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DCA15MR010 Preliminary Report Figure 2Last week, we reported on the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in its investigation of last year’s fatal Amtrak crash. Among the agency’s conclusions was a “culture of systemic safety lapses” which caused the accident. The agency found a total of 20 cultural safety lapses, including failure to have required safety equipment at the crash site which steers trains around track repair work.

According to statistics from the United States Department of Transportation, there were more than 14,000 train derailments between 2006 and 2015. If you or a loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries or died in a serious train accident, seek the advice of a North Carolina mass transit attorney immediately from an experienced personal injury attorney. Once a full investigation determines the cause of the accident, you may have legal recourse.

Derailment Causes

Investigators report devastating scenes from derailment accidents and it is the task of first responders to undertake a search and recovery mission. Obviously, searching for survivors and recovering bodies takes priority over investigations. However, once completed, retrieving the trains ‘black boxes’/recorder and obtaining train records and manifests are the first steps as the wreckage is documented.

The black box which can record the train’s speed, brake history, and forward facing cameras, can all aid investigators determine the cause of a derailment. Possible reasons behind a derailment can include:

  • Driver impairment, error, or distraction;
  • Mechanical condition of the train such as defective/malfunctioning brakes;
  • Problems with the track, such as a partial track replacement (or ‘plug’) that is internally defective;
  • Excessive speed;
  • Signal errors;
  • Weather impacting tracks, like heavy rains causing a washout of part of the track;
  • Uneven load/cargo; and
  • Ineffective safety regulations/redundant systems that can’t compensate for human error.

Injuries and Fatalities

Typical injuries in a train wreck include anything from cuts and bruises to more serious neck and spine injuries from being thrown about inside the cabin. Other common injuries suffered in train wrecks are head injuries, crushed limbs, pelvic injuries, and musculoskeletal injuries.

Many of these injuries can cause long-term damage which requires lengthy and costly rehabilitation.

Compassionate Legal Representation

The law imposes certain legal obligations on common carriers such as railroads in order to protect passengers and the public in general. When there is a failure to use reasonable care on the part of the railroad where the accident occurred, such as conductor or engineer negligence, a train defect, engine mechanical failure, or railroad track defects, choosing legal counsel experienced in North Carolina personal injury litigation is a must.

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