A conductor who was injured during an Amtrak crash in December filed a lawsuit against the company Wednesday, alleging they didn’t provide a safe working environment. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
The train entered a curve too quickly and flew off the tracks and onto a Washington highway. According to authorities, the train was traveling more than double the 30 mph speed limit. The derailment resulted in three deaths and dozens of injuries. Garrick Freeman was thrown around the train and was unable to stand up when the train came to a stop.
Freeman, who usually works in the body of the train, was up in the front that day with the engineer. He wanted to get familiar with the new route. He suffered a fractured clavicle, broken ribs and internal injuries from the accident and was taken to Harborview Medical Center. Freeman underwent pelvic reconstruction surgery and may take a long time to recover, according to his lawyer, Anthony Petru. He was released from there on Dec. 30 and is now staying at a rehabilitation hospital.
The lawsuit claims Amtrak violated the Federal Employees’ Liability Act, which is supposed to ensure the workplace is safe from hazardous conditions. It also alleges Amtrak didn’t properly train employees on how to operate the train on the new route.
“He had zero experience working on this stretch of track. He was there solely to familiarize himself,” Petru, said in a phone interview.
Petru added that Amtrak had a chance to slow down the process and ensure everyone was properly trained. “It appears to me as though there was rush to get this train in service before Christmas. In doing so, the opportunities to train—and the time that it takes to properly train—weren’t provided to the employees.”
Freeman isn’t the only one was took legal action against Amtrak. Pennie Cottrell, who was injured during the derailment, also filed a lawsuit against the company. She broke several bones and suffered internal injuries. More lawsuits are expected to be filed in the future.
“We have been contacted by numerous people involved in this tragedy because they were upset that representatives from Amtrak were contacting them, even in the hospital, to ask them to sign paperwork that they did not understand.” said Michael S. Krzak, partner at Clifford Law Offices. “Our clients cannot fathom how Amtrak 501 entered a curve at almost three times the posted speed limit according to information the NTSB has released.”
Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams didn’t provide a comment about the derailment, stating the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.