A mysterious Chicago train crash that left dozens of people injured is also raising legal questions. An empty commuter train was parked in a service yard and somehow ended up on a rail line, then collided into an oncoming train early Monday, CNN reports.
At least 48 people were injured. Luckily, they are all believed to have only minor injuries.
Investigators are in the process of determining what exactly happened by looking at surveillance video and interviewing workers. As the investigation continues, victims will have many questions that may affect their ability to get compensation for their injuries.
- What caused the crash? Depending on what the ultimate cause of the crash is, there may be different theories that a victim can then go forward with. For example, if there was a train conductor onboard who accidentally left the control panel unlocked, a negligence claim might be brought against him. On the other hand, if it was a manufacturer's error and the crash was the result of a defective product (the train), then the manufacturer may be responsible under a product liability theory.
- Res ipsa loquitur? Because so little is known about the cause so far, negligence may be difficult to prove. However, runaway train crashes don't just happen on their own, nor do they usually happen without someone being at fault. Under the legal theory of res ipsa loquitur, which means "the thing speaks for itself" in Latin, a plaintiff can try to establish a rebuttable presumption of negligence through circumstantial evidence.
- How to sue the transit agency? If a victim's personal injury suit is against a government entity, there will likely be a requirement that one files a "notice of claim" before filing a lawsuit. However, when it comes to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), a variation of this notice requirement (in which injured victims had to file a notice within six months) was repealed in 2009. So it's best to check your local laws to see whether notice is required.
- How much time do I have? Every state has a statute of limitations that requires civil lawsuits to be brought within a certain period of time after an injury. However, there may also be varying statutes of limitations depending on the entity being sued. For example, Illinois' Metropolitan Transit Authority Act requires civil suits against the CTA to be commenced within a year, as opposed to the state's general two-year time period for other types of lawsuits.
Train accidents are always complicated matters, and pursuing compensation for a train injury may involve different local laws, as you can see. An experienced personal injury attorney in your area will be able to answer your questions and ensure that you are taking the right steps toward monetary recovery.
- Empty Runaway Train Crash Makes Chicago Authorities Suspicious (ABC News)
- Time Limits to Bring a Case: The "Statute of Limitations" (FindLaw)
- Amtrak Injuries: Chicago Train Crash Lawsuits? (FindLaw's Injured)
- NTSB Investigation into Deadly Train Crash in LA Ends (FindLaw's Injured)