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Should I file my train accident lawsuit in state or federal court?

We don't expect everyone to know the implications of filing in state versus federal court. However, knowing the jurisdictional differences does impact your case if you've been injured in a train accident. When you're dealing with injuries, lost wages, and medical bills, let us handle the heavy lifting. We can win you compensation for those injuries and know exactly in which court to file.

Reviewing your case with an attorney that is experienced in litigating railroad accident cases in both state and federal court will help you understand the aspects of your case that will determine which jurisdiction is appropriate. If you trying to understand where your case needs to be filed, you can contact us today for a free consultation and we'll discuss your case.

In this article we'll explain the difference between filing a lawsuit in state court versus federal court.


Questions answered in this article:

  • What are some issues with filing in state court?
  • When is filing in federal court appropriate?
  • How can an experienced attorney help me figure out the proper jurisdiction?

Issues with filing in federal court:

If you wish to file your railroad accident case in Texas court, there are certain elements that must be considered. Namely, what area of negligence you claim caused your injuries. If you are claiming that the railroad was negligent in its train operations due to the fault of its engineer or you were injured in a derailment or similar circumstance, it is likely you will be able to file your claim in state court. The railroad company's failure to adhere to state law regarding its rail cars left unattended on the tracks, obscuring a motorist's view of the other side of tracks, and other operational issues are typically the types of claims that can be brought successfully before state court as well.

For example, if part of your claim alleges that there was negligence in the railroad company's lack of use of reflective materials on its train as part of its warning system to motorists, your case could be preempted by federal law and should be filed in federal court. This is because the federal regulations regarding reflective material standards on trains will supersede the state law and any tort claims based on state law on this topic. However it must also be remembered that if the subject matter is preempted by federal law and the railroad company has met the federal requirements you case could be dismissed all together.

Another reason why it will be helpful to you to have an attorney review your case before filing is because if your claim is based on the inadequacy of the railroad crossing a state tort claim on this issue is preempted by federal law if the warning system was paid for by federal funds. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that any state tort claim based on inadequacy at a railroad crossing is preempted by federal law when funded with federal dollars. An attorney can review your case and to determine if this will apply and hurt your case.

When federal court is appropriate:

Essentially filing your case in federal court is dependent upon which violations of the law caused your injuries. If the laws violated that resulted in your injury were any that are enforced by the Federal Railroad Administration or the US Department of Transportation, then your case is likely to be a federal case.

This will be a pretty clear cut question that we can answer: Was the negligence a violation of federal laws or not? If so, then your case is a likely a federal case.

Where do I file my lawsuit?

If you're not being represented by an experienced attorney, understanding when and where to file your railroad accident claim can be confusing. Filing in the wrong court can put your case at jeopardy for many reasons. Where your case needs to be filed will largely have to do with the scenario in which the railroad accident that injured you occurred. If you make the mistake of filing in the wrong court you could lose valuable time and could run into an issue with the statute of limitations to file on your claim as well. This is why contacting an attorney with experience in these kinds of cases as early as possible may be best for you. Call us at 1-855-326-000. If we can't win your case, you don't us a cent.


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