CTA Blamed for O’Hare Blue Line Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently concluded its investigation of the March 2013 train derailment at O’Hare Airport. The federal agency cited the train operator for falling asleep at the switch as well as the CTA for its oversight. Our train accident lawyers are currently accepting clients who suffered serious injuries on CTA, Metra, and national train lines.

The blue line crash at O’Hare injured 33 passengers on board and caused about $11 million in damage. The consequent investigation by federal authorities found the train operator fell asleep, causing the train to completely derail and crash into an escalator at more than 25 miles per hour.

The CTA is blamed for failing to provide fail-safe systems and effectively manage the operator’s work schedule. The NTSB wrote that the CTA also failed to identify a stopping distance and speed restriction at the O’Hare Station. The crash was not caused by drug or alcohol use by the operator, weather conditions, nor mechanical problems.

The train’s operator, Brittany Haywood, worked nearly 60 hours in the seven days prior to the crash, was on her twelfth straight day of work and third consecutive night shift. The NTSB blamed the CTA for failing to manage Haywood’s schedule to reduce the risk of fatigue.

In its report, the NTSB issued a number of recommendations to the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), including that the CTA install a system on all lines that would automatically apply brakes in an emergency and upgrade event recorders (similar to black box on an airplane). The NTSB also stated the FTA has not taken advantage of new technologies for managing operator fatigue. The agency should establish new regulations to keep operators awake and alert; for example, providing predictable work schedules and accounting for natural human sleep schedules.

Immediately after the crash the CTA made improvements to its signaling systems and employee education and training programs. It also changed its scheduling, establishing a maximum number of consecutive work hours and increasing time off between shifts.

A summary of the NTSB’s findings can be found here.

Injury Claims from Train Accidents

All 33 passengers injured in the O’Hare crash were sent to nearby hospitals for treatment, though fortunately no injuries were life-threatening. At least four passengers have filed injury lawsuits against the CTA.

Injury claims against the CTA are subject to unique regulations. Prior to 2009, Illinois law required anyone planning to sue the CTA to provide a notice within six months of the injury. Under Senate Bill 84, Governor Pat Quinn overturned this requirement, allowing injured passengers to file suit without any required notice.

The statute of limitations for CTA claims is still relatively short, however, so anyone injured in a train accident should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Injured passengers have just one year to file a claim against the CTA. Any cases filed after this one year statute will be dismissed, even if the claim is valid.

Railway injury claims are not limited to passengers; employees may also be able to file a claim if they are injured on-the-job. Asbestos exposure is quite common among railway workers, leading to lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, and a variety of other ailments. If you developed lung cancer or mesothelioma and previously worked for a rail company, contact our firm for a free legal consultation.

The train accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm accept clients suffering from catastrophic injuries nationwide.

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