YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT YOUR COMMUTE.
Rail transportation has been an essential part of the American economy and travel for nearly 200 years. Despite significant advances in technology, train derailments and railroad accidents still occur far too often and can cause devastating injuries and fatalities. In 2020 alone, there were nearly 2,000 train accidents or incidents in the United States. Many of these accidents could be prevented simply by eliminating human error.
In the event of such catastrophes or unexpected and unimaginable tragedies, our team of experienced trial attorneys are here for you. We bring decades of experience to serve as your advocate and advisor, acting as your champion every step of the way. That way, you can focus on healing while we focus on fighting for your case.
What causes train derailments and railroad accidents?
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulates the safety of the nation’s railroad systems, including passenger rail, freight rail, implementing federal environmental laws, and rail planning. Due to a high number of accidents caused by human errors, the FRA identified the top eight contributing factors that could result in an accident:
- Improperly lined track switches (switch left in incorrect position)
- Failure to latch and/or lock a track switch
- Lack of point protection (shoving or moving rail cars without a person in front of the move to monitor conditions ahead)
- Shoving rail cars with point protection but failing to properly control the movement
- Failure to determine the track ahead is clear before beginning a shoving movement
- Leaving rail cars in a place that fouls or obstructs train movements on an adjacent track
- Operating over a track switch previously run through (damaged or broken)
- Failure to apply or remove a derail (a precautionary safety device)
In addition to the FRA’s top eight contributing factors, there are many other factors than can cause railroad accidents, including:
- Aging infrastructure (including train tracks and tunnels)
- Poor train maintenance
- Defect in railroad tracks
- Defective train parts
- Excessive speed
- Defecting railroad crossings
- Alcohol or illegal drug use
- Defective fuel tank
- Hazardous chemicals or waste materials
- Inadequate signal interchanges
- Inconsistent train track or rail inspections
On Sept. 25, 2021, an Amtrak passenger train traveling from Chicago to Seattle derailed in Joplin, Montana, tragically killing three passengers and injuring dozens more. The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the factors that contributed to the crash. If you’re a train accident victim interested in learning more about your legal rights, we’re here to help.
Start with a free, confidential case review.
If you or someone you love has suffered in a train derailment accident, SGB is here to help. Let us help you. There is no charge for us to review your potential claim. If we take your case, we do so on a contingency basis, meaning that you don’t pay our fees unless we successfully resolve the claim in your favor. Contact us for a free, confidential case review or call us at 1-800-809-2234.
- Adam Berger, Attorney
- Sergio Garcidueñas-Sease, Attorney
- Liz McLafferty, Attorney
- Sims Weymuller, Attorney
- Kaitlin Wright, Of Counsel
Amtrak Train Derailment at DuPont, WA
On Dec. 18, 2017, an Amtrak train carrying about 80 passengers, three crew members and two service personnel derailed and crashed on its inaugural ride on the new route from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Oregon. The track had been recently upgraded from a freight line to allow for passenger trains. The train derailed in DuPont, Washington, near Tacoma, on a curve that had a speed limit of 30 miles per hour. The National Transportation Safety Board released its initial review of the derailment of Amtrak Train No. 501 on Dec. 22, 2017, noting that the final recorded speed of the Amtrak train was 78 mph. The train was not equipped with positive train control, which is an advanced system designed to automatically slow or stop a train to prevent a crash due to excessive speed.
The day following the derailment, SGB attorney Sims Weymuller spoke with KIRO7 regarding Amtrak’s liability.
SGB represented a young woman who was injured as a result of the Amtrak derailment at DuPont and recently settled her case for a confidential amount.
Amtrak and the Federal Tort Claims Act
Although Amtrak is partially funded by the federal government, it is not subject to the Federal Tort Claims Act. Amtrak is not a federal agency, and it has not been “deemed” a federal agency in the way some medical clinics that receive federal funds are “deemed.” Amtrak is a “mixed ownership” corporation (defined at 31 U.S.C. § 856) to be operated for profit under the provisions of the District of Columbia Business Corp. Act, 29 D.C. Code § 901 et seq. See Sentner v. Amtrak, 540 F. Supp. 557, 561 (D.N.J. 1982)
That said, The Federal Railroad Safety Act and other federal laws may preempt state law on certain issues unless there is a specific state regulation in place about a local safety hazard. Veit, ex rel. Nelson v. Burlington N. Santa Fe Corp., 171 Wn. 2d 88, 104, 249 P.3d 607, 615 (2011).
There is a $200 million damages cap, which would likely apply regardless of consolidation of cases (“arising from a single accident or incident”). 49 U.S. Code § 28103. Congress, however, raised the cap to $265 million in the Philadelphia Amtrak train crash.