Like most major cities, Chicago has a number of dangerous intersections where trains cross through roads that are primarily designed for automobile traffic. Occasionally, trains collide with cars on the road and cause serious injuries or deaths. The driver of a minivan was killed by a train just outside of Chicago at one of these crossings.
A commuter was killed in a suburb just outside of Chicago when an Amtrak train collided with his van. The Amtrak train car was carrying 254 passengers at the time it made contact with the van at a crossing in the Morton Grove area. The local police did not find any injuries among the train passengers and the deceased man was the single occupant of the minivan. Amtrak stated that they would comply with the investigation into the cause of the accident and they released a number of service advisory statements on their social media accounts related to the incident and changes to the paths of their trains in the area.
Amtrak will be responsible
In this situation, there was likely some kind of operator error or oversight by the Amtrak employee. An attorney for the plaintiff’s estate will likely focus his attention on Amtrak rather than the individual train operator, as they are responsible for any accidents caused by their employees while engaged in their job duties. This is true in almost all personal injury cases.
As a strategic matter, it is also important to sue the business rather than the individual, as a business is much more capable of paying the damages owed to the family in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Keep in mind that cases involving serious injuries or death can sometimes be worth thousands or millions of dollars. Large companies like Amtrak often have special kinds of insurance that will help pay for their legal fees and damages.
What if the driver was partially at fault?
It is common to assume that a driver must have caused an accident at train tracks by not obeying the traffic signals. Most rail companies will try to defend by stating that crossings are clearly marked by barricades and warning lights to prevent these kinds of accidents. Therefore, the driver must have not been paying attention or committed some other kind of error that led to the accident. While that is generally true, there are a number of reasons why this is not a total defense to train accidents.
Other parties may also be found to be responsible based on the investigation by law enforcement at the scene. One possibility is that the warning lights at the intersection may not have functioned properly. The town or government agency responsible for maintaining the crossing may also be joined as a party of the crossing at the rail intersection was not functioning properly. Governments are usually the ones responsible for maintaining these roads and ensuring that they are safe for members of the public. A government entity can be sued just like any person or business if they are responsible for injuries.
When both the defendant and the plaintiff are found to be negligent
Even if the driver is somewhat at fault, contributory negligence is not an absolute bar to recovery in the state of Illinois. Negligence is the legal term for when a person or business fails to exercise reasonable care and causes injuries to another. This is the format for most civil cases involving traffic accidents.
Illinois follows a doctrine called modified comparative negligence, which means that as long as a plaintiff is fifty percent at fault for an accident or less, they can still recover damages. Anything above fifty percent will prevent them from recoverting. While this is a factual inquiry that is specific to each case, most accidents will still allow for some amount of damages to be awarded.
The amount that is paid out is reduced by the plaintiff’s level of fault in cases that utilize the doctrine of comparative negligence. In other words, if the driver is found to be ten percent at fault, their monetary award from the jury would be ten percent less than if there was no comparative negligence involved. While you do not need to know anything specific about how this law works to file a claim, an attorney can provide more information about how negligence and relative levels of fault may be a factor in your case.
Speak with an accident lawyer to get help today
For more information after any accident involving automobiles, trains, or other vehicles in the Chicago area, contact Budin Law Offices. John Budin has extensive experience in the community related to these kinds of cases and he can provide superior representation.