December 4, 2013

Train crash lawyers on fatal New York City railroad accident

metro-north-train-accident-lawyerFour people died and more than 60 others left injured after a train derailed in New York City on Dec. 1. Faulty brakes did not cause the crash and the Metro-North train was traveling more 50 mph over the speed limit when it crashed, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary findings. The commuter train toppled over and the lead car almost plummeted into the Hudson River as it negotiated a curve in the tracks near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx on the Metro-North’s Hudson Line. Because The Cochran Firm, D.C. represented victims of a fatal train crash in 2009, the tragic accident in New York City immediately caught our attention.

About 20 victims from Sunday’s Bronx train crash remain hospitalized, according to the Wall Street Journal, with injuries including broken arms and serious spinal fractures. A doctor at St. Barnabas Hospital said many injured victims needed significant medical attention, including surgeries.

The train’s operator has been identified in the media as William Rockefeller of Rockland County, New York. Rockefeller told law enforcement officials that he hit the brakes but they failed. Earlier this year on July 18, a 10-car freight train derailed near the same station as Sunday’s accident. The crash also comes after a May 17th crash when two Metro-North train cars crashed and derailed in Bridgeport, Connecticut, leaving more than 70 people injured. New York State Sen. Jeff Klein, who represents the area of the train crash, told the Associated Press that “Safety is clearly a problem on this stretch of track.”

The Metro North’s full name is the Metro North Commuter Railroad Company. It is a corporate subsidiary of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is a public benefit corporation. In order to file a lawsuit arising from the Bronx train crash, specific legal procedures must be followed. A Notice of Claim must be correctly filed within the applicable time limit. The statute of limitations applying to these claims may also be shorter. If you do not properly adhere to the statutory rules, you may be barred from claiming damages for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other costs. Speak with an experienced train crash lawyer to determine your best course of action.

Train accidents like the tragic crash in the Bronx are often avoidable. Negligence in properly maintaining a train can lead to malfunctioning machinery. Negligence by a manufacturer can result in defective and hazardous mechanical parts. Negligence by a train operator can cause excessive speed, errors in judgment, or dangerous mistakes caused by inattentiveness.

Under the law, train operators owe their passengers a duty of care. Passengers entrust their wellbeing and safety to train operators. If the railroad operator falls short of that duty, the law empowers passengers to hold railroads accountable through the civil justice system. In addition to securing compensation for accident victims, lawsuits can incentivize train operators to improve their safety procedures and help prevent future tragedies.

Litigation involving train accidents is complex and raises a myriad of legal issues. If the train was operated by a government entity or a quasi-governmental entity, injured passengers may need to file a notice swiftly in order to preserve their rights. There is also a wide body of case law and regulations that govern train operators, whom are often held to a higher standard of care than other entities due to their status as “common carriers.” Common carriers are companies that transport goods or people and are responsible for losses during the transport. For example, train employees are usually covered by the Federal Employers Liability Act, which holds that train workers involved in an accident may file legal claims against the railroad for compensation.

Train accidents cause about 1,000 deaths annually in the United States, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area had its own train accident tragedy four years ago when a Metro subway train crashed into another train at the Fort Totten station. The crash left nine people dead and over 70 injured.  The Cochran Firm, D.C. represented many of the Fort Totten crash victims and was co-liason counsel for all plaintiffs in the consolidated litigation. We are actively monitoring the Bronx train crash situation and researching possible legal claims. If you or your family member was hurt in the Bronx train crash, give us a call at 202-6820-5800 or 1-800-843-3476 to learn your legal rights.