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While rail travel remains a generally safe form of transportation – especially compared with automobiles – a significant number of people are still injured in train accidents each year. Most long-distance passenger rail travel in the United States is though the National Railroad Passenger Corp., commonly known as Amtrak. Also, in the Washington, D.C. area we have the MARC Metro System. The Metro trains are owned and operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
Train accident cases can be very complex. First, while Amtrak or Metro may operate the train, a separate business may own the tracks or may be in charge of the equipment. In some cases, determining just which entity is at fault for an injury requires substantial investigation. Also, trains, rail lines, and the machinery involved are highly complex. Expert testimony is almost always required to show just how the responsible party was negligent.
Finally, it’s not just passengers who are injured in rail accidents. Many of the injuries that occur in railroad accident are to railroad employees. When a railroad employee is injured they may recover for their injuries under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). Under that law, in order to recover from their employer for an injury sustained on the job, a railroad employee must prove that the employer railroad was negligent. This differs from typical workers’ compensation claims, which only require a showing that the employee was injured in the course of their employment.