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Is the Safety Culture at Amtrak Failing Miserably?

About 1,000 people are killed in train-related accidents each year and thousands more suffer non-fatal injuries. Despite these shocking statistics, train travel is generally quite safe. But concerns over recent – and tragic – accidents involving Amtrak have authorities questioning the railroad company’s safety culture.

In 2016, an Amtrak passenger train crashed into a backhoe on the track in Chester, PA. The operator claims he tried to stop when he noticed workers on the track, but failed to do so in time. Following the accident, toxicology reports showed that each of the three employees involved in the collision tested positive for drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and opioids.

Without Change, Another Accident is Inevitable

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the accident occurred due to Amtrak’s failure to maintain a “clear, consistent and accepted vision for safety.” The NTSB went on to warn that another accident is inevitable if Amtrak does not make some dramatic changes, and soon.

An NTSB investigation into Amtrak’s 2016 derailment revealed the following problems as the main causes of the crash:

  • The train was permitted to travel on an unprotected track – while employees were working on the track – at maximum speed.
  • The train lacked shunting devices (a feature that indicates if and where workers are present on the railroad track).
  • Amtrak’s safety policies and management are inconsistent.
  • The presence of drugs in three of the workers’ systems further indicated the railroad company’s “weak safety culture.”

Sadly, the collision above is far from the only fatal crash in Amtrak’s recent history. In 2015, more than 200 people were injured and eight were killed when a train derailed in Philadelphia. And only a few weeks ago, two employees were killed and more than 100 people were injured in South Carolina when a passenger train collided with a parked freight train. Officials say that Amtrak’s safety culture was again to blame in the South Carolina crash. A Boston injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a train-related accident.

Common Carrier Law

Under common carrier law, train operators, railroad workers and train companies are held to a higher standard because they are responsible for the safety of hundreds – even thousands – of people each day. In addition to implementing an effective drug-testing program, Amtrak and other common carriers (such as MBTA) should ensure that employees receive adequate training and that vehicles and equipment are properly maintained and in good, working order at all times.

Amtrak has failed to do its part to protect passengers and limit any harm that can come to them while using its transportation services. When a company like Amtrak neglects to adhere to safety standards and regulations – and injuries result – it should be held accountable for its actions. That being said, determining liability can be an overwhelmingly-complex process. In such a situation, it is essential to consult with an attorney who has extensive experience in cases involving common carriers.

The NTSB recommends that Amtrak overhauls its safety culture by implementing professional risk assessments and ensuring that workers are compliant with safety protocol. If Amtrak does not improve its safety culture, more deadly accidents are inevitable. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you have been injured due to another’s negligence.

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

If you have been injured in a train-related accident – including a derailment, crash or a slip and fall accident on a railroad platform – 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. It is our goal to get you the compensation you deserve so that you can get on with your life. If you’ve been injured, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.