My name is John Burns and I’m an accident and personal injury attorney. My office is located in South Orange County where the cities of Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano all come together.
Here is the story about what happened to my client Martha.
Martha was referred to me by her sister-in-law. When I was asked to meet with Martha I went up to L.A. to visit her and see how I could help her. Martha was in a full body cast in her apartment in Los Angeles. Here’s what had happened to her.
- 1. She was a passenger on a train going from Union Station in Los Angeles to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to pick up her son. Her son had been spending the summer with his grandparents in New Mexico.
- 2. As the train was in the desert about one hundred miles East of Las Vegas the train derailed. It was dark at night and my poor client was thrown forward in the train. Her body was smashed against the front end of the cab she was in. The train had derailed and had come off the tracks. It was a very bad accident.
- 3. Martha had been rescued, along with other passenger, by the local paramedics. She was taken to the hospital and put in the full body cast for her broken bones. Later she was moved by ambulance all the way back to Los Angeles, a very long and painful ride for her. Martha then ended up in her apartment and her sister-in-law asked me to come help her.
I went to visit her and we talked about her case. She asked me to represent her and I agreed.
Filed lawsuit in U.S. Federal District Court
The case was against a major railroad so I filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in Los Angeles. I then proceeded to move the case forward but it became evident to me pretty quickly that the self insured railroad was not going to pay the full reasonable value of her claim.
I did the normal investigation. I flew to Las Vegas, rented a car and drove to the train derailment site. I walked the site myself and looked at everything personally. I took the depositions of some of the responsible railroad employees. I could not find the evidence I needed to dramatically show that the railroad had failed to maintain the railroad bridge properly.
I had all of Martha’s medical records and bills organized and submitted them to the defense attorneys. Still the people who were representing the train company would not pay what I thought was the reasonable value.
We finally went to what is called a mediation. A mediation is a meeting that is not binding on any side. It takes place in a lawyer’s office.
It was attended by me as the attorney for the injured person. Also there was the attorney for the railroad and the person in charge of the railroad’s money. The person running the mediation was a retired judge who listened to us each talk about our case and tried to bring us together for settlement.
We mediated for a whole afternoon but by the end of the day it was clear to me that they still were not going to pay Martha the reasonable value of her case. They were offering a sizeable settlement but it was still not enough for what Martha had been through.
Settlement offer not enough
At the end of the day when the defense made their final offer I told them that I would not recommend settlement to my client in that amount. I told them that it was simply not enough.
When I told my client the amount of the offer and that I recommended she say no Martha agreed. I would have to do some more investigation to see what I could do to get the value of this claim up to where it needed to be.
Further investigation uncovers surprise evidence.
I did some more investigation and found some people in Chicago who had been on that train that night. There were two men travelling together on that train and it turned out that they had taken a picture that nobody knew about yet. It turned out to be a very important photo.
I called those men in Chicago and asked what was in the photo. They told me that it showed that the railroad had been seriously negligent in the maintenance of the railroad bridge. They also said that they had not told anyone about it because they wanted to sell the photo for a lot of money.
I told them I wanted them to send me a copy of the picture. They said they would if I would pay them $1,000.00. I said no that’s too much money and it’s actually Federal evidence. It turned out I paid them a rmuch smaller reasonable amount for the work they did in taking the photo but I got the photo.
The photo was a picture of water erosion under the bridge the night that the train had derailed on the bridge. There had been a rain storm going on at the time and water eroding around the bridge made a hole. The swirling water then made the hole bigger until the bridge collapsed.
If you’ve ever been out in the woods and have seen where water has run and a hole is gradually getting bigger and bigger, that’s the kind of picture they had. You have to think about it on a really big scale. It was a huge hole getting bigger and bigger right under the railroad bridge as the night went on.
I asked for another mediation and the defense agreed. This time I came into the mediation with that erosion photograph.
The photo was very impressive. It showed a hole about the size of half of a football field under the bridge. It showed that the railroad had never really taken care of the maintenance properly so that the bridge would be safe from the storm water.
The case then settled for an amount in the medium to high six figures. My client did very well financially with her settlement. She became much better off financially. Although she had been through a terrible ordeal she also recovered fully from her injuries.
Her boyfriend, who had stuck with her through all of this, asked her to marry him and she said yes. Martha married him and kind of lived happily ever after. So it turned out well in terms of things working out for my client.
So that’s the story of Martha and the railroad train derailment. It is the kind of case result that makes me proud of doing a good job for my client and to have kept fighting for her all the way through to a successful result.
I hope that you never have to go through anything like Martha did. If you have been injured in an accident, however, I would like to talk to you. There is no charge to talk to me.
Please call me now at my phone number of (949) 496-7000, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be glad to help you with your case.
I look forward to talking with you personally. Thanks for reading and watching the video. John