New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

What Recourse do Victims of the Amtrak Train Derailment Have

Posted on May 24, 2015 in Train Accidents

What Happened?

Amtrak train no. 188 with 238 passengers on board, derailed on Tuesday when it jumped the tracks at a curve, while travelling from Washington to New York. The crash left more than 200 people injured and claimed eight lives. However, many are still in critical condition and the death toll is expected to rise. This horrific crash happened on the same day, Amtrak was refused a funding increase by the House Appropriations Committee, which brings into focus the safety standards of our country’s rail infrastructure.

The accident scene of Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia

The accident scene of the Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia.

Well, at the same time, when you spend $600 million on a broken website and trillions on an inefficient health care plan, other aspects of the country get neglected. Many people in America believe that their country does not have their priorities straight.

What was the Cause of the Accident

Confirmed reports show that the train was travelling at 106 mph while taking the curve, when the permitted speed limit for the curve is 50 mph. It has also been confirmed that the engineer in fact increased the speed of the train, as he was approaching the curve, instead of decelerating to 50 mph. The reason for the sudden increase in speed remains unknown. The train had left the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on time, and inspection records reveal that were no issues with the train, signals, or with the track.

Obviously this was human error!

Was it Possible to Prevent such an Accident?

The answer is unfortunately yes, it would have been possible to prevent this derailment if Amtrak had installed “Positive Train Control” system on this route. The plan was to install this system on the Northeast Corridor this year, but was not done so far. This system enables automatic enforcement of speed restrictions, and a computer on board the train activates the brakes of the train when the engineer has failed to do so. Hence, this system practically rules out most instances where the accident could be caused by human error.

Unless a human being overrides that computer and is intending to crash the train. Europe saw this in 2015 with a plane crash and a suicidal pilot.

Can Victims Claim Compensation?

In any personal injury case, the victim has to prove three things in court. First, there should be wrongdoing or negligence on the part of the defense, and such wrongdoing should be the direct cause of the injuries suffered by the victim. Lastly, the injuries should be of a significant nature to merit compensation.

In the Amtrak rail derailment, the liability is quite clear. According to official reports, the engineer was going over the speed limit set for the curve for whatever reason, and in fact had accelerated from 100 mph to 106 mph, just 16 seconds before the crash.

Hence, liability of Amtrak due to negligence or wrongdoing is quite clear. Secondly, Amtrak had failed to install the Positive Train Control System, which could have prevented the derailment by automatically activating the train’s brakes. Finally, Amtrak has already claimed full responsibility and apologized for the incident, which means victims will not have any problem proving liability in court.

Instead of filing individual claims, victims of the Amtrak derailment can also file a class action lawsuit collectively. This can greatly reduce the initial and overall expense for the victims.

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