A gas station employee in Manassas, Virginia (VA), suffered traumatic brain injuries when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into the building where he was working. Even though the city is close to Washington, DC, it was still mostly rural when this accident occurred.
The derailment pinned our future client inside his collapsed cashier’s shelter and also left him client hospitalized for weeks while he recovered from multiple broken bones and internal injuries.
The train crash victim first hired a lawyer who had a strong track record in brain injury cases. Recognizing that helping the man would require partnering with another Virginia attorney who regularly represented people injured by derailments, that lawyer retained the services of our Virginia Beach-based railroad accident law firm.
Working together, the brain injury lawyer and the railroad injury attorney secured an initial $60 million jury award for their injured client. Shortly after that, the Virginian-Pilot reported in October 2000 that this set a record as the largest single personal injury verdict in state history.
Key Legal Strategy
The brain injury lawyer focused on the lifelong disability inflicted by the accident, and our Virginia railroad attorney concentrated on proving that negligence on the part of Norfolk Southern set the stage for the derailment. We conducted dozens of in-person and videotaped deposition before the trial, and we obtained reports from train and track experts, as well as opinions from doctors, rehabilitative and educational therapists, a life care planner and an economist.
This pretrial preparation lasted more than a year, during which Norfolk Southern denied all responsibility. Once a jury started seeing evidence and hearing testimony, however, the freight railroad company essentially admitted it could have prevented the derailment.
The jury subsequently decided that our brain injury and train crash client deserved compensation and told the railroad to pay him $46 million. The jurors also determined that the man harmed by Norfolk Southern’s negligence deserved interest on the full amount of that award because the company had needlessly stalled in reaching a fair and just settlement.
Calculated from the date of the derailment to the end of the trial, the interest amounted to $14 million. This meant that our client’s total jury award came to $60 million.
Appeals and a Confidential Settlement
The railroad appealed the record-setting jury award all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court before finally settling with our client for a confidential sum that he found acceptable. Attorneys with our Virginia railroad injury law firm represented the brain-injured client at each stage of the legal ordeal, which lasted until 2013.
Holding negligent corporations and reckless individuals accountable for injuring, disabling and, sadly, killing people is our mission as a Virginia personal injury and wrongful death law firm. In particular, we welcome opportunities to take on railroad companies who use their billions in annual revenues to fight every civil lawsuit.
Do know, however, that we cannot accept every case or guarantee outcomes for clients. But when the facts support demanding multimillion-dollar jury awards, we will fight as long and as hard as it takes to secure that for our client.
Courts and Dates: Prince William Circuit Court, Manassas, Virginia; October 2000
Staff: Multiple staff attorneys over more than a decade