Recently in neighboring Ohio, there was a massive freight train derailment in Columbus due to an explosion. The three affected cars contained 30,000 gallons of ethanol. No one on the train was injured, but the explosions and derailment forced officials to evacuate about 100 residents living within one mile of the train tracks. The National Transportation Safety Board has sent 12 investigators to determine what caused the explosion and derailment, and anticipates that it could take a year before a report is available.
The accident took place around two o’clock in the morning. Residents described the explosion as an “atomic bomb” that forced 16 of the 98 freight train cars to derail. There were reports of flames shooting high in the air, and a second explosion following the first one, which injured two people walking on the railroad tracks to investigate. A Red Cross center was set up for evacuees who took ill, with Columbus’s mayor commenting that the accident could have been far worse if it had taken place in a more heavily populated area. As it was, firefighters permitted the freight cars to keep burning until the fire was mostly subdued, and then use a chemical foam to put out the rest. Firefighting officials stated that the ethanol, an alcohol commonly used in fuel, posed no environmental threat to the surrounding community.
A spokesman for the American Association of Railroads describes the accident as “unusual.” She noted that each year, an estimated 29.4 million carloads of freight travel across more than 140,000 miles of rail in the United States, with 1.8 million categorized as hazardous material. In 2011, 325,000 carloads of ethanol were hauled across the country. The spokesman claimed that last year was one of the safest ever for anything involving railroads.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm wish Columbus residents the best, and are grateful that a similar accident has not happened in West Virginia. When an accident on this scale happens, the party responsible is expected to provide reparations to those who were harmed. That means providing monetary relief to those who were injured and face medical bills, as well as for any property damage incurred. While the party responsible might, in good faith, conduct a thorough examination and pay a fair sum to everyone wronged, too often, the party responsible will try to deny liability out of fear of having to pay a large monetary amount. It is often up to the injured parties to hold the other party accountable and get what they deserve, which means hiring a West Virginia personal injury attorney.
In order to get proper compensation, first you need to know what exactly happened. That means investigating the scene as soon as possible and locating potential witnesses. If the accident requires a more mass-scale investigation that is out of your hands, you might try to get statements from the investigators and well as any released report findings. From there, you would argue that the party responsible had not acted with due care and was guilty of negligence. The other party might try to claim that there were extenuating circumstances, such as a collision that could not be avoided, regardless of the care taken. The other party might also try to claim that the party affected bears some responsibility. In West Virginia, if you are 50% at fault for an accident, you are not allowed to collect money damages.
Determining how much compensation you receive for your injuries or property damage can also be complicated. With property damage, the calculation often involves taking the fair market value of your property before the accident and then subtracting the value of your property afterward. However, as always, there may be circumstances at work that make a simple calculation more difficult, and you might end up receiving less or more for the damage to your property.