From January to April 2009, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has recorded 587 “train accidents” and 672 “highway-rail incidents”.
The FRA defines a train accident as “an event involving ontrack rail equipment that results in monetary damage to the equipment and track above a certain threshold.” This would include a train derailment, such as the recent train derailment in D.C., in which nine people were killed and over 70 people injured. Similar train derailments have occurred in Chicago, involving the Metra or the CTA.
The FRA defines a highway-rail incident as “any impact between a rail and a highway user at a crossing site, regardless of severity. Includes motor vehicles and other highway/roadway/sidewalk users at both public and private crossings.” Highway-rail incidents account for 96.7% of all fatalities.
If you or a loved one has been severely injured as a result of a train or highway-rail accident in Illinois, it is important to contact an experienced Illinois train accident lawyer. The train, bus or other vehicle may be considered a common carrier, and thus subject to state common carrier laws.
By definition, a common carrier is “a business that transports people, goods, or services and offers its services to the general public under license or authority provided by a regulatory body.” Common carriers in Illinois include the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra, Pace bus, and other forms of public transportation. Common carriers are different from private carriers, or those hired for one specific duty, such as a moving company.
Common carriers in Illinois are subject to the Common Carrier Liability Act (740 ILCS 25/), which holds the carriers to strict safety standards, and imposes a duty to provide the highest degree of safety for its passengers. The Common Carrier Liability Act states that “whenever any property is received by a common carrier, to be transported from one place to another, within or without this state, it shall not be lawful for such carrier to limit his common law liability,” which is to provide the highest degree of safety for its passengers.
In other words, common carriers such as the CTA and Metra have a duty to provide a higher degree of care for passenger safety and well-being, more so than private drivers and transportation companies. This duty applies not only to the transportation of passengers, but also to equipment maintenance and hiring standards. Failure to adhere to that duty can be considered negligence.
Such negligence can contribute, or result in catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death, so it is important to have a Chicago lawyer with success in train or bus accident cases handle your case.