Metro-North Railroad crews at work on Tue., December 3, 2013 repairing a damaged section of track after a derailment near the Spuyten-Duyvil station on Sunday, in preparation for limited restoration of service on the Hudson Line Wednesday morning. Photo: Marc A. Hermann MTA Photos
Have you recently been hurt on the railroad, whether riding or boarding a train or at a station? If so you’re probably full of more questions than answers. You are likely wondering:
- Who pays for my medical treatment?
- What do I have to do to file a claim against the railroad?
- How long do I have to file a lawsuit against the railroad?
- How do I pay my rent, mortgage or car bills while I am out of work?
- Did railroad negligence cause me to get hurt?
Whether your injury is the result of a derailment like the most recent Metro North accident in the Bronx, or from a fall, say from an icy stairway at a NJ Transit station, your injury presents a unique situation where the railroad may be responsible to pay for your treatment and/or damages. The answers to these five questions will ensure you know your rights as a passenger.
Who pays for my medical treatment?
Your recovery is first priority. If you have health insurance, use that to get immediate treatment. Ultimately, the railroad will be responsible for reimbursing your health insurer, so the responsible party will bear the burden. If you don’t have insurance, the railroad has a claims department that will authorize payment for treatment if it is submitted the right way. A lawyer who knows the railroad can help you with this. Typically the railroad is willing to pay for medical treatment since then they will learn about a major injury in time to prepare a defense. To get paid, your doctor needs to send the bill directly to the railroad or outside contractor that handles medical billing for the railroad. And your doctor is entitled to be paid at a “reasonable and customary” rate, not some insurance rate, like the railroads will tell the doctor.
What do I have to do to file a claim?
The first thing you need to do is file a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the accident. The precise information of what has to be in the Notice of Claim is dictated by statute. If you miss this 90 day deadline, you will be forever barred from recovering from the railroad.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit against the railroad?
One year and thirty days from the accident.
How do I pay my non-medical bills?
The answer is a little vague because it depends on you and your circumstances. Most likely, you will be eligible for short term disability benefits in your state of residence. After that, the answer is from your savings. If you have had the foresight to buy personal disability insurance, be it Aflac or any other, get a claim in ASAP. These policies pay you while you are unable to work after any applicable waiting period. You may also have long term disability benefits available through your job. Ask your human resources department.
Can I recover money from the railroad for my injury?
In a word, maybe. In order to recover money for your railroad injury, you must show that the railroad was negligent in some way in connection with your injury and that the negligence caused, your injuries.
How do I know if railroad negligence caused my injury?
Negligence is doing something unreasonable, or not doing something that a reasonable person would have done. This is where a trial lawyer is helpful. I see things in cases that my clients don’t. An experienced railroad lawyer will ask the right questions to determine if the railroad may have been negligent in your case. Questions like:
- Was the train going too fast?
- Did a device on the train fail?
- Would positive train control have avoided the accident?
- Was there operator error?
- Was there poor lighting?
- Did they let unsafe procedures or conditions to continue despite knowing it was unsafe?
- Were you properly warned of hazards?
The list is endless, limited only by the thoughtful experience of you or your lawyer. How MUCH you can recover is a blog post for another day, since there are several considerations that factor into that.
Right now you may feel like your world has been turned upside down. Don’t worry you have resources that can help you through this time. Speak with a railroad lawyer for free. Know your rights.