Several recent train accidents that killed or severely injured people in California bring to mind the ever-present dangers encountered in and near rail corridors. With mass transit and freight networks that stretch from Mexico to the shadow of Mt. Shasta and from the Sierras to the Pacific, drivers and pedestrians constantly find themselves in close proximity to massive speeding trains at thousands of level crossings and commuter platforms.
While these six accidents all provide cautionary tales about the various risks that trains present, they are most notable for what they have in common: all of these tragedies took place in the last two weeks of October 2010. The underlying message is that drivers and commuters must be vigilant during all seasons and all times of day to protect themselves against a catastrophic crash or other harm.
Six Lives Forever Altered
The first accident involved a man who was trapped between an arriving train and the platform after he fell onto the tracks during the morning commute at the Hollywood and Vine station on the Red Line of the LA Metro. "The man was lucky to have landed in the large gap between the tracks, otherwise his injuries would have been more serious," a Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesperson told the LA Times. He was removed once the high-voltage track was powered down, and brought to a local hospital with critical injuries.
Several days later, a commuter in a wheelchair suffered serious injuries after he fell onto the tracks of the Bay Area Rapid Transit's Hayward station. A BART spokesperson stated that the man was adjusting his chair when one wheel went over the edge, pitching him into the path of an oncoming train before he was run over. He survived, but was last reported in the hospital with critical injuries.
Three fatal accidents show that the damage can too easily go beyond broken bones, amputations, spine injuries and traumatic brain injuries. On the same Friday in late October, two men were killed in separate accidents at level crossings in the Bay Area: one in Belmont and the other in San Leandro. Several days earlier, a bicyclist was killed in Central Fresno when he was struck by a train.
Finally, a woman riding a northbound freight out of San Diego lost one leg and both feet after allegedly trying to jump off of a slowly moving train. Her companion told police that they had been riding the rails for fifteen years. Notably, local news media reported that a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway lawyer was immediately on the scene, presumably to protect the interests of the railway. There was nobody present to protect the interests of the victim.
Accident Victims Deserve a Full Investigation for Evidence of Negligence
Brief news stories of train accidents never tell the full story, and all too often reporters jump to conclusions that the victim is somehow to blame. When a family loses a primary breadwinner or a seriously injured person faces multiple surgeries and years of rehabilitation, they deserve a full understanding of what happened.
Clues to the truth can often be found in electronic records, witness accounts, accident wreckage and company documents. By consulting with a personal injury lawyer who understands the many complex elements involved in railway accidents, potential plaintiffs can assess their legal options and begin to focus on strategies for long term recovery.