Amtrak officials are allegedly accepting full responsibility for the derailment of a train that was traveling over 100mph, and exceeding the posted speed limit around a curve by over 50 mph, on the evening of Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Eight people were killed and over 200 others were injured in the derailment, which occurred in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia while the train was in transit to New Jersey. Over three quarters of the train’s 5 crew members and 238 passengers were injured or killed.
Amtrak Announces Future Upgrades
Amtrak has announced in the wake of this accident that they plan to finish upgrades along this section of railway to add Positive Rail Control by the end of 2015. Amtrak officials are investigating the accident in order to make efforts to prevent future problems similar to this derailment. However, experts who have investigated the derailment are opining that current technology could have prevented the accident if Amtrak had made earlier efforts to put this Positive Rail Control system into effect. The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating why this system, which is already used on other sections of Amtrak’s rail system in the area, had not yet been implemented on the curve where the derailment occurred. The high cost of the control system is likely a factor that has prevented Amtrak from installing the system on the Port Richmond curve sooner, especially since this area of track includes an intersection with other rail lines, an additional complicating factor which raises the cost and complexity of installing the system.
Positive Rail Control Systems Deadline
Currently, the National Transportation Safety Board is fighting to maintain a deadline of December 2015 for all railroad systems to implement Positive Rail Control systems, which was instituted by Congress after a 2008 train collision in California. However, many railroads and legislators are still resisting this requirement and making efforts to delay the deadline due to the high costs of installing the systems.
The train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian, 32, or Queens, NY, is also being investigated in connection with the derailment. Video surveillance has shown that the train quickly accelerated from 70mph to 106 mph in under one minute just before the curve where it derailed. Bostian allegedly obtained a concussion in the impact caused by the accident, and has stated that he does not remember anything about the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board has also reported that the train involved in the derailment, the track, and the signals in the area all had no reported problems at the time of the accident, with the track having been checked the day before the accident and the signals tested since the accident occurred.
Numerous lawsuits could potentially be filed as a result of this incident. One injured Amtrak employee has already filed suit on Thursday, May 14, just two days after the derailment occurred, demanding payment of $150,000 in damages to compensate for his injuries. The Amtrak employee bringing this suit, Bruce Phillips, has alleged that he was slammed into objects inside the train repeatedly during the incident. Others who were injured, and the families of those killed in the derailment, will also likely have cases for damages against Amtrak. Claims of negligence may seek damages to pay for losses such as medical treatment expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. Amtrak could be facing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from collective lawsuits originating from the derailment; but unfortunately, such damages are capped by federal law at $200 million collectively for the incident, which could severely limit the amount of damages awarded to victims and their families. Therefore it is important for the victims of this tragic accident to have the best Plaintiffs’ lawyers in their corner throughout what is sure to be a long legal battle, fighting for the highest possible amount of damages on the victim’s behalf, and pushing the limits by challenging the constitutionality of the federally imposed cap on damages. Additional Defendants could also be identified if further investigations of the incident reveal any likely mechanical failures or other problems with the train, tracks, or signals.