journal about feelings experienced following the accident. This will be an important tool both in seeking medical treatment for emotional distress and when seeking damages for suffering in the lawsuit. Journals can be an important part of proving that emotional distress was a direct result of the injury and not simply a preexisting condition, and they can also serve as a private outlet for personal feelings.

Journal entries chronicling the psychological impact of an injury can be especially helpful in a personal injury lawsuit when there is no specific medical diagnosis of an emotional condition like depression, anxiety or PTSD. Journal entries that describe the client’s emotional struggles can be used as a moving and convincing piece of evidence to prove that compensation is merited. This type of evidence is greatly strengthened when it comes along with support from a medical professional, such as testimony or session notes from a licensed therapist who treated the individual following the injury.

As a general rule of thumb, calculating emotional distress damages depends a great deal upon the severity of the individual’s emotional suffering. Everyone experiences a degree of emotional distress after any injury; the key is proving that the distress caused by an injury was profound or traumatic enough to merit compensation.

In some personal injury cases, attorneys can prove that there was an intentional infliction of emotional distress upon their client. One example of this is in a case of a car accident that involved road rage—when the defendant’s violent display of anger caused an accident that led not only to the client’s physical injury, but also to significant feelings of fear, panic or other emotional suffering.

Slack Davis Danger Can Help You Attain Justice

The personal injury attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have extensive experience with being strong and compassionate advocates for our clients who have been injured or lost a loved one in a traumatic accident. We work diligently to seek the maximum possible damages for emotional distress resulting from an injury or wrongful death. If you have experienced emotional distress or mental anguish due to an accident and wonder if you have a case, call Slack Davis Sanger today. We can help you determine the best course of action to obtain the compensation you deserve.

Personal Injury Examples: Do You Have A Case?

Personal injury examples

If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident which resulted in an injury due to someone else’s carelessness, you may be looking for personal injury examples to better understand this field of the law. What is personal injury law, and what are the important elements of a case? Do you have a case, and are you eligible to receive compensation for your losses?

If you have been injured due to the negligence of a company or individual, you may have lost work time and wages as you grappled with hospital or physical therapy bills, medication costs, emotional distress or a general loss of your previous quality of life. If this describes your situation or that of someone you care about, read on to learn about personal injury lawsuits, personal injury examples and common types of cases.

Personal injury law definition

Personal Injury Law Definition

Personal injury lawsuits are often, though not always, built on the premise of negligence. Essentially, all members of a society are expected to conduct themselves in a reasonable and responsible manner. This means that whether they are driving to work, walking their dog, shopping for groceries or drinking in a bar, they are expected to avoid putting anyone else around them at risk.

Businesses are held to a similar expectation of responsible management regarding both customers and employees. This is especially true when their employees use tools that are potentially dangerous, such as hazardous materials, heavy machinery or tall scaffolding, or when the company manufactures defective or unsafe products that harm the customers who use them.

Negligence enters the picture when an individual or a business puts others at risk to the extent that they commit a wrongful act—an act of carelessness that results in someone being injured or killed. If someone causes a car accident while driving under the influence, for example, or allows their aggressive dog out of the yard, and someone else is injured as a result, this is considered a wrongful act. The person who committed the act of negligence should be held liable, or responsible, for the role he or she played in causing the other person’s injury.

Though negligence is key to many personal injury lawsuits, a good legal definition must go beyond negligence to include situations in which someone was harmed not due to carelessness but intentionally, such as by assault, fraud, slander or false imprisonment. These are called intentional torts. “Tort” is a term deriving from the Latin word for “wrong” or “injustice,” which points to the core of this realm of the legal field: Personal injury law, also known as tort law, seeks justice for people who have been injured due to a wrongful or negligent act.

Personal injury lawyers seek to pursue justice on behalf of the injured individual and sometimes on behalf of their family, as well. Justice in this context almost always means financial compensation, which is also called damages, for the injured person. Damages are paid either by the individual or business that is legally responsible for the injury, or by their respective insurance company.

In a personal injury case, a plaintiff—the person who has been injured—sues the person or company legally responsible for the injury; this second party is known as the defendant in the case. Personal injury lawsuits seek to prove that the defendant committed a wrongful act or an act of negligence that led to the plaintiff’s injury, and therefore liability lies with the defendant. Attorneys for injured plaintiffs might pursue damages from the defendant to cover medical bills incurred after the injury, property damage resulting from the incident (such as in a car accident), emotional distress, lost wages due to missed work or lost quality of life.

Personal injury law also covers wrongful death scenarios—situations in which a wrongful act has not just injured someone, but actually caused their death. In wrongful death cases, the plaintiff in the case might be a spouse or family member of the person who died. They might seek damages to compensate for their loved one’s loss of life and livelihood as well as to cover funeral expenses, emotional distress or the loss of earning capacity—that is, the future income that would have been earned had the individual lived.

Many personal injury lawsuits are settled outside of court. In those instances when they do go to trial, these cases are tried in civil courts.

Most common personal injury claims

Most Common Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury law covers any case in which someone has been injured or killed due to the negligence or carelessness of another. Some types of personal injury cases are more common than others. Below are six common types of personal injury claims.

Car And Truck Accidents 

In these cases, a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist or pedestrian has been hurt or killed in a collision with a car, truck or another vehicle.

Vehicle Equipment Failures 

In these accidents, defective equipment on or in a vehicle, such as tires, seatbelts or airbags malfunctions, causing someone’s injury or death.

Medical Malpractice 

This type of personal injury involves someone being harmed, injured or killed due to negligence on the part of a healthcare professional, such as failure to diagnose a serious condition, improper treatment or use of an unsafe medical procedure.

Product Liability Cases

These cases seek compensation in situations when a defective or recalled product or medication causes someone’s illness, injury or death.

Work-Related Accidents

When an accident occurs on the job, often due to unsafe working conditions, insufficiently trained employees or improperly maintained equipment and results in the injury or death of an employee, the person injured or a surviving family member can pursue a personal injury claim. As you might imagine, more claims are filed in more perilous lines of work, such as injuries sustained due to oil rig dangers or other work-related hazards.

List of personal injury types

List of Personal Injury Types

There are a variety of types of personal injuries that are possible due to negligence or wrongful acts. Some examples of personal injury types include slip-and-falls due to slipping on ice or tripping over debris, whether at work or on private property; broken bones, internal injuries or a traumatic brain injury resulting from a car accident; the loss of a finger or limb in an accident at work due to defective machinery, which is just one example of a common construction site injury; a severe bite from a vicious, off-leash dog or a chemical burn due to handling hazardous materials on the job.

These are just a handful of types of personal injuries that would merit compensation for the victim; a full and exhaustive list of personal injury types might be thousands of items long. Details aside, the attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have a proven track record of experience with a wide variety of personal injury cases. Some examples of personal injury cases we have successfully settled or won at trial over the years involved:

  • A family of three who suffered serious injuries when an 18-wheeler ran a red light and collided with the family vehicle.
  • A woman who was killed in a relatively minor car accident because her seat belt malfunctioned, causing massive internal injuries.
  • A three-person film crew on board a charter helicopter that collided into a building, leading to serious passenger injuries.
  • The death of blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan in a 1990 helicopter crash, when the pilot departed in foggy weather conditions and failed to maintain proper altitude over hilly terrain.

What is personal injury insurance

What Is Personal Injury Insurance?

Personal injury insurance—also called personal injury protection or PIP insurance—is a car insurance extension that helps to defray the cost of lost wages and medical bills incurred from injury in a car accident. PIP insurance coverage kicks in regardless of who might have been at fault, which is why it is often called “no-fault” insurance coverage. Drivers injured in an accident who carry PIP insurance will receive maximum compensation from their insurance company, whether they or someone else caused the collision. PIP insurance is mandatory in some states but optional in others, including the state of Texas.

Slack Davis Sanger: Top Texas Personal Injury Law Firm

Since accidents and injuries are almost always sudden, unexpected events, the person who was injured is often uncertain about what to do next. The idea of going up against a powerful business or insurance company can seem intimidating, even downright scary—but a capable, experienced attorney knows exactly how to proceed. If you have suffered an injury due to someone’s negligence or wrongful act, the first thing you should do is to contact Slack Davis Sanger.

The type of case you have may also necessitate a higher level of quality and knowledge in your legal representation. Proving negligence and liability in a personal injury case is tricky enough; things become more difficult still when it comes to proving intent in situations involving intentional torts. If your case involves establishing intent on the part of the individual or company that caused your injury, you will need a highly experienced personal injury lawyer to represent you.

Furthermore, in any potential personal injury case, time is of the essence. If you wait too long before pursuing either medical attention for your injury or financial compensation to cover your losses, you risk a significant reduction in the damages you’re entitled to. There are also statutes of limitations for filing personal injury lawsuits. In the state of Texas, the deadline is two years—meaning, you have two years after the date of your accident or injury to file your case. If you delay past that time limit, you will miss out on your legal right to seek justice.

For all of these reasons, it is essential that you hire a capable attorney who is thoroughly versed in all the complexities of applicable laws, and who will be both compassionate and aggressive in going to bat for you. The attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger have combined decades and hundreds of cases’ worth of experience in tort law, as well as a proven track record with cases both tried in court and settled out of court. We care about our clients’ well-being, and we are committed to securing the highest level of compensation to which you are entitled. Contact us for a free consultation.

What Happens When a Case Goes to Trial?

What happens when a case goes to trial

If you are trying to make a decision about whether or not to file a personal injury lawsuit, you may be wondering about the process. Let’s say you have a lawyer who has agreed to take your case. What happens next? And how likely is it that you will end up in court? Let’s answer some of the most common questions our plaintiffs have about when a case goes to trial.

You might be surprised to learn that, in the United States, of those cases that don’t get dismissed by the court, only four to five percent of personal injury cases go to trial. That means that about 95% of cases are settled out of court. But before we talk about what happens in court, let’s back up and review how your case actually gets to court.

Meeting With An Attorney

Once you think that you may have a claim against a business or individual for causing you harm, you’ll speak with a personal injury lawyer. Many attorneys offer free case evaluations, so that you can determine whether you have a claim that could be successful. When you have your first meeting, you’ll provide information to the lawyer about what led you to want to file a lawsuit and answer a series of questions. The more information you can provide to your attorney, the better he or she will be able to determine the best next steps. In addition to discussing the details surrounding your case, the lawyer will talk to you about practical matters, such as the different expenses and fees and how long they believe it will take to resolve your case. Most, if not all, personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. That means that you don’t pay for any expenses, including the lawyer’s fees, unless they win your case. If the lawyer agrees to take your case, you’ll sign a representation agreement stating that they will officially be your attorney for this particular case.

Filing Papers and Fact-Finding

At the beginning of a lawsuit, your attorney will file court documents stating the facts that support your claims and who you are suing. In Texas, these documents are called the “original petition.” In addition, your attorney will prepare and file what are known as a “summons,” which is a notice to the defendant about your lawsuit, and “service of process,” which is the procedure by which notice of the lawsuit is actually given to the defendant. The defendant typically has a limited time in which to respond to your original petition. When responding to an original petition, a defendant will usually just file what is known as an “original answer.” In this original answer, the defendant will often just generally deny everything in your original petition until the defendant has a chance to discover more facts about the lawsuit you have filed.

After your original petition is filed, the “discovery” process begins. Discovery is a term used to describe written requests for information from the defendant and any non-parties that may be helpful to your case. Such requests include written questions (interrogatories), requests for production of documents and inspection of premises or land where the injury occurred, and depositions. Depositions are interviews of witnesses, which are documented by a court reporter and involve an attorney asking the witness a series of questions. Interrogatories are written questions submitted to the defendant that are to be answered and sworn to in writing. Both sides must have access to all the documents which relate to the case. The defendant can and will apply these same discovery requests and procedures to you as well.

Resolving Your Case Before Trial

Much of what happens before a case can go to trial is known as “motion practice.” Motions are requests filed by lawyers asking the court to decide an issue relevant to the case. Such decisions are known as “rulings.” Some rulings might even end the lawsuit before it ever goes to trial. For example, the defendant might file a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss the case might be filed for:

  • Lack of subject matter jurisdiction (the court doesn’t have the legal authority to rule on your case)
  • Lack of personal jurisdiction (the court doesn’t have legal authority over the defendant because the defendant resides outside of the court’s “jurisdiction”)
  • Improper venue (the lawsuit hasn’t been filed in the correct court)
  • Insufficient service of process (the defendant wasn’t given proper notice of the lawsuit)
  • Failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (there is no legal remedy for the harm caused you often because either the defendant’s conduct isn’t considered wrongful in the eyes of the law or your harm cannot be actually traced to the defendant’s wrongful conduct)

Once the case is further along in the discovery process, the defendant may also file what is known as a motion for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment will be granted if the defendant can show that you, as the plaintiff, cannot prove some element of your claim. Typically, in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff must have evidence to support each element of his or her claim. A negligence claim, for example, consists of the following three elements: 1) a wrongful or negligent act or omission on the defendant’s part, 2) a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant not to commit that wrongful or negligent act, and 3) a harm to the plaintiff caused by that negligent or wrongful act or omission. If you do not have sufficient evidence to support each and every one of the above elements, then summary judgment could be granted against you and your claim will be permanently denied.

That being said, legal claims are often resolved before trial through a negotiated settlement process. When this happens, the plaintiff agrees not to pursue any further legal action in exchange for a payment from the defendant or insurance company. In many instances, both parties may agree to mediate the case prior to the case going to trial. In a mediation, both parties present evidence that supports their claims while a neutral party—the mediator—tries to get the two sides try to agree on a settlement amount. If the parties do not agree, the case often then proceeds to trial.

When Your Case Goes To Trial

What does going to trial mean, exactly? If you are involved in a personal injury case, a trial provides the opportunity for the plaintiff to argue his or her case so that the judge or jury can examine the evidence, decide what really happened and rule on whether to find the defendant liable or responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Typically, a personal injury trial consists of choosing a jury, opening statements by the lawyers for each side, witness testimony and cross-examination, closing arguments by each side, jury instructions given by the court and deliberation—that is consideration of all the facts and the law that applies—by the jurors. Once the jurors have made their decision, a verdict will be issued by the court.

After jury selection, each side has a chance to make its case in opening statements. The witness testimony and cross-examination stage is the main part of the trial. The plaintiff works to convince the jury that the defendant is liable for the damages or harm caused to the plaintiff. Witnesses and experts are called to testify, in which they take an oath to be truthful and answer questions asked by each side’s attorneys.

Once both sides present their case, closing arguments offer once last chance to convince the jury before their deliberations begin. The judge provides specific instructions to the jury to help them make their decision and then the jurors consider the case as a group. Once the jury has made a decision, the judge announces the verdict.

What Happens After a Trial in Court?

If you win the case, the defendant is often required to pay monetary damages. Ordinarily, an insurance company is involved and payment of your damages should not be a problem, because the insurance company is prepared for this very type of situation. However, in some cases, when the jury or judge awards you damages in your personal injury lawsuit, the losing party may not have insurance or may refuse to pay the judgment amount or follow the court order. In most states, you can locate a person’s sources of income or assets during post-judgment discovery. You may even be able to collect your settlement from the opposing side’s paychecks.

Slack Davis Sanger Can Help You During All Stages of Your Personal Injury Case

Our legal team at Slack Davis Sanger has the experience and skills to guide you through each stage of the process. Whether it’s asking the right questions to gather information to support your side, investigating the defendant to help the judge and jury understand how the defendant could have avoided hurting you if it had just done the right thing, presenting evidence at trial or helping you secure a settlement, our attorneys will be with you every step of the way.

Common Construction Site Injuries

Common Construction Site Injuries

A report released by The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that over 9 million Americans worked in the construction industry in 2014. Unfortunately, construction frequently lands on lists of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. In fact, one in five fatalities that occurred on the job in 2014 took place on a construction site. We’ll discuss which injuries are most common in this line of work and what workers can do if they experience an injury on a job site.

Each day, almost six and a half million construction workers head to over 250,000 sites across the country. Working in construction involves manual labor and the use of a variety of hand and power tools. Although the specific tasks can vary, workers might clear and prepare sites for new builds, build bridges, create trenches, set up support braces or scaffolding, operate heavy equipment, pave roads, demolish existing structures and clean up debris and rubble. The dangerous nature of these tasks makes construction workers particularly vulnerable to a wide range of injuries.

Burns

Working with electrical wiring, chemicals, leaky pipes and many different types of machinery can expose construction workers to the risk of fires, which can lead to burns and scarring.

Head Injuries

The reason that you often see construction workers wearing hard hats is that injuries to this part of the body are common while on the job. Falling objects, tools and materials can lead to cuts, concussions and traumatic brain injuries, among other conditions. Workers who are involved in digging or building a structure from the ground up are particularly at risk for these types of injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The activities most commonly associated with spinal cord injuries at a construction site involve falling off ladders, scaffolding or other elevated platforms or areas. Sadly, these situations can result in partial or full paralysis, damage to the brain and lasting and debilitating disabilities.

Cuts

Not surprisingly, lacerations to the skin are a common construction site injury. Some of the more common construction site hazards that can lead to cuts include defective or poorly maintained tools and machinery, equipment that is not properly secured and exposed nails. If not properly treated, these wounds can become infected, requiring further medical attention. Wearing protective clothing and gear can help reduce these types of injuries.

Bone Injuries

The use of heavy machinery can lead to broken, fractured or even crushed bones. Equipment like bulldozers and cranes can cause serious damage to workers on a construction site if used by someone with improper training. Additionally, this type of equipment can lead to accidents if not properly secured when not in use.

Loss of Limbs

Damage to a construction worker’s extremities can result in the loss of a finger, toe, arm or leg. Heavy equipment and machinery can crush these body parts. In some cases, limbs or digits are so damaged in a construction accident that amputation is required.

Hearing Loss

Construction sites are loud places. The noise generated from heavy equipment and machinery can lead to construction workers’ hearing damage or loss. Workers can experience damage when operating jackhammers and other loud equipment without ear protection or if struck on the side of the head or on the ear by an object or falling materials.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

The manual labor required in the construction industry involves repetitive motion, whether it’s lifting materials or tools or bending down. Repetitive stress injuries frequently cause back problems, which can prove to be debilitating for construction workers.

Heat Stroke

Working outside year-round can expose construction workers to heat-related health problems. A throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea and cramping can indicate that a worker is experiencing heat stroke. If an individual does not seek treatment, heat stroke can lead to organ damage and failure and eventually death.

Loss of Vision

Construction workers are exposed to a variety of chemicals, gases and other materials at job sites which can damage eyesight. In the most severe cases, exposure to these materials can lead to partial vision loss or even blindness.

Avoiding Injuries on the Job Site

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established by Congress to set and enforce workplace safety standards and provide training. OSHA recommends that companies include all necessary safety equipment and tools when estimating the cost of a job. Workers should receive proper training in the use of all heavy machinery, equipment and protective gear. All tools should be well-maintained and in proper working condition. Regular safety inspections can spot potential problems before workers are put at risk.

What To Do If You or a Loved One is Involved in a Construction Site Accident

Damages sustained as a result of a construction site injury can be serious and long-lasting. In most cases, a victim can submit a claim under their state’s workers’ compensation program. However, in some cases, they may be eligible to seek additional compensation through a “third party claim.” These cases may involve the wrongful act of someone else, such as when a tool or machine malfunctions or if an individual is involved in a motor accident on the job.

The dedicated professionals at Slack Davis Sanger can help advise victims on all of their options. In some situations, they may be entitled to compensation to help offset the financial loss if they are unable to resume work, if they have a lasting disability or if they suffered a more serious injury, paralysis or even death. The attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger understand how serious injuries can impact a worker and their family’s day-to-day life. We have worked with many victims to help them get them the compensation they deserve to meet their immediate and long-term needs.