Toxic Torts Appear Likely After Train Derailment
A small Ohio town is facing a major ecological disaster after a train derailment leaked toxic chemicals into their neighborhoods. It’s one of those situations that is so bad, that it becomes difficult for anyone to get fair compensation. At this point, the first steps are going to be to clean the chemicals and restore the environment. Ultimately, any money recovered will go to ecological cleanup. Afterward, the families may be able to recover money for property damage and personal injury.
About a week after the derailment occurred, families were allowed to return to their homes. However, as is so often the case, long-term physical ailments occurring due to contamination may not be entirely predictable or avoidable.
Residents have been assured that their water supply is safe and the air is safe to breathe.
We know that some of the cars were carrying toxic chemicals and known human carcinogens. We know that cleanup crews performed a controlled release of the chemicals. Cleanup crews have cleared the area for human habitation, but residents remain afraid and unsure that the experts can know with 100% certainty that the air is safe.
For residents, there is a risk that toxic residue can remain even after the gas has been dissipated. While the residue is less dangerous than the gas, it is still a potential carcinogen.
The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the accident. In many cases, these types of derailments are related to speeding. Yes, trains can speed and they do have speed limits. Certain areas of the track must be traversed more slowly than others. When conductors speed on these areas of the track, they risk derailment.
The other possibility is that there was a problem with the track itself. In these cases, the railroad company has a duty of care to maintain the track. So, if the derailment was the result of a failure to maintain the track, the liability falls on the train company.
At present, it’s very difficult to devise a scenario in which the train company is not liable for this accident. One notable exception would be sabotage or terrorism. But, there are no allegations of either and it would certainly be a first in American history. It remains the least likely scenario, but the only one that exonerates the company from liability.
What will happen to the company?
Bankruptcy, almost certainly, depending on how well-connected they are with the government. Logistics companies, specifically those that transport hazardous materials, have a duty of care to ensure that those materials are safely transported, so the government can sue to recoup the costs of cleanup, the residents can sue to recoup the expenses related to the evacuation, and then later, if anyone gets sick because of the toxicity, the company is responsible for that too.
As of 2/23/23, a mechanical failure related to an overheated wheel bearing is being blamed for the accident. The mechanical failure falls under the responsibility of the company.
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The Miami personal injury lawyers at the office of Alan Goldfarb, P.A. represent the interests of individuals who have been injured in transportation accidents or from toxic exposure. Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.