Yesterday, in Rockford, a Canadian National train derailed. The freight train had several tank cars which were carrying ethanol, a highly flammable and highly explosive substance. When the Canadian National train derailed, the tank cars carrying the ethanol caught fire and exploded.
One car which was waiting at a crossing near the site of the Candian National derailment was struck with flaming ethanol and burning railroad ties. The driver of the car was killed. Fortunately, three passengers in the car escaped, although they were severely burned and had to be taken the burn unit of area hospitals.
Most train derailments result from either human error or from deficiencies in the track or equipment. All of these factors are under the control of the railroad. Examples of human error would include ignoring track signals or dispatching the train down the wrong track. Examples of deficiencies in the track or equipment would include things such as poor maintained rail cars, inoperable switches, or poorly maintained track and railbed. There are early reports that the trains derailed due to the tracks being washed out in recent heavy rains.
My experience in dealing with train derailments is that railroad claims agents move rapidly to contact the families of victims of train accidents. Families can expect that the railroad claims agents will try develop a close relationship with the families and do what they can to prevent families from seeking independent legal advice concerning their rights. At the same time, the railroad is conducting its own investigation into the causes of the derailment in order to shift liability away from them and to develop evidence that would limit the victim’s claims for comepnsation for the injuries and wrongful deaths that resulted from this train derailment. For victims of accidents such as this, hiring experienced counsel comes highly recommended.