Articles Posted in Train Accidents

Riding on public transportation is part of one’s daily life, particularly for people who live in cities. But buses, trains, and other vehicles have to be operated with care, since the people who depend on public transportation are forced to put their lives in the hands of these transportation operators. Often, operators manage vehicles negligently or recklessly, putting passengers and others at risk.

Bus InteriorNegligence Lawsuits Arising from Auto Accidents

Most transportation collisions are the result of negligent rather than intentional conduct. In a claim against another party for negligence in Illinois, a plaintiff has to prove a duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, a breach of the duty, and an injury proximately caused by the breach. Some courts in Illinois have defined negligence as “the failure to do something which a reasonably careful person would do or doing something which a reasonably careful person would not do.”

The plaintiff has the burden of proof to establish each element in a negligence lawsuit, generally by presenting evidence and expert testimony. This can be direct evidence, such as eye-witness testimony, or circumstantial evidence, such as skid marks in a car accident.

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Train accidents are not as common as car accidents. But when they do occur, the damage is often very serious. And even while new safety measures continue to be put in place, train fatalities have actually increased overall from 2013 to 2016, and Illinois’ accident rate has often been at the top of the list.

rail-234318_960_720According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, 64 people were killed in train accidents in 2015. And so far, already 53 people have been killed in 2016, and another 562 people have been injured. There was a 17 percent increase in train accident and incident fatalities from 2013 to 2016—and only based on the numbers for this year so far. Amtrak, a large private train company, has recorded six fatalities in Amtrak incidents so far in 2016.

In Illinois, already 49 people have been injured in train accidents this year, and three have been killed. There were 22 train accidents in Illinois in 2015, the highest of any state that year. There were 23 the previous year, which was again the highest in the nation. Train accidents often give rise to negligence claims. Even if the victim was partly responsible for causing the crash, he or she still may be able to receive damages, based on the degree of fault assigned to each of the parties.

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In a recent decision, the United States Supreme Court decided that a railway owned and operated by the government of Austria cannot be sued in the United States for an accident that occurred at one of the railway’s stations in Austria. The plaintiff in the case, a resident of California, sued the state-owned railway for injuries she suffered after falling onto the tracks while boarding a train at the railway’s Innsbruck, Austria station. When she fell, the train ran over her legs, requiring that both legs be amputated above the knee.

railroads-1554513Under federal law, foreign governments cannot be sued for damages in U.S. courts except under limited circumstances. This protection is known as sovereign immunity, and it was codified by Congress in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act includes several limited exceptions, one of which permits a lawsuit against a foreign government when an injury is based upon commercial activity conducted in the United States. In her lawsuit, the injured American alleged that this exception applied in her case — and thus that her suit for damages should proceed — because her injuries were based upon the purchase of a train pass that occurred in the United States.

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With so many cars and trucks on the road these days, it is easy to forget how important passenger and freight trains still are in America. Commuters and travelers often talk about cheap flights or the price of gas, but rarely does the discussion turn to the cost of a train ticket.

train-1450658But Illinois is a natural hub for the railroads. For passengers traveling from east to west, Chicago acts as a gateway to all that lies beyond Lake Michigan. For freight carriers, Chicago is a logical transfer point to other modes of transportation. Goods from Canada, Mexico, and ports on both coasts arrive in Illinois by rail but often set out for deliveries on tractor trailers.

Much of the produce in supermarkets is transported by rail. If a train carrying produce is involved in an accident, there is little harm except to any cars or pedestrians that may have been hit by the train. However, freight trains often carry goods that are toxic in nature, like oil and other hazardous chemicals, and an accident involving one of these trains can have much broader, and potentially more serious, consequences.

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train-station-1250938A Chicago Transit Authority Red Line train traveling south near the Granville stop at Broadway derailed around 2:00 pm on Halloween today in Chicago. Hundreds of passengers were stranded for over an hour until power was shut off. All passengers were eventually evacuated and escorted to safety. Fortunately, it seems no serious injuries or deaths occurred in this derailment. According to a local news source, only one person was transported to the hospital with a shoulder injury.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, over 900 train derailments have occurred in the United States so far this year. Over 550 deaths and almost 6,000 serious injuries have been reported due to train accidents and incidents in 2015.

Derailments happen far too often and usually lead to serious injuries and deaths due to the lack of seat belts and other safety features missing on trains. Train derailment led to the deadly Santiago de Compostela train disaster that killed almost 80 people and injured over 150 in Spain. The data recorder proved that the high speed train derailed because the train was traveling twice the posted speed limit of 80 km per hour (50 mph) when it was entering a curve in the track. Conductor error is one of the most preventable causes of train accidents and train derailments.

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