Amtrak Train Crash Under Investigation by NTSB

On June 24, 2011, a Union Pacific train traveling from Chicago to California was involved in a railroad crossing accident in rural Nevada. A semitrailer truck ran the crossing and struck the moving train, injuring several passengers and killing the truck driver and a crew member. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently conducting an investigation of what caused the crash and how it might have been prevented.

One of the avenues the NTSB is pursuing is whether or not the truck driver’s judgment was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the train crossing accident. However, because the driver died as a result of the crash, the NTSB must examine autopsy records in order to make this determination. In addition, the NTSB is reviewing the truck driver’s driving history in order to gain insight into what might have happened.

The NTSB is also investigating the extent that the railroad itself contributed to the train accident. The NTSB will make sure that its safety standards were followed and that both the crossing lights and gates were operating correctly at the time of the train accident. However, report released by the Nevada Highway Patrol, who is also investigating the crash, stated that the warning lights and railroad gates were working at the time of the train accident.

And while the reports regarding the driver’s blood alcohol content have not yet been received, eye witnesses have confirmed that the truck did not seem to stop or slow down as he neared the crossing. Instead, the semitruck continued to drive through the gate and into the train. At the time of the train crash, the truck driver did not have any cargo or passengers; he was traveling alone.

Around 20 passengers and crew members sustained personal injuries and taken to hospitals in both Reno and Fallon, Nevada. While some of the passengers only required a trip to the emergency room, there are about six passengers who still remain in serious and critical condition. The injuries range from simple abrasions and lacerations, to more serious fractures and internal injuries. The truck driver himself died as a result of the train crash, as did a railroad crew member.

If the injured parties elect to bring a personal injury lawsuit as a result of the various injuries they sustained in the train accident, the various defendants could include the estate of the truck driver, the truck driver’s employer, Amtrak, which owned the train itself, and/or the Union Pacific Railroad, which owned the tracks and crossing where the accident occurred. And while various organizations are conducting investigations as to the cause of the train accident, it remains to be seen whether the outcome of those investigations will be admissible into evidence. These results are sometimes barred during the motion in limine process so as not to prejudice the jury.

However, considering that many of the train passengers are still in the hospital, it seems unlikely that they are contemplating a lawsuit right now. Presumably most passengers are focused on healing and recovering, whether physically or mentally, from the trauma they experienced during the train crossing accident.

Chicago’s Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois train accident cases for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, Sauk Village, Des Plaines, and Forest Park.

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