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Who Is Liable for Injuries When the “L” Derails?

Derailed train

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When a train derails for no apparent reason, negligent actions may hold rail workers, train engineers, and manufacturers liable for passenger injuries and fatalities.

Deadly Risks of Train Derailments

In Chicago, trains like the Metra and CTA “L” transport thousands of people to different destinations every day. Travel by train in busy areas makes commuting to work and visiting nearby friends and relatives faster and more enjoyable. Chicago residents and visitors rely heavily on rail transportation every day to bypass sitting in hours of traffic congestion.

Traveling by train in Chicago is a normal mode of transportation. Chicago is home to the CTA “L” train which operates 1,492 rail cars along eight routes and stops in 145 stations every day. Certain routes along the “L” service two major airports, O’Hare and Midway, and trains operate 24 hours per day.

Because trains are considered common carriers by law, passengers must be reasonably protected from injuries. If a train company or its employees violate safety laws and regulations, they can be held liable for passenger injuries and deaths caused by negligent actions. This applies to injuries that occur under certain conditions including:

  • Waiting on the platform for the train’s arrival
  • Boarding the train
  • Riding the train to a destination
  • Exiting the train for departure

Under Illinois law, rail lines owe passengers the highest duty of care to protect against harm. Riders who commute daily or rely on the train as their main mode of transportation expect a safe ride without accidents, especially train derailments that cause catastrophic injuries. What happens if the “L” suddenly derails? Who’s responsible for passenger injuries and/or deaths? In most train derailments, a personal injury lawyer sees extensive passenger injuries and fatalities caused by train cars piling up or turning over after jumping the track.

When train accidents happen, special field agents with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are responsible for investigating the cause. The FRA monitors 365 days per year for train accidents. If accident details show negligence, a Chicago personal injury lawyer can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party for compensation to cover medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and punitive damages for egregious actions.

If a  train derailment results in catastrophic injuries and numerous fatalities, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) takes over the investigation to determine probable cause. As a federal agency, the NTSB has primary authority over FRA investigations for train accidents in the U.S.

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