In this blog post, I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss today's Metro-North train derailment and the rights of the injured and deceased passengers. If you or someone you know has been injured in this tragic accident, what are your rights ?
Metro-North is what we attorneys call a common carrier, like a cab, bus, airline or any other train service. Common carriers have many duties to many different types of people. Common carriers have a duty to maintain their equipment; They have a duty to operate their equipment in a safe manner as a reasonable an prudent person would under the circumstances; A duty to people located at a crossing; and a duty to people located near the tracks just to name a few. With regard the the accident that occurred today in the Bronx on the Hudson line of Metro North, approximately sixty (60) people were injured and four (4) were killed. It is an unfortunate event and exactly what happened and who is responsible has yet to be determined. One thing is for certain and that is that Metro-North will be the one party involved that is likely to be the most responsible for this incident.
What do I mean when I state that Metro-North will most likely be the party that is the most responsible for the accident ? Well, the passengers that were injured and killed in the accident were, in fact, passengers on a Metro-North train. Common carriers have a responsibility or duty to their passengers to use reasonable care when operating the train and they must operate it as a reasonable and prudent person would under the circumstances. Some of the questions I would ask if I were consulted by one of these passengers would be:
1. How fast was the train traveling at the time of the accident ?
2. Are their traffic control signs in the vicinity of the curve where the accident occurred and what are they ?
3. What are the NHTSA regulations that are implicated in this type of accident and were any regulations violated ?
4. Was there operator error ?
5. Was there an issue with the train's brakes ?
6. Was there an effort to apply the brakes prior to the accident ?
7. Were there any safety devices that were implicated in this accident and did they function properly ?
8. Was there any issue with the maintenance of the track at the location of the accident ?
9. If there was an issue with the maintenance of the track in that location of the accident, was the maintenance issue something that was involved or implicated in the accident ?
10. What are the results of the NHTSA's investigation ?
11. What does Metro-North's report to the Commissioner of Transportation state ?
After looking into all of these issues, we would, of course, discuss with the prospective client what their injures were and what was the course of their medical treatment. We would also look into whether the injuries prevent the passenger from working and for how long the person was prohibited from working.
If the prospective client is one of the passengers that passed away, we would need to inquire about establishing an estate for the person who passed so that suit can be filed for that person's family. We would also need to know who their dependents are of the person that passed away and what they did for a living. As I have written before in another blog post, wrongful death cases, unless there is a period of time within which the person that passed was alive and at least somewhat aware of their injuries, are calculated based on lost earnings over a lifetime for the person that passed away. If, however, the person that passed away was conscious of their injuries for some period of time prior to passing away, the estate for this person could recover for the personal injuries and the pain and suffering he or she endured.
One thing that should also be considered, is that there is likely to be a notice of claim requirement for this filing which means that a claimant would need to file a notice of claim within ninety (90) days and then file suit within one year and ninety days. We would also need to investigate if there are independent contractors that were responsible for the maintenance of the tracks or train cars and if the lack of maintenance was a factor in the accident.
So in summary, this accident was a significant tragedy in our area and I am hopeful that the authorities will investigate this matter promptly and thoroughly. I trust that lessons will be learned from this accident and that there will be remedies put in place to prevent something like this from happening again. However, I have been practicing law long enough to know that accidents can and do happen and something like this will likely happen again at some point in the future. I hope our readers do not become victims of an accident like this, but these incidents occur and that is why there are rights to file lawsuits to seek compensation for injuries suffered in these types of accidents. So, if you or someone you love has been injured in an accident like this, please give us a call at 1.800.900.6204 for a free consultation and a free case evaluation. We have over 150 combined years of experience and we will be happy to fight for you.