On September 28, 2017, a man between 35 and 40 years old was hit and pinned by a light-rail train in San Jose. According to Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) spokeswoman Linh Hoang, the accident took place along North Capitol Avenue near McKee Road. The man was hit while crossing at McKee Road by a southbound train at approximately 1 p.m.
The San Jose Fire Department and the VTA worked diligently to extricate the victim by moving the train so he could be freed, then loaded him onto an ambulance. He was alive as crews removed him from the site, but his condition after being taken to the hospital remained unknown at the time of this writing. To further complicate the situation, an onlooker at the scene suffered an unrelated ailment and was also transported to the hospital.
How Transportation Was Affected
The incident occurred on the VTA’s blue light-rail line, a line that runs between the Alum Rock and Santa Teresa stations. An announcement by the VTA that afternoon stated that, because of “a service interruption” passengers should expect delays. The VTA also announced that they were arranging for bus shuttles between Alum Rock and Hostetter stations. By 4:30 p.m., the VTA had restored light-rail service throughout the area.
What Are Light Rails?
Although streetcars and trolleys are often considered “light rails,” the differences typically noted between the two include the fact that light rails may have more than one car, larger cars, and move along tracks on the street, rather than being powered by overhead wires.
Other Train Accidents in California
Though far less frequent than car accidents, train accidents have to be taken seriously. In California, as elsewhere in the country, when trains, even light rail trains, collide with cars or pedestrians, there is a very high rate of fatality. This is because of the size, weight, and momentum of the much larger vehicle.
Just two months before this most recent light rail accident, a bicyclist was struck and killed by a light rail train in San Jose on a Saturday afternoon. Santa Clara VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress reports that the earlier deadly collision took place at about 4:30 p.m. at Parkmoor Avenue.
Reasons for Light Rail Accidents
As with all accidents involving trains, trolleys and streetcars, there are several reasons, other than pure chance, that these accidents occur. These include:
- Engineer error
- Excessive speed
- Failure to obey traffic laws
- Improperly maintained tracks or wiring
- Incompetence, negligence or impairment of either party
- Misjudgement or poor reaction time of either party
- Product defect (electrical malfunction or mechanical failure)
A number of accidents with trains and similar vehicles can be blamed on the impatience, misjudgement, or despair of the driver or pedestrian who crosses when railroad crossing gates are down with either the belief that they can make it if they hurry or the desire to do away with themselves.
What happens if you are personally injured in a light-rail or other train accident?
Assuming you did not try to outpace or outsmart the larger vehicle, and that you were not suicidal at the time of the accident, you may very well be able to successfully sue the person or entity liable for your injuries, for example:
- If you were a pedestrian or a passenger in a car or light rail vehicle, you may be able to successfully file a lawsuit against the driver, conductor, engineer, or railway owner
- If your injuries were the result of defective equipment, you may be able to sue the manufacturer of the equipment
- If you were injured because the light-rail vehicle was not properly maintained, you may be able to sue parties who were themselves responsible for maintenance or parties who functioned in a supervisory capacity over proper maintenance
The best thing to do if you suffer a personal injury in this type of accident is to consult with a capable, experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you are able.