Earlier this month, a new, high-speed Amtrak train was derailed while making its maiden voyage from Seattle to Portland. The train swerved off of the elevated tracks about 50 miles south of Seattle and landed on Interstate 5 during rush hour. Three people were killed and many more injured.
This tragic event marks Amtrak's third fatal accident in the last three years. The train was recorded as traveling at around 80 miles per hour on a section of track where the speed limit abruptly dropped to 30 to account for a curve. In the wake of such a disaster, one might wonder: who should be held responsible?
Amtrak falls under a category of transportation system known as a "common carrier." (Buses, taxis, cruise ships and commercial planes are all in this group.) Common carriers have an established duty to operate with a high degree of care to maintain the safety of their passengers. Common carriers can be subject to litigation if they fail to uphold such safety standards. In addition, a common carrier can be held liable for negligence per se if a member of its crew (in this case, the engineer) knowingly disregards safety laws or regulations (such as a speed limit).
Any accident that involves the loss of human life is tragic. This devastating event will undoubtedly lead to many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. If you have been injured in a common carrier accident, first take care of your medical needs. Once you have sufficiently recovered, seek out an experienced personal injury attorney to walk you through your options for restitution.