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Legal Review: Amtrak CEO Claims Recent Collision Fault of CSX and Federal Government

By South Carolina Wrongful Death Attorney Gary Christmas, a senior partner and founding member of the law firm Christmas Law Firm.

A recent fatal Amtrak accident has been blamed on the freight railroad CSX and the Federal Government’s failure to install Positive Train Control on the track in question by Amtrak’s president and CEO.

Richard Anderson, CEO of Amtrak, claimed in a statement that the accident was the result of a CSX crew redirecting the main line to a side track where the CSX train was parked, and not switching it back.

Additionally, said Anderson, this portion of track was not equipped with Positive Train Control (PTC), which is designed to automatically slow or stop a train in situations where it is speeding or heading down the wrong track. Anderson said that the accident, which claimed the lives of three Amtrak employees, could and should have been avoided.

“The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is currently investigating this accident, and hasn’t reached any conclusions about who was at fault,” said Gary Christmas, a Mount Pleasant personal injury attorney with the Christmas Law Firm. “However, the NTSB Chairman has been quoted as saying that PTC would have eliminated most, if not all, of the recent fatal train accidents.”

Though statements like this certainly support the claims of Amtrak’s CEO, any probable cause findings issued by the NTSB are specifically barred from use in civil litigation by Federal law. What is not barred are the findings of fact included in the NTSB report, which can assist a claimant in making his or her case regarding any claim for injuries.

“Accidents such as these,” said Christmas, “raise questions about the best approach to take in filing suit from a wrongful death standpoint.” As employees of Amtrak, the three individuals that lost their lives would be covered by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), which is much more favorable to claimants than standard workers’ compensation claims.

FELA allows recovery for pain and suffering and uses the pure comparative negligence standard as opposed to contributory negligence. Pure comparative negligence allows recovery for an individual claimant even if their own negligence contributed to their injuries. This is better than South Carolina’s standard, which says that if a claimant is more than 50 percent responsible for their own injuries, they are barred from recovery.

Many elements go into any claim for injury, including choice of law, the order in which to file claims, and how to use evidence provided by other parties. The involvement of a South Carolina Personal Injury Attorney can be incredibly beneficial.

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