All evidence seems to be pointing toward human error in a July 18, 2009 San Francisco Muni train accident that injured 48 people–four seriously–the Associated Press reports. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are trying to determine why the operator of a light rail that crashed into a parked train turned off the automatic controls moments before the train collision. Had the operator kept the autopilot on, federal investigators say, the train would have slowed down before arriving at the West Portal Station and not crashed into the other train. Investigators say they have not found any mechanical problems with the train so far.
Authorities would not identify the driver, but say he started as a San Francisco bus driver 30 years ago and started operating light rail trains about two years ago. He also apparently suffered serious injuries and has taken a drug test as part of Muni’s standard procedure. Investigators are also looking into whether the use of a cell phone played a role in this train crash. This is the fourth major subway or commuter train accident in the last 10 months in the United States. Reportedly more than 200 million commuters take San Francisco’s mass transit system.
If you take the mass transit system in your city, you are counting on your train operator/engineer or your bus driver to take you safely to your destination each and every day. Both public and private carriers owe their passenger the “utmost duty of care.” What this means is that these carriers have a duty to their passengers to transport them safely. If a driver or operator is negligent, for example, driving under the influence, talking on the cell phone or texting while on duty, then the transit authority can be held liable for injuries or fatalities caused as a result of such negligence. If a driver or operator causes an accident as a result of fatigue because he or she has been working more hours than they should have, then, the transit authority can be held liable in those cases as well.
These are no doubt complex issues. These accident investigations take weeks if not months to get completed. But if you are dealing with a California government agency, please remember that you need to file a claim within 180 days of the accident or injury. If you or a loved one has been injured in a train accident, please consult an experienced California personal injury lawyer who will comprehensively and accurately explain your legal rights and options. Please do not sign any papers, do not talk to insurance agents or attorneys for the other party until you have consulted with a knowledgeable injury lawyer. The best personal injury law firms always offer free initial consultations to victims and/or their families.