The first plaintiffs have filed lawsuits after the Amtrak passenger train derailment that occurred near Tacoma, Washington, on Dec. 18, 2017.
The legal action now underway reveals which entities might be liable in a complex mass transit accident.
An Amtrak passenger train was making an inaugural run on a new route from Tacoma, Washington, to DuPont in Pierce County when it derailed while speeding through a 30 mph zone at 78 mph. Several cars jumped the tracks, and pictures showed a couple of them dangling precariously from an overpass above Interstate 5.
The train was carrying six Amtrak employees, one employee of the manufacturer and 77 passengers. Three passengers were killed and 62 passengers or crew members suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious.
An Amtrak conductor and one of the passengers have filed lawsuits. The conductor had asked to ride in the lead engine in order to familiarize himself with the new route. He sustained hip and rib injuries in addition to emotional shock and is looking at weeks of rehabilitation. The passenger, who was in rail car #7 dangling above I-5, suffered a fractured clavicle, broken ribs and internal injuries.
In addition to Amtrak, defendants include Sound Transit, owner of the bypass tracks on which the train was traveling; the Washington State Department of Transportation, owner of the Cascades trains; and Talgo, a company that makes rail cars for passenger trains. The conductor’s lawsuit seeks financial compensation to cover his medical bills, lost earnings, the costs of rehabilitation and home care, and suffering. Federal law caps liability for Amtrak at $295 million for any one passenger-rail accident. All lawsuits for the Seattle crash will, therefore, be combined and a single judge will hear the consolidated case.
The Amtrak derailment in Washington State emphasizes how quickly the unexpected can happen. Time is of the essence in pursuing those who are responsible for injuries suffered by passengers and crew members. That is why legal action regarding the Amtrak crash, at least for two of the victims, is already underway.