Seattle attorneys Charles Herrmann, Lara Herrmann and their staff want to express their deepest sympathy for all the victims and family members of the Amtrak Train Derailment that occurred this morning in Tacoma, Washington.

Herrmann Law Group is ready and willing to provide legal advice to victims and their families, in this confusing time when there are more questions than answers.  “The first thing I tell them is not to talk with representatives of the Amtrak, Sound Transit, WSDOT or the insurance companies, their associated travel agencies, and especially their insurance companies.  Regardless of how nice or helpful they may seem, the harsh truth is that part of their job is to minimize claims of the victims.  Naturally, everyone ought to talk freely with their doctors, the investigating governmental authorities, their families as well as lawyers they may retain, but then no one else” Charles Herrmann warned.

In order to properly document injuries for the presentation of claims when the time comes, photographs of every survivor’s injuries should be taken immediately, and as they continue to heal during the recovery process.  This includes all nature of injuries, whether minor scrapes and bruises, or of a more graphic nature.  A photo is worth a thousand words, and these visual representations of pain and suffering can be invaluable to your claim.  The opportunity to photograph your injuries will disappear as you continue to heal.  Therefore, take them now, and take them often.

Although it is too early to reach firm conclusions, we know that this was the inaugural run of the new Point Defiance Bypass Project to allow high-speed trains to run with reduced delays and more reliability.  There is speculation that the conductor would not yet be familiar with this section of track in DuPont, and was potentially travelling too fast for the approaching curve.  Initial reports state that the train was travelling at 81 mph and it is known that the maximum speed this track was able to withstand was only 79 mph.

Investigation is still needed to determine if there was any negligence on the part of the conductor.  Further, any mechanical issues with the train itself, the track upgrades, testing and management must also be reviewed.

Passenger and eyewitnesses Chris Karnes reports:

“We had just passed the city of DuPont and it seemed like we were going around a curve.  And all of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and then all of a sudden it felt like we were heading down a hill, and the next thing that we know, we’re being slammed into the front of our seats, and the windows are breaking, and then we stop, and there’s water that’s gushing out of the top of the train and all the lights go out and people are screaming.

The tracks for this line were supposed to be upgraded to be able to handle higher speeds. So, I’m not sure what happened at this juncture.”

The new high-speed Amtrak trains, such as the one involved in this tragic incident, are part of The Point Defiance Bypass Project, which began construction in 2010.  Per the WSDOT website, this project was intended to, “…reroute passenger trains to an inland rail line along the west side of I-5 through south Tacoma, Lakewood, and DuPont.  Sound Transit currently uses a portion of this route for Sounder commuter rail service to Lakewood. This project will improve passenger train reliability by reducing congestion with freight trains and eliminating travel on tight corners and tunnels.”

In order to implement this project, the trains were rerouted from the main line tracks owned by BNSF Railway to an updated section of track owned and updated by Sound Transit.  Two phases of testing were completed by Sound Transit / WSDOT to determine if the tracks could accommodate high speeds of the new trains.  The first phase included track stabilization testing, in which they ran freight trains along the tracks at speeds up to 40 mph, in order to ensure that the new ballast and rails were stable.  The second phase of testing included certification that the tracks were able to handle trains travelling at speeds “up to 79 mph”.

The track upgrade itself may prove critical. Was it designed properly? Was the speed testing sufficient to accommodate these new high-speed trains?  Sound Transit and WSDOT are responsible for this section of the railway. Many times an accident is the result of a combination of errors or failures on the part of multiple parties. It is often not the result of just one cause.

All these questions present lines of inquiry to be pursued in the ongoing investigation.  While some of the pertinent facts are already known, a thorough investigation will most likely take several months to a year to complete. However, nearly all of the evidence is being preserved. Videos and/or photos of the actual crash will eventually be available. All causes will be determined once the investigation is completed.

Attorney Charles Herrmann gained an international reputation successfully representing 89 Korean Victims in the shoot down of Korean Airlines Flight KAL 007 in 1983. In that case he recovered $10 million U.S. Dollars for one family alone. He and his team of lawyers went on to recover in excess of $150 million for 118 Korean victims of Korean Airlines accident in Guam in 1997 and more recently Air China’s crash near Gim Hae in the Spring of 2002 as Korea was co-hosting the World Cup.  In that same year, Herrmann took on representation of 62 Taiwanese victims of China Airlines flight CI 611 that exploded over the Strait of Taiwan while in route to Hong Kong. The firm is currently representing victims of the crash of Asiana flight 214 at San Francisco International airport in the summer of 2013, 18 victims in the Mi Joo bus crash occurring near Pendleton, Oregon in 2012, and several victims of the Ride the Ducks crash occurring on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle in 2015.

Charles Herrmann concludes, “The suffering of these victims in this train crash is terribly similar to those in the Ride the Ducks crash. Not only have they sustained serious physical injuries, the psychological trauma can also be devastating.   My heart goes out to all of these victims and their families. It has been a horrific tragedy.”

We invite all passengers, injured drivers or family members of the victims to contact Herrmann Law Group for a totally free, personal, and private consultation. Please contact our main office in Tacoma at (253) 627-8142 or Seattle at (206) 625-9104.  Anyone may also contact Charles Herrmann on his cell: (206) 488-5911 or his email: charles@hlg.lawyer.