Last week, an Amtrak train on its inaugural run from Seattle to Portland derailed in Dupont, Washington on to Interstate 5. The incident killed at least 3 people and leaving more than 70 injured. The exact cause of the derailment is under investigation. Our hearts go out to the victims and the families affected by this tragedy.

The Amtrak tragedy has deeply affected the South Sound community, including our team here at Herrmann Law Group. In order to better understand the incident for future accident prevention, we’re going to analyze statistics, dangers and common causes of train derailments and accidents.

Washington train tracks

Train Derailments & Accident Statistics

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) puts out an annual report on train incidents. In 2017, there were 24 train accidents in Washington State alone. There were 1,217 incidents across the United States from January to September 2017.

The vast majority of train accidents occur at railroad crossings. In 2016, there were 2,025 incidents reported. Of those incidents, there were 265 fatalities, and 798 injuries.

Dangers of Train Derailments & Accidents

Even if you aren’t on a train, you can still unknowingly be at risk of injury. In the Amtrak tragedy, the passenger train cars jumped off the track and landed onto moving vehicles down on I-5. The Seattle Times reports that five vehicles and two semi-trucks were damaged by the falling train cars and debris

If a train derails and is carrying toxic chemicals, a hazmat situation could occur where nearby residents or motorists could be at risk if they inhale the toxic fumes.

Train crossings and motorists who think they can beat the train account for an alarming number of accidents. People often misjudge the speed at which a train is travelling at and due to the heavy weight of the train, it can take as long as ten football fields to come to a complete stop.

Common Causes of Train Accidents

Here are some common causes of train accidents, including but not limited to:

  • Object on tracks
  • Motorists trying to “beat the train” at a crossing
  • Distracted pedestrians walking on railroad tracks
  • Railroad workers injured or crushed due to negligence
  • Problems with the track
  • Speeding by the train engineer

There are also several mechanical factors that could lead to a train derailment or accident, including but not limited to:

  • Bad or broken welds – Railroad tracks are welded in place to provide more structural integrity. The railroad workers who welded the tracks in place could have created a bad weld – which means it will prematurely break when subjected to repeated stress. Welds can also go bad over time due to the constant expansion of the metal from the summer sun and winter cold.
  • Bad or malfunctioning switches – There are automatic switches that can malfunction due to mechanical failure, manufacturer defect, or exposure to the elements.
  • Damage to rails (lack of maintenance) – Railroad tracks need to be inspected and maintained every so often. If the tracks aren’t maintained properly, they can buckle and cause a train to derail.
  • Track geometry – Track geometry is comprised of the train alignment, gauge, and elevation. Bad geometry and excessive speed can cause an accident to occur.
  • Defective carriage cars or couplings – The couplings that keep the train cars held together can be defective or get damaged over time. They should also be visually inspected for any obvious defects prior to the train leaving the yard.

Washington Train Derailments & Accident Law Firm

If you or a loved one has been injured in the recent Amtrak train derailment or any other related train accidents, give the offices of Herrmann Law Group a call at (253) 627-1835. We’ve helped countless people seek restitution for those injured by public and private transport. Schedule an appointment today and one of our attorneys will go over your rights and legal options that will enable you to start your quest for justice.