The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

'Ghost Train' Crash Injures Dozens, Increases Transit Worries

Investigators are still in the middle of determining the cause of a mysterious "ghost train" crash that left dozens of people injured. An empty Chicago commuter train that was parked in a service yard somehow ended up on a rail line and collided with an oncoming train early Monday, Chicago's WBBM-TV reports.

At least 33 people were hurt. Luckily, there were only minor injuries.

While the cause is still unknown, what are some possible liability issues that could be tied to this train crash?

  • Negligence. Negligence is one of the most common legal theories that injured parties in a train crash will put forward. In order to find negligence, the following elements have to be established: a duty of care, a breach of that duty, causation, and damages. For example, if the train conductor who last visited the "ghost train" somehow left the control panel unlocked, he and Chicago Transit Authority could be found negligent and liable.
  • Common carrier liability. Under a negligence theory, trains are held to a higher standard in determining their duties to passengers. The theory of common carrier liability states that because the carriers offer their services to the public, common carriers like Chicago's Metro trains must reach a higher standard of care.
  • Res ipsa loquitur. Because so little is known about the cause of this crash, res ipsa loquitur might apply. Res ipsa loquitur, which in Latin means "the thing speaks for itself" is a negligence theory that is sometimes used when no other explanation but negligence could account for the plaintiffs' injuries. Basically, an event like a runaway train crash shouldn't ever happen had someone not been negligent. This places the burden of proof on the plaintiff -- in this case Chicago Transit Authority -- to prove the crash was not due to CTA's negligence.
  • Products liability. If the train crash was not caused by a human act but rather the result of a mechanical malfunction or error, the manufacturer of the train could be held liable under a theory of products liability. This theory will strictly hold a manufacturer liable for injuries caused by any unreasonably dangerous defects in their product.

Train crashes are complicated matters, and there may not be one clear-cut resolution. If you have any questions or issues about a train crash that you've been injured from, be sure to contact an experienced attorney in your area.

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