What To Do After An Amtrak Explosion

In December of 2019, an Amtrak employee working on an electrical line connected to a transformer died after the transformer exploded. Two other Amtrak workers sustained minor injuries. Amtrak halted service coming in and out of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station for several hours.

When you hear about an Amtrak explosion, the first thing that comes to your mind is the unprecedented explosion that took place on one of Amtrak’s hundreds of trains. A faulty engine, combustible chemicals stored improperly, and an explosive brought on board by a terrorist are all possible scenarios for an Amtrak explosion.

However, as the New York City incident demonstrates, an Amtrak explosion can occur anywhere where Amtrak owns property. The tragedy that took the life of the Amtrak worker might have been prevented.

What are the railroad company’s legal responsibilities when it comes to the safety of its workers and passengers? What are the rights of the employees of Amtrak, as well as the passengers that use the system throughout the United States?

Most importantly, what should you do after an Amtrak explosion?

An Overview of Amtrak

In 1971, the United States Congress passed the Rail Passenger Service Act, which created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. Now referred to as Amtrak, the nation’s largest railroad company combined 26 regional rail lines into one nationally operated railroad company. Although Congress created Amtrak, the company operates as a for-profit business that both workers and passengers can sue in a civil court.

Congress has established a limit on the total amount of monetary damages that Amtrak must pay because of a single accident. As of 2021, the tort liability of any single train accident is $295 million.

The Duty to Take Care

As a highly regulated industry, railroads owe a duty of “ordinary care” to all people. Federal law requires Amtrak to take “reasonable, prudent care” when operating trains, maintaining surface crossings, and warning pedestrians and operators of motor vehicles. Amtrak must take a higher duty of care to prevent accidents, such as an explosion.

Despite the oversight at the federal level, Amtrak has experienced several accidents that have injured and killed passengers. If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because of an Amtrak explosion or any accident for that matter, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Morgan & Morgan.

What Are the Common Causes of Amtrak Explosions?

Several factors can come into play when it comes to the cause of an Amtrak accident that triggers an explosion. Many of the following causes also contribute to other types of Amtrak accidents.

Negligence

Most of the Amtrak explosions happen when either a train derails or crashes into another train, motor vehicle, or a stationary object. One example of railroad company negligence is failing to ensure that a crossing arm operates properly. Congress has established strict guidelines for Amtrak to monitor safety issues at crossings. Outdated technology that does not receive the necessary upgrades is another example of negligence.

Perhaps the most common type of negligence that can produce an Amtrak explosion is failing to maintain the structural integrity of railway tracks. An Amtrak train that derails because of faulty tracks can roll over and trigger an explosion. Amtrak trains that collide with freight trains carrying combustible materials also produce a large explosion.

Human Error

An inexperienced Amtrak operator can cause an accident that causes an explosion. Add fatigue to the mix and human error becomes a major issue for the railroad company. For example, a tired conductor with little railway operating experience might miss the signal to slow the train down. This can lead to a head-on collision with another train that carries highly volatile materials such as crude oil. 

Reckless Commercial Vehicle Operators

You see it at most railway crossings. Operators of motor vehicles race to beat an oncoming train before it reaches a railroad crossing. Although they must follow strict rules for operating a commercial vehicle, some drivers play the beat the train game. This can lead to a devastating collision, especially if the commercial vehicle carries combustible chemicals.

When a commercial vehicle causes an Amtrak explosion, the operator of the vehicle and the company that employs the operator are most likely at least partly liable for causing the accident. However, Amtrak might be legally liable as well, which means you should speak with a state-licensed train accident lawyer to determine how to proceed with your case.

Mechanical Issues

Mechanical issues can fall under the category of negligence, but this reason for Amtrak explosions happens frequently enough for it to warrant its own category. Every Amtrak employee is responsible for following all safety procedures. Sometimes, Amtrak employees fail to detect defective parts that contribute to mechanical issues. Amtrak trains consist of complex operating systems that require all moving parts to work with each other flawlessly. When mechanical failure occurs, an Amtrak train can derail or collide with another train, motor vehicle, or stationary object.

How to Handle an Amtrak Explosion

The minutes that tick by after an Amtrak explosion determine the outcome of your personal injury claim. Although it appears a slam dunk case, the truth is any type of Amtrak accident is a difficult claim to process. Amtrak and the insurance company that represents it are both large companies that employ the best litigators and claim adjusters to minimize financial losses.

If you received one or more injuries because of an Amtrak accident, especially one that involved an explosion, you should follow a series of steps that help you understand what to do after an Amtrak explosion.

Call 911

Yes, an Amtrak explosion should generate a flood of calls to 911. The conductor and the team of operators riding the train have access to a communication system that alerts law enforcement and the Department of Transportation (DOT) that an explosion occurred. Nonetheless, if you are physically able to call 911, you should do it as soon as possible after the accident.

Getting 911 involved is critical to discovering if Amtrak should assume some, most, or all of the legal liability for the accident. Law enforcement completes a report that includes persuasive evidence and an accurate timeline of events. Representatives from the DOT conduct an even more thorough investigation to determine what caused the Amtrak explosion.

Take Care of Your Injuries

Calling 911 also automatically activates the emergency response system. Because of its powerful force, an explosion can produce several different serious injuries which require emergency care. If an Amtrak accident forces you to an emergency room, you should gather and organize the documents that demonstrate the extent of your injuries.

Getting medical care should be your priority. An explosion can cause one or more potentially life-threatening injuries.

  • Brain trauma
  • Severe fractures
  • Internal bleeding
  • Second and third-degree burns
  • Inhalation of toxic chemicals
  • Damaged spinal cord
  • Bruised internal organs
  • Deep lacerations

Even if you feel well enough to talk with law enforcement, make sure to get checked out later by your physician. Some injuries, such as a concussion or damage to an internal organ, do not develop symptoms until a few hours or even a day after an Amtrak explosion.

Get Yourself and Other Workers/Passengers to a Safe Location

An explosion can disrupt the thought process. After an explosion, you need to shake off the shock of the incident and spend time checking on your fellow workers or passengers. Alert EMS whenever you come across an injured worker or passenger. After accounting for every worker and passenger, you should get to a safe location as quickly as possible.

One explosion is often followed by a second or multiple explosions.

Document Everything

Putting together a convincing insurance claim or civil lawsuit requires you to collect and organize evidence. Although the scene will be chaotic, you should wait until things calm down a bit before obtaining the names of other passengers, as well as the names of any witnesses. If the Amtrak explosion happened in an urban area, you might have several witnesses that can provide you with key supporting information.

Although you will not get a copy of the official law enforcement report at the scene of the accident, you should get the names of the responding officers and every representative for the DOT. Ask law enforcement personnel where you can obtain a copy of the accident report. The accident report is the key piece of evidence that you must file with your insurance company and a civil court clerk. Law enforcement will take dozens of photographs of the accident scene, but you should take photos as well.

Contact Your Insurance Company

If you feel up to it, try to get in touch with your insurance agent while you are at the scene of the Amtrak explosion. Explaining what happened as soon as possible after the train accident ensures you provide the most accurate information. You also benefit from getting your claim processed. Your insurance agent should describe the claim process, which includes explaining the deadlines for filing certain documents.

Work with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Getting hurt from an Amtrak explosion can cause serious injuries that rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills. You also might not be fit enough to work. Serious injuries take months to heal, which leaves you wondering how you will make up the income gap. Then, there is also the strong possibility that the Amtrak explosion triggered one or more emotional issues.

By working with a personal injury lawyer, you receive advice on how to build the strongest claim and possibly compelling civil lawsuit. Your attorney ensures you meet every filing deadline, as well as interviews witnesses, and helps you organize more influential evidence.

Act today by scheduling a free case evaluation with one of the highly-rated train accident attorneys at Morgan & Morgan.

 

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