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Are train companies held liable for injuries?

With recent Amtrak derailments and accidents, people in Hawaii are wondering who pays for injuries and damage in train crashes. In the past few months, Amtrak has been the focus due to numerous catasrophes that have resulted in serious injury and even death. Although investigations are ongoing, and Amtrak may be found not to be at-fault, there is a good chance the company will still be the one who pays out the money for medical bills, funeral expenses, and lost wages.

According to FindLaw, common carrier liability is used frequently in litigation against train companies. As a carrier who accepts a fee, the company is responsible for a higher level of safety for its passengers. Amtrak receives funding from the government and is liable for torts, but it has a liability limit of $295 million. With the potential for numerous personal injury claims, this may not be enough to cover expenses.

The Washington Post explores why Amtrak and other train companies are held liable for accidents even when the fault can be blamed on someone else. In the latest crash, the railroad company CSX was potentially at fault because it was the one who routed the Amtrak train, causing it to crash into a parked freight train. It would seem CSX should be the one doling out funds for injuries and property damage but, because of a secret agreement between Amtrak and the private railroad, Amtrak will more than likely pay out. 

Arguments against this agreement are that private railroads are responsible for railway infrastructure and should be liable for any issue caused by its defect. If not held liable, they may not take the necessary steps to make safety improvements in an expedient manner.

 

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