On Tuesday morning, a Ford F-Series truck became stuck on a set of train tracks outside of Los Angeles, near the city of Oxnard. The immobile truck was then struck by a Los Angeles-bound Metrolink commuter train which caused an explosion, ripped the truck into pieces, derailed four train cars and left at least 28 people injured.
The driver of the truck fled the scene after his truck became “stuck” on the tracks. The driver left the truck with its parking brake on and high-beam headlights on right in the middle of the tracks. According to the driver’s attorney, the driver had done all that he could to try and free the truck from the tracks and fled the scene to try and get help. The driver has been charged with a felony hit and run.
A representative from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that it appears the truck had been driving on the tracks prior to the accident and that the truck had not bottomed out on the tracks and was not stuck on the tracks. This conclusion was made after a representative from the NTSB conducted a preliminary analysis.
The driver was arrested about a mile away from the crash, 45 minutes after the impact. He was found with his cell phone, but police stated that he had not attempted to make any calls to emergency authorities. The driver’s attorney claims that the driver was in shock after the accident and that he only speaks Spanish, which prevented him from trying to call for help. The authorities arrested the driver on suspicion of felony hit-and-run.
Depending on the specific facts of this case, which will not be known until thorough investigations are conducted, a number of parties may be liable. The injured passengers may have a claim against the driver for leaving his car on the tracks and causing the accident to occur. Alternatively, the injured passengers may have a claim against the train operator or owner if the train operator or company is found to be at fault. Also, injured passengers may have a claim against the party that maintains the train tracks, if the tracks were found to have caused the truck to become struck. At this point it is difficult to predict the liability of the parties without further investigation and evidence.
A major point to remember is that if an injured person is trying to initiate a claim against a government agency for an injury, the California Tort Claim Act requires a claim be submitted within six months or the claim will be time-barred.
In 2008, a train accident occurred in the Chatsworth neighborhood of Los Angeles, when a Union Pacific freight train collided with a Metrolink Commuter train, resulting in 25 deaths and over 100 injuries. After this accident, a number of different lawsuits were filed and a major problem in terms of recovery was the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act. This act set a liability ceiling of $200 million per passenger rail accident. This cap made it difficult for a number of the parties to adequately recover.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident or a train accident, contact an experienced Riverside and San Diego train accident attorney to evaluate your claim. The attorneys at Martinez & Schill LLP offer free consultations. Call us at 619-512-5995 or (951) 400-4630.