US Who's at fault in Amtrak crash? Amtrak will pay regardless

02:20  11 february  2018
02:20  11 february  2018 Source:

Train crash investigation focusing on truck driver's actions

  Train crash investigation focusing on truck driver's actions Investigators looking into Wednesday's deadly crash involving a train carrying GOP members of Congress are focusing on the actions of the driver of a truck the train struck, a source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN. Eyewitnesses have told National Transportation Safety Board investigators the truck driver -- who is alive but in serious condition, according to authorities -- was seen trying to snake his way through the crossing gates, despite signals that included lights warning of the oncoming train, two sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.

Story Highlights NTSB issued 20 recommendations to highway agencies and railroad regulators Truck driver, who was killed, was faulted for being fatigued, using cellphone MORE: Amtrak train crash . John Davis Trucking Co. in Battle Mountain, Nev., was targeted for

For three decades, Amtrak has been paying these liability claims, regardless of fault , as a condition for using the freight lines' tracks. Told of the size of some of Amtrak ' s indemnification payments , Frank Clemente, who runs the 4, 1987, an Amtrak train crashed into a Conrail train in Chase, Md.

The wreckage of an Amtrak train, bottom, and a CSX freight train lie next to the tracks in Cayce, SC., on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. The trains collided in the early morning darkness Sunday, killing the Amtrak conductor and engineer, and injuring more than 100 passengers. (AP Photo/Jeff Blake) © The Associated Press The wreckage of an Amtrak train, bottom, and a CSX freight train lie next to the tracks in Cayce, SC., on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. The trains collided in the early morning darkness Sunday, killing the Amtrak conductor and engineer, and injuring more than 100 passengers. (AP Photo/Jeff Blake)

WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are still looking at how CSX railway crews routed an Amtrak train into a parked freight train in Cayce, South Carolina, last weekend. But even if CSX should bear sole responsibility for the accident, Amtrak will likely end up paying crash victims' legal claims with public money.

Brother of Amtrak employee who died said sibling worried about safety

  Brother of Amtrak employee who died said sibling worried about safety The brother of Michael Kempf, an Amtrak employee killed when a train crashed on Sunday in South Carolina, said his brother often expressed safety concerns.The brother of an Amtrak engineer killed in a crash in South Carolina on Sunday said safety on the rails was among his sibling's biggest concern.

The two people who died were the train conductor and engineer, the county coroner said. He said at the time of the crash Amtrak crew was communicating with a CSX dispatcher via a telephone communication system.

An Amtrak employee filed the first lawsuit last week, asking for more than 0,000 in damages. What if it turns out the crash wasn't the engineer' s fault ? Who has to pay the victims once all their claims have been filed? Amtrak ultimately has to pick up the cost.

Amtrak pays for accidents it didn't cause because of secretive agreements negotiated between the passenger rail company, which receives more than $1 billion annually in federal subsidies, and the private railroads, which own 97 percent of the tracks on which Amtrak travels.

Both Amtrak and freight railroads that own the tracks fight to keep those contracts secret in legal proceedings. But whatever the precise legal language, plaintiffs' lawyers and former Amtrak officials say Amtrak generally bears the full cost of damages to its trains, passengers, employees and other crash victims — even in instances where crashes occurred as the result of a freight rail company's negligence or misconduct.

Railroad industry advocates say that freight railways have ample incentive to keep their tracks safe for their employees, customers and investors. But the Surface Transportation Board and even some federal courts have long concluded that allowing railroads to escape liability for gross negligence is bad public policy.

NTSB: Amtrak engineer sounded horn, applied emergency brake in S.C. crash

  NTSB: Amtrak engineer sounded horn, applied emergency brake in S.C. crash The focus of the investigation remains on why a switch was in the wrong position, sending the train onto an occupied side track.The impact of the crash early Sunday was so intense that it moved the empty CSX freight train 15 feet from where it was parked on tracks adjacent to the main rail line, according to Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash. The Amtrak train's conductor and engineer were killed, and 116 others were hospitalized.

Amtrak moves trains to Grand Central for 'summer of hell'. Taxpayer funds helped pay for Puerto Rican terrorist' s float. Kulp, 37, who was seated in the second car and had been reading e-mails on his phone, suddenly was airborne.

Amtrak pays a fee to these companies to use their rails. This would indicate full fault of the freight company who controls the train, the track, and dispatches the trains. WSJ: Amtrak Crash Site in South Carolina Was Getting Signal Safety Upgrade.

"The freight railroads don't have an iron in the fire when it comes to making the safety improvements necessary to protect members of the public," said Bob Pottroff, a Manhattan, Kansas, rail injury attorney who has sued CSX on behalf of an injured passenger from the Cayce crash. "They're not paying the damages."

Beyond CSX's specific activities in the hours before the accident, the company's safety record has deteriorated in recent years, according to a standard metric provided by the Federal Railroad Administration. Since 2013, CSX's rate of major accidents per million miles traveled has jumped by more than half, from 2 to 3.08 — significantly worse than the industry average. And rail passenger advocates raised concerns after the CSX CEO at the time pushed hard last year to route freight more directly by altering its routes.

CSX denied that safety had slipped at the company, blaming the change in the major accident index on a reduction of total miles traveled combined with changes in its cargo and train length.

Charges reinstated vs. Amtrak engineer in Philadelphia crash

  Charges reinstated vs. Amtrak engineer in Philadelphia crash An Amtrak engineer has been ordered to stand trial on criminal charges for a deadly 2015 derailment in Philadelphia. A judge on Tuesday reinstated involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges against 34-year-old Brandon Bostian.Another judge had thrown out the charges last year, ruling that the evidence pointed to an accident, not negligence.Pennsylvania prosecutors appealed. Judge Kathryn S. Lewis ruled that the earlier judge had erred and that there was sufficient evidence to send the case to trial.Bostian sat stunned as the decision was announced.

Rail Switch at Fault ? The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the cause of the fatal Amtrak train crash . However, finding out who is responsible for a train crash or derailment is often a difficult process.

The derailment of Amtrak Cascades train number 501 yesterday, Dec. 18, drew headlines across the US, on account of the three lives lost and stunning visuals of train cars dangling above I-5. Playing out like a cruel twist of fate, the train crashed on its debut run with paying passengers aboard

"Our goal remains zero accidents," CSX spokesman Bryan Tucker wrote in a statement provided to The Associated Press. CSX's new system of train routing "will create a safer, more efficient railroad resulting in a better service product for our customers," he wrote.

Amtrak's ability to offer national rail service is governed by separately negotiated track usage agreements with 30 different railroads. All the deals share a common trait: They're "no fault," according to a September 2017 presentation delivered by Amtrak executive Jim Blair as part of a Federal Highway Administration seminar.

No fault means Amtrak takes full responsibility for its property and passengers and the injuries of anyone hit by a train. The "host railroad" that operates the tracks must only be responsible for its property and employees. Blair called the decades-long arrangement "a good way for Amtrak and the host partners to work together to get things resolved quickly and not fight over issues of responsibility."

Amtrak declined to comment on Blair's presentation. But Amtrak's history of not pursuing liability claims against freight railroads doesn't fit well with federal officials and courts' past declarations that the railroads should be held accountable for gross negligence and willful misconduct.

Amtrak train breaks apart while traveling at high speed

  Amtrak train breaks apart while traveling at high speed Amtrak says the Acela 2150 train experienced a "mechanical issue when two of the train's cars separated"WASHINGTON -- An Amtrak train broke apart early Tuesday morning as it was traveling from Washington, D.C., to Boston. The Acela 2150 train experienced a "mechanical issue when two of the train's cars separated" just before 7 a.m., according to Amtrak spokesperson Jason Abrams.

Those who believe that he is at fault think that is a fair consequence for their pain and suffering. Amtrak has agreed to a settlement in the amount of 5 million to the victims of the crash . Bostian himself has a personal injury suit against Amtrak

Six people in Monday' s Amtrak train crash have hired a Chicago law firm with a track record of "We need to get to the root cause of the derailment before we can rush into determining who is at fault ," he said. Jay Inslee on Wednesday the rail company will pay the costs associated with the derailment as Regardless of how many lawsuits are ultimately filed against Amtrak , Congress has capped the

After a 1987 crash in Chase, Maryland, in which a Conrail train crew smoked marijuana then drove a train with disabled safety features past multiple stop signals and into an Amtrak train — killing 16 — a federal judge ruled that forcing Amtrak to take financial responsibility for "reckless, wanton, willful, or grossly negligent acts by Conrail" was contrary to good public policy.

Conrail paid. But instead of taking on more responsibility going forward, railroads went in the opposite direction, recalls a former Amtrak board member who spoke to the AP. After Conrail was held responsible in the Chase crash, he said, Amtrak got "a lot of threats from the other railroads."

The former board member requested anonymity because he said that Amtrak's internal legal discussions were supposed to remain confidential and he did not wish to harm his own business relationships by airing a contentious issue.

Because Amtrak operates on the freight railroads' tracks and relies on the railroads' dispatchers to get passenger trains to their destinations on time, Amtrak executives concluded they couldn't afford to pick a fight, the former Amtrak board member said.

"The law says that Amtrak is guaranteed access" to freights' tracks, he said. "But it's up to the goodwill of the railroad as to whether they'll put you ahead or behind a long freight train."

Failure to Screen for Sleep Apnea Caused 2 Recent Train Crashes

  Failure to Screen for Sleep Apnea Caused 2 Recent Train Crashes Failure to test engineers for the sleep disorder was the main cause of train crashes in Hoboken, N.J., and Brooklyn, a federal safety board found.After finding that the engineers in two recent commuter train crashes in the New York metropolitan area suffered from sleep apnea, federal investigators questioned the Trump administration’s reversal on requiring tests for the disorder.

See also: Speed-limiting technology could have prevented Amtrak crash , NTSB says. It' s possible that the engineer who was at the controls, Brandon Bostian, reacted in some way to his windshield being hit.

Charges reinstated against Amtrak engineer in Philadelphia crash . Federal investigators are trying to figure out what role a mechanical switch played in the Amtrak crash that killed 2 people in South Carolina.

A 2004 New York Times series on train crossing safety drew attention to avoidable accidents at railroad crossings and involving passenger trains — and to railroads' ability to shirk financial responsibility for passenger accidents. In the wake of the reporting, the Surface Transportation Board ruled that railroads "cannot be indemnified for its own gross negligence, recklessness, willful or wanton misconduct," according to a 2010 letter by then-Surface Transportation Board chairman Dan Elliott to members of Congress.

That ruling gives Amtrak grounds to pursue gross negligence claims against freight railroads— if it wanted to.

"If Amtrak felt that if they didn't want to pay, they'd have to litigate it," said Elliott, now an attorney at Conner & Winters.

The AP was unable to find an instance where the railroad has brought such a claim against a freight railroad since the 1987 Chase, Maryland, disaster. The AP also asked Amtrak, CSX and the Association of American Railroads to identify any example within the last decade of a railroad contributing to a settlement or judgment in a passenger rail accident that occurred on its track. All entities declined to provide such an example.

Even in court cases where establishing gross negligence by a freight railroad is possible, said Potrroff, the plaintiff's attorney, he has never seen any indication that the railroad and Amtrak are at odds.

"You'll frequently see Amtrak hire the same lawyers the freight railroads use," he said.

Ron Goldman, a California plaintiff attorney who has also represented passenger rail accident victims, agreed. While Goldman's sole duty is to get the best possible settlement for his client, he said he'd long been curious about whether it was Amtrak or freight railroads which ended up paying for settlements and judgments.

"The question of how they share that liability is cloaked in secrecy," he said, adding: "The money is coming from Amtrak when our clients get the check."

Pottroff said he has long wanted Amtrak to stand up to the freight railroads on liability matters. Not only would it make safety a bigger financial consideration for railroads, he said, it would simply be fair.

"Amtrak has a beautiful defense — the freight railroad is in control of all the infrastructure," he said. But he's not expecting Amtrak to use it during litigation over the Cayce crash.

"Amtrak always pays," he said.

Amid spate of Amtrak mishaps, critics point to political inertia .
Railroad safety has improved, but deadly mishaps including a South Carolina crash Sunday reveal a need for further gains. Experts say rules and funding decisions in Washington are part of the challenge. Mr. Kempf, an Amtrak engineer from Savannah, Ga., was among two railroad employees killed as Train 91 from New York to Miami rolled through the South Carolina countryside early Sunday morning before crashing into a prone freight train. More than 100 passengers were hurt, most lightly.

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