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Amtrak Train in Washington State Derails, Causing Fatalities, Raising Many Safety Questions

Last week, three people were killed and dozens more were injured when Amtrak’s 501 Cascades high-speed locomotive derailed on its inaugural journey between Seattle and Portland. Excessive speed was a factor. More disturbing, however, was the fact that the automatic braking system (ABS) was installed on the tracks and train, but was not functioning. Such a system would have likely prevented this deadly accident from occurring.

Since 1969, train safety advocates have been pushing for the installation of ABS. According to an Associated Press analysis, since that year, more than 6,700 have been injured and 298 have been killed in accidents involving train derailments. Congress mandated the implementation of “positive train control” (PTC) on all trains by 2015. PTC is a communications system for passenger trains that includes ABS. Despite this mandate, most passenger trains in the United States are not equipped with PTC features. A Boston train accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a train derailment-related accident.

Train was Clocked at Nearly Three Times the Posted Speed Limit

Just before the accident, the train was estimated to be traveling at over 80 mph, nearly three times the legal limit. Occurring to investigators, the train cars were tilting as they rounded the curve with a 30 mph speed limit, and it appeared that the engineer was applying the brakes.

Passengers who were being interviewed shortly after the accident were stunned. Emma Schafer, who was traveling to Portland for the holidays, was napping when her train car fell onto the highway below.

“Have you ever been on a 3D simulator where it shakes you around a pod? It was like that,” said Schafer.

“It felt like the end of the world, like we’d stepped out of a nuclear bunker amid the wreckage,” she continued. “It’s hitting me in waves. I’m suppressing some of it. Tonight is probably going to be rough.”

Amtrak said there were seven crew members and 77 passengers on board at the time of the accident. More than a dozen people suffered serious injuries, some of whom required surgery, and more than 100 people were rushed to the hospital.

Train Accidents are Relatively Common

More than 3,000 train accidents occur in the United States annually. Although not all of these accidents result in injury or death, most involve some level of property damage. The most common railroad accidents involve collisions with other trains or passenger vehicles, derailment, mechanical failure, poorly-maintained tracks, driver fatigue, and driver inexperience.

Train Accident Statistics

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):

  • there is a train accident every 90 minutes in the U.S.,
  • approximately 60 percent of these accidents occur at railroad crossings,
  • about 80 percent of railroad crossings lack adequate warning signals,
  • most rail companies are still using technology developed more than 70 years ago, and
  • local jurisdictions have little to no control over train travel in their community.

Train accident lawsuits are subject to a complex host of legal standards, and often involve multiple parties. As such, it is crucial to hire an attorney with experience in this area of the law if you have been injured in a train accident. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Top Personal Injury Law Firm

If you have been injured in any type of accident, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of accident and injury victims for more than 50 years. Our experienced, knowledgable attorneys will ensure that you fully understand your rights and options before moving forward, and we’ll be by your side throughout the entire process. Don’t go through this difficult time alone. If you’ve been injured, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP for a free and confidential consultation about your case.