Train Derailment Accident Attorneys: Chicago, IL
Who's to Blame for Train Derailment Accidents?
Statistics show that 90 percent of all train accidents could be prevented with improved safety technology and better railway operations management. For example, many collisions occur when the engineer fails to stop or observe the speed limit after being triggered by an alarm, like a track obstruction.
Over the last three years, government agencies have reported that the number of train accidents on the nation's railways has increased dramatically.
In all these train accidents, investigators determine whether a disaster could have been prevented by technology already available at that time or if a train employee's negligence caused it.
In every instance where negligence is determined, even if there was no personal injury or fatality, supervisors must be held accountable for their role in the incident with suspension or termination.
Montana Amtrak Train Derailment Leaves Three Dead
An Amtrak Empire Builder train crash in Montana late Saturday afternoon, September 25, 2021, killed at least three people and injured more than 50. The accident occurred in a remote Northern Montana area near Joplin, making rescue efforts to extricate commuters and crew from the eight cars that derailed very difficult.
Early reports indicate that the cause of the train derailment involving two locomotives and eight cars was unclear. At the time of the derailment, the train was carrying 16 crew members and 141 passengers. Five people remained in the hospital in stable condition with injuries sustained in the train derailment by the following day.
Amtrak train officials stated that the company's "working with local authorities to transport harmed commuters and safely evacuate all other passengers". Initial reports released by Liberty County Sheriff's office indicated that there were three fatalities.
At the time of the train derailment, the Amtrak train was traveling west from Chicago en route to Seattle.
National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Railroad Administration
Those participating in the derailment include the response agencies, local law enforcement officers, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The day after the tragedy, Amtrak train CEO Bill Flynn stated, "We share the sense of urgency to understand why the accident happened. However, we will not comment further on the accident itself. The NTSB will identify the cause or causes of this accident, and Amtrak commits to taking appropriate actions to prevent a similar accident in the future".
The NTSB sent their "go-team" to initiate an investigation into what occurred. Investigators are expected to remain at the disaster scene for days.
Additionally, 18 team members working for the FDA will help in the investigation involving the railway company.
Amtrak's Consistent History of Fatal Train Accidents
Statistically, an Amtrak train derailment involving a passenger train rarely occurs. However, numerous deadly train accidents have severely injured passengers and killed commuters and crew members in recent years.
In fact, in the past decade, Amtrak train has had more fatalities from train accidents causing a derailing than the total combined accident and fatality rate for all modes of transportation.
A study by a group called "All Aboard Washington" reveals that there have been at least 17 train derailments throughout America's history as a nation, killing 181 people. In the past ten years, there have been five train derailments between Washington and Boston alone.
In 2009, an Amtrak train from Oregon to California derailed 11 cars, killing at least six people. In 2015, an Amtrak train traveling through Philadelphia jumped that track, injuring 12 people and killing eight passengers. The NTSB reported that the cause of the 2015 derailment was due to speeding.
Conflicting Liability: Who's to Blame for Train Derailment Accidents?
While Amtrak train owns and operates the railcars transporting passengers to destinations between Chicago and Seattle, it does not own the tracks, which is not uncommon for most railroad companies.
Reports indicate that BNSF Railway, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, operates more than half of all transcontinental routes, including the rail line and site where the September 2021 fatal train disaster near Joplin occurred.
According to statistics, human error and negligence remain the third most common reason trains jump the rail. In many incidents, speed contributed, followed by failing to obey safety science, vandalism, not communicating with the engineer, and violating mainline and switching rules.
However, there can be several factors, including environmental causes, equipment failure, and track-related issues. Any broken weld on the track, water aide cages, joint bar defect, or buckled track could create a deadly environment for all types of trains - passenger or freight train - to derail the track.
Train-related accidents can also occur due to human factors such as fatigue and distraction. Many factors that contribute to train-related accidents include:
- Track fires and broken rails can cause derailment of a train if it's going too fast or cannot stop in time. Broken rails are typically the main cause of train crashes, especially during winter.
- Human error: An inexperienced train conductor is more likely to make a mistake than a long-term employee, but it isn't the only cause.
- Mechanical failure and malfunction might involve equipment manufacturer defects. However, a malfunctioning part of mechanical failure is extremely rare.
- Speeding: Trains may accelerate rapidly, as with the deadly Philadelphia Amtrak train derailment in 2015. The same holds true for train accidents; they are more likely to occur at high speeds when the engineer fails to handle the train safely.
- Reckless pedestrians and cars in some situations, the train's operator or company, may not be to blame. Rather, should a pedestrian or driver attempt to cross the tracks while a train is approaching, even at a lower speed, they might be held responsible for their actions by reckless or distracted drivers and pedestrians.
- Inclement weather such as heavy rain and snow can make train tracks slippery and harder to navigate for even the most skilled engineers. Therefore, you will hear stories about train accidents during monsoon seasons or heavy downpours.
- Cross-track errors happen when the train is not on the right track, likely due to a system failure or the conductor's fault. For example, if a train is supposed to go from New York City to Washington DC but instead goes somewhere else, people are likely to get hurt.
- Drug abuse involving the train operator or railway personnel can also cause accidents, which happened earlier this year when several Amtrak train employees were charged for trafficking cocaine and oxycodone.
- Unprotected crossings are missing warning devices, including activated lights and gates to prevent train accidents.
- In suicides, some individuals take their lives by getting on tracks or leaping in front of an approaching train. Unfortunately, this is a rather typical occurrence: There were 266 train-related suicides in 2017.
- Foreign objects on the tracks.
- One of the factors is a government agency or railroad company's failure to maintain complex systems and safety measures to protect commuters, workers, and the public.
At least ten train accidents in the US last year happened because of trespassing on rail tracks. It is illegal to go near railroad tracks unless you permit to avoid causing a crash or personal injury.
Fortunately, the train's black box records nearly all the information required to review what occurred and determine what company might be responsible for what happened due to negligence.
Train Accident Compensation
Most victims were fortunate enough to walk away with little or no physical harm; nevertheless, survivors and family members may live with long-term psychological and emotional repercussions.
Survivors of the serious train disaster will be suing Amtrak to resolve issues of their own, such as "How can I afford such significant medical expenses and other economic losses as a result of the train derailment?"
The $200 million monetary caps on compensation for passengers and survivors of a single train collision is according to a 1997 Congressional Act. The $200 million payout limit was included to pass legislation that would assist Amtrak financially at the time, as it was on the verge of bankruptcy.
The payment cap was not increased in 1997. If this were reviewed today, the payout cap might reach about $300 million in 2015 dollars.
Were you or someone you know was involved in a train accident? If so, you are legally entitled to financial compensation for medical expenses, missed earnings, and other losses incurred due to the mishap.
Contact the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC immediately to discuss your legal options and rights during a free, thorough case evaluation on a contingency fee basis. (888) 424-5757.
REUTERS - Factbox: Deadly U.S. passenger train crashes in recent years