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Common Carrier Liability in Light of Amtrak Crash in PA

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

Last weekend an Amtrak train derailed near Philadelphia, killing two people and injuring 35, according to ABC News. The injuries were not life threatening, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency announced immediately after the accident, but that's not likely to be the end of the story for Amtrak.

In fact, it seems very likely that the passengers who crashed right before reaching Philadelphia will sue for any damages arising from this train accident. So let's take a look at proving a case of negligence against a common carrier.

Common Carriers

Negligence in the legal sense occurs when a person or entity who owes a duty to another falls below the duty of care that is expected for a reasonable person in same or similar circumstances. Amtrak is a common carrier and carriers are required to exercise the highest degree of diligence in the safety of their passengers and cargo.

If the passengers on the train to Philadelphia can show that the carrier, Amtrak, failed to exercise due care, breaching its particular duty, and this is what caused their injuries, the passengers will be able to recover damages for harm sustained during the accident. But not all accidents arise from negligence -- sometimes something bad happens and it is totally unforeseeable. Then there is no one to blame.

Breaking Down the Elements

The elements of negligence that a plaintiff must prove to succeed in a claim against a common carrier, spelled out and broken down, are as follows:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care -- in the case of a common carrier, the utmost care must be exercised.
  2. The defendant breached the duty of care by exercising less than the utmost care and diligence.
  3. The defendant's breach caused the plaintiff's injuries -- there were no unforeseeable intervening circumstances and if not for the defendant's breach, the injury would not have occurred.
  4. The plaintiff suffered an injury, harm or damages -- a plaintiff may be compensated for physical injury and associated costs but also lost wages and emotional distress, for example.

It is reasonably foreseeable that a train could derail, which is why it seems likely that Amtrak will face a legal complaint -- or 35 -- after the injured passengers have a chance to heal and speak to attorneys. The two people who died in this incident were reportedly Amtrak workers, and their families may claim wrongful death, which will allow them to recover on behalf of the deceased.


If you or someone you know was injured by a common carrier or anyone else, speak to a lawyer. Many personal injury attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case.

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