New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

Who is Liable When an Amtrak Train Derails?

Posted on Jun 6, 2016 in Personal Injury, Train Accidents

According to Fox 5 News, two construction workers were killed recently as a result of the derailment of an Amtrak train. The train was traveling from New York City to Georgia, and derailed when it hit a backhoe on the tracks.  The incident occurred in Chester, PA and there were seven crew members and 341 passengers aboard the train. Several passengers sustained injuries and 35 people aboard the train had to be hospitalized. The incident also caused several fatalities, including the backhoe operator. In this particular incident, both of the people who were killed were Amtrak employees.

When an Amtrak train derails, passengers and other individuals near the train could be seriously hurt or killed. If this happens, there may be situations where victims can pursue a case against Amtrak and others responsible for the crash. A case against Amtrak would be considered a personal injury claim, and New York injury attorneys could assist victims with negotiating a settlement or with pursuing compensation through a civil lawsuit.

A Closer Look at Train Derailment Liability

Amtrak can be held accountable for a derailment if the incident occurs because of Amtrak’s failures or negligence on the part of workers on-duty. For example, if there was a failure to appropriately maintain the trains and tracks, this could be considered negligence on the part of Amtrak which results in liability. If it is an engineer, conductor, or other employee who works for the company whose carelessness results in a train derailment, Amtrak can still be held accountable because the on-duty employee is considered an agent acting for the company.

There is, however, a catch when it comes to holding Amtrak accountable. As the New York Times explains, when Amtrak was reauthorized in 1997, Congress capped liability against Amtrak at $200 million for each single train accident. This provision did not account for inflation and while $200 million may have seemed sufficient at the time, a single serious train accident could result in hundreds of passengers suffering millions of dollars in losses.

The Times article featured the story of a person in a prior Amtrak accident who was badly injured with multiple fractures necessitating several operations.  Medical bills alone had already totaled $200,000 just for her particular injuries, without taking into account additional damages for lost wages and for non-compensatory losses.   When an accident causes many people to experience similarly devastating and expensive injuries, $200 million can run out quickly and victims may have a hard time getting the full compensation they truly deserve.

The woman featured in the Times article was not only suing Amtrak, but also the engineer. The claims against both the company and engineer alleged reckless and negligent conduct.  Hopefully, finding multiple parties to sue could make it easier for the victims to be fully compensated, although with close to two dozen suits already filed arising out of the Amtrak crash, it is likely there won’t be enough money to go around even with claims against all responsible parties.

Victims need to act quickly and contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff when injured in a train derailment to find out all options for recovering compensation and pursue all possible approaches to getting benefits.

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