Clifford Law’s train and railroad accident attorney answers your questions
Kevin Durkin is a partner at Clifford Law Offices. Kevin has taken the depositions of literally hundreds of people involved in aviation accidents — from CEOs of aviation related companies to experts in the field from around the world. Kevin has represented the victims of airplane crashes for more than two decades, but he also has represented those who have been injured or killed in many other types of transportation accidents. He received the largest motor vehicle verdict in the country in 2004 of $38.3 million. As a railroad accident attorney, he has represented a number of people who have been injured in rail crashes, including the high-profile case of internationally acclaimed violinist, Rachel Barton, which resulted in a $35 million verdict.
We asked Kevin to answer your train accident lawyer FAQs:
If I’m injured while I’m on a train, what should I do?
Kevin: If you are injured while on a train, often, it’s a little bit of a different circumstance because you are one of many passengers. The documentation is going to be there, but you still want to make sure that, first and foremost, if you need medical help, you get it. You know, you need to find a conductor, find somebody to help you or use your cell phone to get medical attention. Secondly, you want to stay calm, you want to stay in place and listen to whatever instruction is being provided. Usually instruction is being provided over a loud speaker or a PA system in the train and when you leave the scene, whether you are taken to a hospital or you are allowed to go home, you probably then, also want to contact a lawyer because again, whoever, is investigating that crash is going to be looking for recorded statements and you want to make certain that all of your rights are protected and that you are fully informed before you proceed with anything like a recorded statement.
Is there any difference in how a railroad accident attorney handles a case against Metra as opposed to Amtrak?
Kevin: In terms of the actually handling of the case from a strategy standpoint, they are the same, they are trains. The engineers have the same type of training and the same type of rules apply normally from Metra engineers right to Amtrak engineers. There are general codes that are pretty much common throughout the country. What you really want to do when you are dealing with Amtrak versus Metra is know the legal significance of the entities. There are certain restrictions on timing to file suit against government entities. There are distinctions on where you want to file the lawsuits if you have a case against Metra or Amtrak. I was involved in the Bourbonnais case, a train that was headed to the City of New Orleans, a crash that occurred several years ago. We filed that in Chicago and had a successful result. In terms of Metra, I have handled a number of Metra cases, including the Rachel Barton case, an internationally acclaimed violinist who was severely injured when the Metra train doors closed on her and the train then dragged her for several hundred feet. In that case, you find out that the railroad was actually operated under contract with Metra by the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, so some of the immunities, limitations, that may be present for a governmental entity were not present in that case. In fact, there was the availability of punitive damages which was part of trial we had because of a long history of the railroad not recognizing the problem of people being trapped in the doors of Metra trains and Chicago Northwestern commuter trains.
If I am injured outside of Illinois, do I need to retain a train accident lawyer from that state or can I have it from my home state?
Kevin: You can have it from your home state. For instance, I handle transportation cases around the country. Many of these cases, the actual location of the lawsuit may end up being in Chicago even though it occurred in a different state. I have handled transportation cases in California, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and we handle those from Chicago also because we have a national practice. You are more concerned in getting a competent transportation lawyer rather than just hiring someone from a specific location.