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Water Truck Was Stationary on Train Tracks Before Amtrak Collision In Moorpark Causing a Derailment

MOORPARK, CALIFORNIA (June 28, 2023) – At least fifteen people were injured in Moorpark after an Amtrak train derailed following a collision with a stationary water truck.

Moorpark Amtrak Train CrashRecent reports have revealed an Amtrak passenger train partially derailed this morning after colliding head-on with a water truck. Three of seven Amtrak Train 14 Star Light cars carrying passengers headed towards Seattle, WA were confirmed by Ventura County Fire to have derailed at the time of the initial collision. At least fifteen of the 198 passengers and thirteen crew aboard were hospitalized, having sustained mild to moderate injuries. Emergency Responders arrived at the scene at 11:18AM this morning, June 28th, near W Los Angeles Avenue- an area largely surrounded by farms.

Images and video from the scene reveal the wreckage of what is thought to be pieces of a totaled Ventura County water truck dotting the landscape surrounding the incident site. The first train car absorbed significant damage upon impact which passengers described to the LA Times as similar to a “sensation of falling” with significant shaking as smoke filled the cabin before the train came to a complete and halting stop.

Ventura County Fire treated passengers in tents alongside the tracks while all able were evacuated to Moorpark Senior Center for family reunification, where they were provided food and water.

The driver of the irrigation truck walked away from the incident but was later transported to a local trauma center as a precautionary measure according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. The driver of the Amtrak train was also driven to a nearby hospital. While the cause of the truck’s placement on the tracks remains unclear, Amtrak has released a statement assuring the public “Amtrak, in coordination with local authorities, is conducting a full investigation.”

Amtrak services between Ventura and Los Angeles have been temporarily suspended. 

Read Amtrak’s complete statement here

Liability For Moorpark Amtrak Accidents

Commercial trains tend to be very safe. Accidents do however still happen, often leaving many injured. According to the National Safety Council, in 2021, railroad incidents resulted in 5,781 injuries, up from 2020’s 5,544 with 893 deaths. Derailments are among the most dangerous forms of train accidents to take place with a number of factors which may contribute to their occurrence.

  • Broken rails are a leading cause of train derailment. They tend to occur due to hydrogen inclusion in the rail head. 
  • Defective wheels that are not properly lubricated or cared for are another major cause of derailment. 
  • When a train is traveling at excessive speeds along curves in the track, it is more likely to derail. 
  • Collisions with vehicles can also lead to a derailment. In particular, collisions with larger vehicles like commercial trucks are more likely to lead to derailments. 

Depending on the facts of any case, there may be numerous sources of liability for an Amtrak train derailment. The company or municipal entity responsible for maintaining a set of rail tracks could be liable for train accidents if a track was in a dangerous condition. Pursuant to California Government Code 835, a public entity is liable for an injury caused by a dangerous condition on its property provided that (1) the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the accident, (2) the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition, and (3) the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury that occurred. 

Two additional facts must also be demonstrated. The dangerous condition must have been created by the act or omission of an employee of the public entity working within the course and scope of their job duties. Or, the public entity must have had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition under section 835.2 and sufficient time prior to the injury to have taken measures to remedy the dangerous condition. For example, a dangerous condition could have been created if sections of the train tracks were broken thereby causing vehicles to inadvertently become stuck on the tracks. This situation is much more common than many people may realize. 

The operator of a vehicle can also potentially be liable for a train derailment. There are rules and regulations related to crossing train tracks in California. Pursuant to California Vehicle Code 22451, the driver of any vehicle shall stop within 15 feet from the nearest rail and shall not proceed until he or she can do so safely. If the driver of a truck attempts to cross train tracks when an approaching train is plainly visible, this could form the basis of a negligence claim in the event of a collision. Moreover, the company or municipality that a truck driver worked for may also be liable. 

In general, employers are vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their employees who were working within the course and scope of their job duties. Water trucks are typically owned and operated by counties. As such, a county could be liable for a collision if a water truck operator was negligent and contributed to any sort of collision. These trucks can be very difficult to operate in the best of circumstances. In order to reduce the likelihood of collisions, counties must ensure that their drivers are properly licensed and well-trained. In particular, commercial trucks are required to stop 15 feet from train tracks, even when there is no gate or flashing lights. 

Amtrak themselves may also be liable for any derailment. Train conductors must operate their trains at a safe speed and continuously scan the tracks ahead of them. Even if a pedestrian or vehicle is stationary on a set of tracks, conductors are not at liberty to strike them at full speed. They must use their horn to warn anyone on the tracks and reduce their speed to the greatest extent possible in order to avoid collision. When a train conductor fails to take reasonable steps to avoid hitting stationary objects on a set of train tracks, this can easily be construed as negligence. There are a number of steps that should be taken after any Amtrak train collision. 

  • Eye witnesses should be interviewed. 
  • Any surveillance footage of the collision should be reviewed. 
  • All medical records from the accident victims should be preserved. 
  • A thorough investigation should be conducted. 
  • An experienced train accident attorney should be contacted. 

It can be hard to know where to begin after any train accident. Victims are often left with life-altering injuries and may need to take extensive time off of work. In the meantime, all of the negligent parties may take turns blaming one another for what happened. This often adds to the stress and anxiety of an already difficult situation. An experienced train accident lawyer can examine the unique facts of your case and advise if you have a claim that can be pursued. Victims of train accidents may be able to seek financial compensation for lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering. 

Getting Legal Help After A Moorpark Amtrak Train Accident

Moorpark Amtrak Train Crash SettlementWe at Samer Habbas & Associates, PC extend our best wishes to all of the people injured in this Moorpark Amtrak train derailment. It is our sincere hope that all of the victims will make a full recovery. Any person who may have more information about what happened should reach out to investigators. There are many questions which need to be answered. Were there defects with the train tracks? Did the Amtrak conductors attempt to slow down? Why was the water truck stationary on the tracks prior to the crash?

While we are grateful no life-threatening injuries have yet been reported, in events such as these, the long-term, lasting effects are not always immediately evident. Injuries, especially those of the head, neck and back can often present themselves days later. Additionally, the psychological toll of a traumatic incident like the train derailment today can have a substantial impact on the well-being of those having experienced it. It is in part because of this, why reaching out to our experienced and compassionate team at Samer Habbas & Associates sooner rather than later, is essential in building your path towards recovery.

Have you or someone that you care about been injured in a Moorpark Amtrak train accident? 

We care deeply for the health and safety of our clientele and for this reason, our team combines a diverse portfolio of attorneys and legal staff experienced in handling both auto and train accidents, workers compensation, and city/ government claims among others- committed to obtaining the medical and financial support you need to recover. 

There are a number of laws designed to protect your rights. We encourage anyone who has experienced a recent collision to seek legal guidance. A personal injury attorney can fight on your behalf and help secure a fair settlement for your injuries. Whether you just have legal questions or are thinking about hiring an attorney, our team of Southern California train accident attorneys are here for you. You are always welcome to reach out to us anytime at 888-848-5084. 

This post is also available in ES.