Who is legally responsible for the Amtrak Cascades train derailment disaster?

Who Can Victims Sue For Injuries, Medical Bills, Lost Wages & Other Damages?

Under the rules of civil procedure, a plaintiff (injured party) can join multiple defendants to a single lawsuit if claim raised against each defendant arises out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences.

Joint and several liability applies where each of the defendants is liable to the plaintiff(s) (victims) for the full amount of the plaintiff’s damage; and where each can also seek a contribution from the co-defendants, by which to reduce the extent of his monetary liability to the plaintiff.

In the case of the December 2017 Amtrak Cascades derailment there will likely be multiple defendants.   

Amtrak Cascades is part of the Washington State Passenger Rail System.  The operation and maintenance of the Amtrak Cascades service is conducted by the following entities, any or all of which may be held legally responsible for the December 2017 accident.  

  • Amtrak – WSDOT and ODOT contract with Amtrak to manage the day-to-day operations, service, oversight, etc. of certain maintenance activities.  
  • Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Rail Division - WSDOT and ODOT own and manage the Amtrak Cascades service through a Memorandum of Understanding. WSDOT is primarily responsible for service in Washington and in British Columbia. ODOT is primarily responsible for service in Oregon.  
  • BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) – BNSF had dispatch responsibility of the Amtrak Cascade train.  Train dispatcher (aka train controller or rail traffic controller) is the locomotive equivalent of an air traffic controller.  The dispatcher or controller directs the movement of trains over an assigned territory.  BNSF owns many of the sections of tracks Amtrak Cascades trains run on in Washington and British Columbia.  A large number of the the conductors and engineers that operate Sound Transit and Amtrak Cascades trains actually work for BNSF Railway Company.  
  • Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) - Amtrak has agreements with BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) and Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) that address track usage, train dispatching, maintenance of track and structures, on-time performance, locomotive fuel, and supply of spare locomotives.
  • Sound Transit (Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority) - Controls/manages/maintains the section of track on which the accident took place.  Sound Transit was created in 1993 by King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to build a regional rapid transit system.  The tracks, known as the Point Defiance Bypass, are owned by Sound Transit.  Sound Transit managed the track upgrade work under an agreement with WSDOT.  The route is the same that Sound Transit uses for Sounder commuter rail service.
  • Talgo, Inc. – Talgo is manufacturer of trains and passenger cars used in Amtrak Cascades service and has separate maintenance contracts with WSDOT and Amtrak for maintenance services.  The contracts are for 20 years and will expire in 2019.  
  • Siemens Industry, Inc. / Siemens Corporation USA - The new Siemens Charger model locomotives, which were delivered to WSDOT in the summer of 2017, were built at Siemen's Sacramento, California manufacturing plant.

For more detailed information about the disaster, read AMTRAK CASCADES DERAILMENT DISASTER: A Legal Guide For Accident Victims/Survivors by the Amtrak train accident attorney team at Davis Law Group.  

Chris Davis
Award-winning personal injury attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, Washington.