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Metrolink Train Accident and Derailment Claims 24 Lives in Chatsworth, California

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Suggestions For Survivors and Families

The Metrolink passenger train that crashed head-on into a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, California in the San Fernando Valley yesterday, September 12th, 2008, is still being searched this morning by rescue crews using heavy machinery in the hopes of finding more survivors.

At the time that this blog article was published, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that at least 24 people have been killed and more than 135 of the trains 225 passengers have been injured. Over 100 passengers have been transported to hospitals, 60 by ambulance and 40 by helicopter according to the same report. The Los Angeles City Fire Department has reported that 45 people sustained critical injuries.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa confirmed the number of dead at a Saturday morning news conference near the scene of the deadly crash. He also said more than 80 of the injured were in hospitals.

This morning Mario Rueda a Los Angeles City Fire official stated that the likelihood of anyone remaining alive in the wreckage of the derailed trains is very remote according to KTLA News. The same news report stated that officials expect the death toll to mount as the rescue effort and clean up continue.

Legal Issues For Survivors and The Families of the Deceased

Attend to the needs of the injured and make appropriate arrangements for the deceased. Your legal rights are already being looked into by my law firm and other personal injury law firms like ours throughout Southern California that have experience in railroad accident cases as well as a number of governmental agencies. There is nothing survivors and the families of the deceased need to do immediately regarding preserving their personal injury rights to compensation for their injuries and losses or investigating the train accident itself. Attend to the medical, emotional and spiritual needs of family members first.

Medical expenses for survivors and the deceased should be charged to whatever medical insurance, either private or through employment or government programs are available, before paying cash out of pocket (other than deductibles and co-pays). In most cases, I would suggest not paying cash out of pocket for medical expenses due to this train accident until consulting with a knowledgeable train accident attorney about your rights and options, if paying the expenses will cause a financial hardship. Some expenses may not be your financial obligation to pay. Some may be covered through various forms of insurance. All will eventually be recoverable from those agencies responsible for the train collision.

Keep track of all expenses and losses incurred. Keep receipts. Keep notes of hardships, challenges, suffering and out-of-pocket expenses for later claims. Many claimants will use a calendar to make daily notes in order that nothing is forgotten and the full measure of damages can be recovered.

Burial and funeral expenses are recoverable in a wrongful death action against those legally responsible for the death of a family member. Such expenses are traditionally paid in advance of services and long before any financial recovery is received from those responsible for a loved one’s death.

Lost income due to injuries caused sustained in the Chatsworth train collision are recoverable from the parties at fault along with all other traditional California personal injury “damages”, such as “pain & suffering”, emotional upset, scaring, disfigurement, therapy, prescription medication, out-of-pocket expenses and so on.

A wrongful death claim is available to the next of kin and the estate of those fatally injured in this train accident. Economic and non-economic damages can be recovered. Next of kin include family members such as a spouse, child, parent and siblings, in that order. If a parent died, the surviving spouse, children and any one receiving financial assistance from the decedent have claims. A plaintiff in a wrongful death claim may recover funeral and burial expenses, loss of income from the decedent, the decedents’ medical expenses, loss of household support, loss of relationship, mental anguish and suffering. The surviving spouse is entitled compensation for loss of the relationship, known as “loss of consortium”.

Time Limit To File

Personal injury claims in California against a governmental agency needs to be properly filed within six months of the date of injury. We will be timely filing governmental claims on behalf of our clients who were injured or lost a family member in this train collision. Failure to timely and properly file a governmental claim will terminate a claimant’s rights.

Legal Representation

Anyone injured in this train accident would be well served consulting with a personal injury attorney with successful experience in railroad accident cases before speaking to any officials about the accident, supplying any information or signing any documents. Anyone who lost a family member in this train collision should do the same. The best personal injury attorneys and law firms will provide accident victims and their families free consultations to discuss their rights and options.

Investigation and Gathering of Evidence

In most accident cases that we are involved in, we will immediately conduct our own independent accident scene investigation. In this case, there is not need to. We would just be in the way.

Among other agencies investigating the cause of this Chatsworth Metrolink train collision is the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). News reports have the NTSB already on the scene investigating the crash and derailment. The NTSB is an independent Federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant accidents in the other modes of transportation — railroad, highway, marine and pipeline — and issuing safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. The Safety Board determines the probable cause of, among other things, of railroad accidents involving passenger trains or any train accident that results in at least one fatality or major property damage.

Liability – Who is responsible?

There is no doubt that there will be a number of parties responsible for this train catastrophe. Will it be Metrolink, Union Pacific, the owners of the tracks, the operators of the tracks, whomever is responsible for switching, equipment installers/maintenance companies, hardware suppliers, software suppliers, the list goes on. It will take months to sort out what happened, what was suppose to happen and who is responsible. Leave that task to the professionals.

If you were injured or lost a family member in this train collision, hire a personal injury lawyer or law firm that is skilled in railroad accident cases, has successfully completed cases against train companies and governmental agencies, who will advance all the costs (so you have nothing out of pocket while your case proceeds) and most importantly, who you trust and feel comfortable with.

Let’s keep all the victims and their families in our prayers.

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  • Gary J. Schmitz

    Although the immediate cause of this accident was undoubtedly human error, a significant amount of the responsibility belongs to Mayor Villaraigosa who assured his constituents in the early stages of the Metrolink expansion project of robust fail safes designed into the systems which would eliminate the possibility of exactly this kind of accident. Even though it seemed obvious that the risk of a collision was high when track was shared by trains traveling in opposing directions, Mayor Villaraigosa quelled concerns about this risk by describing a system of fail safes which included automated switching of trains on tracks, early warning feedback devices to detect danger of approaching trains on same tracks, and emergency alarms to the conductors of these trains as well as automated control of trains on collision course which would stop them if such an event were to occur. So, if these alleged safeguards are for real, how did this happen? Either Mayor Villaraigosa lied to his constituents, or these acclaimed fail safes weren’t adequately tested. If he were truly sincere in concern for public safety Mayor Villaraigosa would have assured these systems were tested and would work; I suspect his real concern was in convincing the public to support funding for the Metrolink, which was his pet project at that time, and a potential political feather in his cap if it proved successful

  • H

    Uhm yeah, the FRA investigates and has the final say. The NTSB is just there for checks and balances. The Federal Railroad Administration is the one with the RAILROAD experts investigating.

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