On May 12, 2015, an Amtrak Northeast Regional train was traveling through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As the train approached a sharp curve, the driver failed to slow down.
The train took the 50 mph curve at 106 mph and derailed. Of the 243 people on board, 200 were injured and 8 were killed.
“I got thrown like a penny,” said one passenger who weighed 250 pounds. “That’s how violent this was.”
More than 125 civil cases were filed against Amtrak by passengers and family members. Amtrak admitted fault and reached a $265 million settlement.
Here at Enjuris, we hope you never have to experience anything like the Philadelphia Amtrak crash. However, if the unthinkable happens and you’re involved in a train accident, we want to make sure you have all the information you need.
The most common causes of train accidents can be grouped into 5 categories:
According to the United States Department of Transportation, human factors (such as failing to slow down when approaching a curve) and track issues (such as broken rails) cause the most train accidents.
The majority of train-related fatalities involve a person being killed as they cross a train track in the path of an oncoming train. This type of accident may be the result of a suicide or a defective traffic signal.
Railroad companies and their employees owe passengers and bystanders a duty to use the utmost care to avoid causing injury to them or their property.
In addition, railroad equipment manufacturers owe a duty of reasonable care to anyone who might use or be impacted by their products.
If either of these duties is breached and an accident occurs, the injured party can sue for negligence. Depending on the nature of the accident, one or more of the following parties may be responsible:
Keep in mind that while the employee of a railroad company may have caused the accident, the railroad company may ultimately be held liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior, so long as:
Just as railroad companies and manufacturers owe a duty of care, other drivers and pedestrians owe a duty of care. As a result, a driver who ignores a train crossing warning light and causes an accident or a pedestrian who steps in front of a train can be held personally liable for any damages caused by the ensuing accident.
Railroad accidents are no different than car accidents in terms of what damages can be recovered. In Pennsylvania, a person injured in a train accident can recover the following:
Federal law caps the total damages that can be recovered in a single train accident at $295 million. The amount was increased from $200 million following the Philadelphia Amtrak crash. The original law was passed by congress in 1997 as part of a compromise to bail out the ailing railroad industry.
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) provides a special system of legal recovery for railroad employees and their families when a railroad employee is injured on the job. FELA replaces workers’ compensation for railroad employees.
There are some major differences between FELA claims and workers’ compensation claims. The biggest difference is that FELA is a fault-based system. This means that a railroad employee seeking to recover damages under FELA must prove that the employer was negligent to recover damages. Workers’ compensation, on the other hand, is a no-fault system.
The second major difference is that railroad employees can recover more money under FELA. While workers’ compensation is typically capped at a certain amount, there are no damage limits under FELA. In addition, injured railroad workers can receive damages for pain and suffering, unlike injured employees who file a workers’ comp claim.
FELA also requires railroad companies to meet certain standards. The failure to meet these standards provides a basis for recovery. Some of these standards include:
The Philadelphia Amtrak accident garnered national attention, but it’s not the only train accident to occur in Pennsylvania. Here are the 5 most infamous train accidents in Pennsylvania:
If you’ve been injured in a train accident, the most important thing you can do is seek medical treatment. Even if you don’t think your injuries are severe, it’s important to rule out internal injuries that don’t show symptoms for days or even weeks after the injury is sustained. What’s more, visiting the doctor will help prevent the insurance company or defendant from arguing that you weren’t really injured.
Once you’re safe, you should: