Train accidents may be rarer than motor vehicle accidents, but they are much more damaging. In a train crash there are usually multiple serious injuries, and many accidents result in fatalities. When a train accident happens, there are many victims who face a long recovery process, and many family members who are left to mourn the death of a loved one.
Most train accidents could have been prevented by better technology, better maintenance, or better operation by an employee. Victims shouldn't be left to pick up the pieces of their lives alone. Those responsible for causing an accident must be held liable for their negligence.
Common Train-Related Accidents
Public transportation systems which that are inadequately maintained or improperly operated pose dangers to all who use them or are in the vicinity of them. Some common accidents relating to trains and public transportation include:
- Train and subway derailments
- Collisions with other trains
- Cars striking trains
- Individuals hit at unprotected railroad crossings
- Electrocutions on train tracks
- Individuals falling off of platform onto tracks
- Injuries caused by broken turnstiles
- Slips & falls in subway stations
- Assaults and robberies from lack of security
Each accident has unique circumstances. If you've been involved in one, it's best to gather as much information as you can before discussing the matter with an experienced train accident lawyer.
Railways are required to outfit trains with "black boxes", similar to what you'd find on an airplane. These boxes store important information such as the train's speed, direction, brake use, and horn signals. This information could be very useful when attempting to determine negligence after an accident. Additionally, you should:
- Take photos of the scene
- Get copies of police reports and medical records
- Gather contact info from witnesses, fellow victims, and employees.
Train accidents can be caused by a number of factors. In many cases, a combination of factors contributed to the crash. Common examples include:
- Train operator errors - Conductor errors are common in many train accidents. For example, the conductor may have been traveling over the speed limit during the time of the crash.
- Railway owner negligence - Like any other business, railway owners are required to meet a standard of care which ensures the safety of their customers. If a failure to meet this standard causes an accident, then the owner may be held liable for victim damages. For example, the railway may have neglected to install speed-limiting technology which could have prevented a crash.
- Mechanical failures - Trains and tracks must be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure that they're running optimally. Failure to notice or address mechanical problems could lead to a serious accident.
- Motor vehicle drivers - A negligent driver may collide with a train, causing serious injuries to those on board. Also, a car may stall out in the middle of train tracks and create an obstruction which causes an accident.
Most train accidents require thorough investigations before the at-fault party or parties can be determined. Experienced train accident attorneys will work to compile all relevant evidence in order to determine negligence and hold those parties responsible in civil court.
A Look at the 2015 Philadelphia Train Derailment
You may remember the high-profile Philadelphia Amtrak train derailment of 2015. This was one of the most serious train accidents in Philadelphia history.
Details of the Crash
On May 12, 2015, a Northeast Regional Amtrak train traveling from Washington, D.C. to New York City derailed in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia. In the process, 200 of the 238 passengers on board were injured, and 8 passengers died in the accident.
The pain, suffering, and death inflicted on these innocent victims is enough to make your stomach turn. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this case is how easily it could have been prevented. At the time of the accident, the train was traveling over double the speed limit, at 102 mph in a 50 mph zone. A report from the National Transportation Safety Board said the engineer was likely distracted by radio traffic at the time of the derailment.
How Did This Happen?
However, not all of the blame lies at the feet of this engineer. Amtrak was also partly responsible, as at the time of the accident these trains lacked certain technological features which would have prevented this disaster. Like many catastrophes, this crash resulted from a combination of factors:
Human error of train engineer
The NTSB report claimed that operator Brandon Bostian lost situational awareness when he was distracted by radio signals after another train had been hit by a rock. In January of 2017, Bostian filed a lawsuit against Amtrak for alleged unsafe working conditions. The suit claims that Amtrak did not provide proper training or warn Bostian of dangerous conditions. He's seeking damages for physical and psychological injuries.
Lack of positive train control
This is a computerized speed-limiting service, featured on other Northeast corridor tracks. This technology can save lives by overriding human errors. The same NTSB report claimed that this technology could have prevented the crash. There is no excuse for people continuing to be seriously injured or killed in train accidents if there is available technology for preventing them.
"If the NTSB has indicated that this was preventable from a variety of standpoints, then it's even more egregious," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said in response to the report.
Legal Consequences For Amtrak
PTC technology would have prevented Brandon Bostian from taking the curve at such a recklessly high speed. 8 lives would have been saved, and the 200 injured would have never experienced the physical and emotional trauma of such a devastating accident.
In October of 2016, Amtrak reached a $265 million settlement with victims and their families. This is $30 million short of the $295 million damages cap for Pennsylvania train accidents. Attorneys for the victims struck this compromise to skip a lengthy litigation process and get their clients the compensation they need in a more timely manner.
It is imperative that transportation companies be held liable for the far-reaching damage caused by their recklessness. If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of such carelessness, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help.
Latest Train Accident Updates
By Michael Monheit
Monheit Law keeps you updated on the latest train accidents and investigations in the region.
March 27, 2017 - Family of Woman Killed in Hoboken Train Crash to Sue NJ Transit, Engineer
The family of a young mother killed when a commuter train slammed into Hoboken Terminal in September has filed a notice of claim against New Jersey Transit and the engineer who apparently fell asleep at the controls.
Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, had just dropped her 1-year-old daughter off at daycare before she entered the station Sept. 29 and a speeding, rush-hour train plowed into the crowded terminal at about 8:45 a.m.
De Kroon, a Brazilian-born attorney, was hit by falling debris in the terrifying crash that injured another 100 people.