Articles Posted in Train Accidents

For many residents and regular commuters to Washington, D.C., public transportation is integral to getting to and from work, school, or across the city in general. Commuters, however, have a reasonable expectation of safety when they are on city trains or buses. When public transit unexpectedly fails and injuries occur, those who are responsible can be held accountable.

According to a recent local news report, a Metro train derailed on the Blue Line near the Arlington Cemetery station. Metro officials reported that the train, a 7000-series train that is one of Metro’s latest models, partially moved off the tracks. At the time of the incident, there were 300 to 400 people on the train and one person was transported to the hospital as a precaution after issues related to anxiety. Following the incident, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that it would send railroad accident investigators to look into what caused the incident. Service remains suspended between certain stations because of the ongoing investigation.

The Metrorail, which is operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), is the second busiest public transit system in the nation, with more than one million riders on the average weekday.

Back in May of this year, eight passengers were killed and dozens others seriously injured when an Amtrak train originating in Washington D.C. crashed just outside Philadelphia. According to one local news source, Amtrak recently indicated in court filings that it was not going to contest the issue of liability for compensatory damages by those passengers injured or killed in the fatal accident.

This means that the company will likely be held responsible for the medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering of those injured passengers who survived the accident. For the families of those who died in the accident, Amtrak will be responsible for their wrongful deaths. It remains to be seen if Amtrak will also be responsible for punitive damages.

In order for a judge to issue punitive damages to the accident victims and their families, the judge would have to determine whether Amtrak acted with “conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of others.” The company has not conceded that punitive damages are appropriate in this case.

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With the tragic Philadelphia train accident still dominating the news, it may have been easy to overlook another train accident that occurred closer to home, here in Washington, DC. Earlier this week, a MARC train struck and seriously injured one person, according to an article by the International Business Times.

Evidently, the accident took place at around 9:50 in the morning, near Ninth Street and New York Avenue Northeast. MARC service was shut down for the day, as investigators surveyed the scene and maintenance workers attempted to ensure that the tracks and trains were all safe for the afternoon commute. In the meantime, the DC Metro subway system honored MARC tickets.

The person who was struck by the train remains in serious condition but is expected to recover from the injuries sustained in the accident. The exact cause of the accident is still under investigation.

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Earlier this week, the family members of a woman who died while riding on the DC Metro filed a lawsuit against Metro Transit Agency, seeking $50 million for their loss. Back on January 12, there was an unusual accident on the DC Metro near the L’Enfant Plaza stop when a train suddenly came to a halt and then filled with smoke.

According to one local news report, some of the occupants on the train were trapped in the smoke-filled cabin for 45 minutes before emergency responders were on the scene. The deceased woman, whose family recently filed suit, was one of those passengers.

Evidently, the lawsuit claims that the ventilation fans in the subway tunnel did not work properly and that the accident was “completely foreseeable” given their state of repair.

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Earlier this month on the Washington DC Metro, one woman died, and at least 84 others were injured when a Metro car filled with smoke. According to one news report, subway riders were escorted off the train through a tunnel, but not before dozens were exposed to the dangerous smoke.

Evidently, the incident occurred near the L’Enfant Plaza station at around 3:30 in the afternoon. One witness told reporters that suddenly smoke started pouring in from between the doors, filling the cabin in seconds. He went on to tell reporters that, while some of the passengers were fine, others started to react quickly and severely to the smoke in the cabin.

The cause of the smoke remains unknown, but it is assumed that it was nothing more than a fire and not any act of terrorism or other criminal act. Regardless, for the family of the one woman who died, and the many others who were seriously injured, the exact cause of the accident is not what is immediately important.

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The death of a camera assistant during a film shoot in Georgia has raised questions about film crew safety, amid allegations that the filmmakers placed a higher priority on completing the film on schedule and under budget. The woman’s family is expected to file a lawsuit in connection with her death, but many important details of the case remain unknown. Prior court cases involving film shoot injuries or deaths have involved employment-related questions, such as whether an injured person was an employee of a filmmaker, as a key part of determining liability.

The decedent, Sarah Jones, was second assistant camera on a low-budget independent film entitled Midnight Rider. On February 20, 2014, she and others were setting up to shoot a dream sequence, which involved placing a bed frame and mattress in the middle of the tracks on a bridge trestle spanning the Altamaha River outside of Doctortown, Georgia. Crew members were warned that, in the event a train approached, they would have sixty seconds to get out of its way.

When a train did appear, Jones, a hairstylist, and the director were still on the trestle. The hairstylist told the Hollywood Reporter that their only way off involved running towards the train. She ran for a gangplank, but the train struck her left arm before she made it there. She survived, but suffered a major fracture. Another crew member managed to pull the director to safety. Jones, however, did not make it to the gangplank, and was killed by the train.

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The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) settled seven lawsuits brought by the families of people killed in a 2009 crash on the Red Line. The crash remains the deadliest accident in WMATA’s history. The exact terms of the settlement are confidential. Along with three companies that provide equipment for the train system, WMATA has admitted liability for the crash in a court document filed in mid-February. Four remaining lawsuits, two for wrongful death and two for injuries sustained in the crash, are expected to go to trial.

The crash occurred just after 5:00 p.m. on June 22, 2009. A faulty circuit in the automatic train control system failed to detect a train on the track. It directed Car 1079 into the parked train at full speed. Car 1079 was pushed up onto the other train before coming to rest. Nine passengers died in the crash, and dozens were injured.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) scrutinized WMATA and the Tri-State Oversight Committee, which has responsibility for monitoring safety. The NTSB concluded that the control system’s failure directly caused the crash, and that WMATA had “failed to prioritize safety at all levels.” Multiple WMATA officials left or were reassigned. All trains have been operated manually since the crash, while they develop new safeguards.

Families of each of the nine people who died filed wrongful death lawsuits against WMATA and several of its suppliers. People who were injured in the crash also filed lawsuits to recover for their injuries. The recent settlement news resolves all but four of the lawsuits. The remaining suits are pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The admissions of liability from WMATA and the other companies will make the trials go more smoothly. In a court filing, they say that they are stipulating to liability in order to “avoid the significant risks and costs” involved with a courtroom fight over the issue. The only issue for trial in the remaining cases, therefore, is the amount of compensatory damages each plaintiff should receive.

The day after the announcement of the settlements and the admission of liability, the judge presiding over the cases issued a gag order preventing the parties from discussing it publicly. A pretrial conference was reportedly scheduled for March 1. At least one of the cases, a wrongful death claim brought by the mother of victim Lavonda King, is scheduled for trial in mid-March.

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According to the Associated Press, two years after two Metro trains collided with one another near the Fort Totten station on the red line, no resolution has been reached in the DC wrongful death lawsuit filed by the surviving family members of those who died and the victims who were injured. The tragic Washington DC metro crash, which occurred on June 22, 2009 killed nine people—eight passengers and the train operator—and injured over 70 people. The numerous complaints that were filed have been consolidated into one case and the trial is scheduled for February 2012.

Officials say that Train 112, which struck the other train, included six of the oldest cars in the fleet. As far back as several years before what was called the worst Metrolink train crash in history, the National Transportation Safety Board had recommended that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration change these cars because there ability to make it through a train accident was not certain. Cost concerns prevented the WMATA from replacing the trains, which were supposed to keep running until 2012. Also, the train operator, Jeanice McMillan, reportedly had just three months experience on the job when the deadly accident happened.

Train Accidents

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Metro was experiencing systemic issues even before the June 2009 Washington DC train crash that left 9 people dead and injured at least 70 others. The Red Line collision, called the worst in Metrorail’s 34-year history, involved one transit train rear-ending another during rush hour. One train ended up jackknifing and falling on top of the other train.

The Metro’s tracks were not working properly at the time and did not automatically slow down the approaching train. This means that the train operator of that train was getting messages telling her that she could keep going at a speed of 55 mph. She applied the emergency brakes three seconds after seeing the other train. Although the brakes worked, this only gave the train enough time to slow down to 44mph by the time of impact. Now, NTSB Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman is saying that Metro was on a collision course long before this train accident and that its safety system had already been compromised.

Prior to the June 2009 DC Metrorail accident, there had been other fatal crashes that had killed employees. Unfortunately, according to Hersman, Metro failed to implement the needed prevented measures after they happened.

As loved ones and friends gathered on Tuesday to mark the one year anniversary of the deadliest DC Metro train crash in the Metrorail’s history, the attorneys for eight of the families gathered in court to file a motion opposing Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s petition, submitted last month, to dismiss their Washington DC wrongful death complaint on the grounds that because WMATA is a “quasi-government entity” it has “sovereign immunity.” The family of one of the victims, train operator Jeanice McMillan, is not included in the legal action.

The plaintiffs have accused WMATA of bearing no responsibility for the deadly Red Line crash that killed nine people and injured at least 70 others when one Metro train rear-ended the back of another train last June. One train ended up on top of the other, and firefighters had to cut open train cars to rescue some of the victims.

Metro contends that filing the “partial” motion to dismiss is standard and routine in a Washington DC wrongful death lawsuit. It says that it hopes that the case will be “resolved or tried as soon as possible.” The civil trial is tentatively scheduled for September 2011 but Metro wants it delayed until 2012.

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