Train Accidents Problematic in North Carolina, Nation

Investigators in New York are working to piece together what happened in a fatal Metro-North Railroad crash that killed six people and injured more than a dozen in a suburb of New York City when a train collided with a sport-utility vehicle on the tracks.
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It was the deadliest train crash in the country recent memory, though it is far from the only one.

In December, an Amtrak passenger train in Mebane struck a minivan that was in its path, resulting in the death of the 80-year-old driver after the vehicle was pushed roughly two blocks before the train could stop. Witnesses said they saw the woman on the track and tried to get her to move her car, but she reportedly panicked and could not get the vehicle in motion fast enough. There had been two prior accidents at that very same crossing in the last three years.

More recently in Smithfield, two teenage boys were killed after they were struck by an Amtrak train with 94 passengers aboard. Authorities still aren’t sure why the two were on the tracks.

What we do know is this: The number of train-related deaths spiked in North Carolina last year, according to a recent article in The News-Observer. A total of 27 people were struck and killed by trains in 2013. Of those, seven were in vehicles and 20 were on the tracks illegally.

From a Charlotte injury lawyer‘s perspective, it may be difficult for the family of a decedent who was illegally on railroad tracks to recover compensation. It may be an option to secure funds through decedent’s life insurance policy – if there was one – but that assumes decedent did not intentionally take their own life, a caveat of most life insurance policies, particularly if they were purchased more recently. There are exceptions, but it’s likely a family will have to duke it out with the insurance company in court.

Compensation is more likely in cases where the crash involved a decedent inside a vehicle. Rail companies typically hold insurance policies that range from $25 million to $1 billion in coverage, depending on the size of the outfit. If there is evidence the train was speeding or the conductor didn’t issue a proper warning when approaching the track, there could be an opportunity for compensation from the rail company.

Some examples of situations in which a rail operator could be found negligent:

  • Failing to establish a safe working environment
  • Failure to adequately train employees
  • Failure to conduct frequent and necessary inspections
  • Improper maintenance of equipment or trains
  • Failure to mark or properly maintain railroad crossings
  • Over-working employees, who become fatigued
  • Improper use of equipment

If the train company was not at-fault, however, victims may still have an option for compensation depending on the type of insurance secured by the driver and/or vehicle owner. A driver with a bare minimum policy may not be able to recover damages. However, someone who had full coverage (and paid a higher monthly premium for it) may be entitled to coverage of medical payments, property damage and funeral expenses. The exact language of the policy will dictate the type and amount of coverage to which the insured or beneficiary is entitled.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
After Metro-North Train Crash, Investigators Piece Through ‘Utter Chaos’, Feb. 4, 2015, By Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times

More Blog Entries:
Operation Lifesaver Geared Towards Preventing Collisions with Trains at North and South Carolina Railroad Crossings, Nov. 18, 2011, Charlotte Injury Lawyer Blog

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