Injuries and Deaths Caused by Amtrak Crashes and Derailments

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Injuries and Deaths Caused by Amtrak Crashes and Derailments

 Amtrak trains have been involved in a series of derailments and crashes in recent years. Railroad workers and passengers have died and multiple injuries were reported. Injuries and deaths caused by Amtrak crashes and derailments have resulted in massive lawsuits across the United States.

Although the car is the preferred method of travel in the United States, many people in Virginia use Amtrak to commute to Washington D.C. or Richmond. Vacationers may also use Amtrak.

Amtrak was set up almost 50 years ago. Amtrak was originally established in 1971 by the Congressional Rail Passenger Service Act. The legislation consolidated the country’s existing 20 passenger railroads into one.

Today the railroad handles traditional interstate passenger rail in 46 states and operates high-speed trains along its busiest route, the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston. Amtrak has more than 500 destinations across a 21,000-mile system. It has grown to 33 routes across America, according to its website.

 Although Amtrak has grown its operations, America lacks a comprehensive high-speed rail network like counties such as Japan and France. Amtrak has been dogged by a lack of investment and safety concerns.

 Deadly Crashes Question Amtrak’s Safety Culture 

Over the last few years, Amtrak trains have derailed and crashed with an alarming regularity, resulting in mass casualties. The main Amtrak crashes and derailments from the last four years are as follows:

March 9, 2015: An Amtrak train bound from North Carolina to New Jersey derailed after hitting an oversized tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks in Halifax, North Carolina. The crash led to 55 injuries, some of them serious. 

  1. May 12, 2015: Amtrak Train 188 derailed on a curve in Philadelphia killing eight people and injuring more than 200. The train was traveling at more than twice the 50 mph speed limit on the curve.

  2. April 3, 2016: Two maintenance workers were hit and killed by an Amtrak train traveling at over 100 mph in Chester, Pennsylvania. The lead engine of the train derailed in the crash.

  3. Dec. 18, 2017: Three people lost their lives and dozens more were injured when an Amtrak train derailed in Washington state. The train was traveling at nearly 80 mph — more than twice the speed limit for a curve. The National Transportation Safety Board later said an engineer told investigators he misjudged the train’s location.

  4. January 31, 2018: A passenger in a truck died when a chartered Amtrak train collided with a garbage truck at the Lanetown Road crossing in Crozet, Virginia.

  5. February 4, 2018: An Amtrak train collided with a parked CSX train in Cayce in South Carolina. The engineer and conductor of the Amtrak train died in the collision. At least 92 passengers and members of the Amtrak crew were treated for injuries at local medical facilities.

Do Amtrak Crashes Point to a Poor Safety Culture?

Many investigations into Amtrak crashes have blamed a poor safety culture at Amtrak.

In the wake of the 2016 crash that killed two Amtrak workers, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed the crash near Philadelphia on a poor safety culture.

Amtrak workers at the crash site lacked safety equipment that the railroad required to steer trains around repair work on tracks, the NTSB stated.

The board found a combination of 20 cultural safety lapses. Workers were not given a job briefing before high-speed trains were allowed back on the tracks.  

The NTSB concluded that the railroad tried to strictly enforce safety rules, However, management had such a poor relationship with unions that workers didn't report safety infractions.

 The National Transportation Safety Board held a hearing after the Washington State crash of 2017 which pointed to human error.

The train’s engineer said that he failed to see the wayside signal at milepost 19.8 (at the accident curve) but mistook it for another signal, which was north of the curve.

Lawsuits Brought Over Amtrak Crashes and Derailments

 Numerous lawsuits have been brought against Amtrak over recent crashes. The rail operator took responsibility for the crash in Philadelphia in 2015 that killed eight people. It said it would not oppose claims for compensatory damages such as medical expenses. However, the pool for payouts is capped under federal law at $295 million.

Railroad injury attorneys said that pool could easily be exhausted, given the number of deaths and serious injuries.

One of the passengers suing Amtrak learned she was pregnant while in the hospital with broken bones and a concussion, her lawsuit stated. It was unclear if the crash harmed her unborn baby. The terms of the settlements reached by Amtrak were confidential.

Hire an Experienced Railroad Attorney over Amtrak Accidents and Injuries

The trial lawyers at the Smith Law Center have worked with the victims of railroad crashes whether Amtrak accidents or those caused by freight trains. Our results include a $60 million jury verdict to a Williamsburg man injured when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and sent two cars into the RaceTrac service center he managed.

Call us today for a free consultation to assess your case at 757.244.7000.