One onlooker described the scene as "a mangled roller coaster", equating the deadliest crash in the history of the DC transit system to a smashed amusement park ride. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or WMATA, which operates the Metrorail (subway) and Metrobus services in the Nation’s Capitol, reports a 6-car Red Line train derailed and collided with another train at about 5 p.m. EST. "The incident is under investigation but it appears that the trains were on the same track and the operator who was killed was on the trailing train," it said. The accident trapped passengers in one or more of the subway cars, and there were several fatalities reported.
Since the train system is considered a "Common Carrier," special rules apply when a passenger is injured or killed. In the case of WMATA v. O’Neill, the D.C. Court stated, “A common carrier is required to protect its passengers against assault or interference with the peaceful completion of their journey." The DC Court in the WMATA v. O’Neill case relied upon the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 314A(1)(a), which has been adopted or followed in many jurisdictions. The Restatement provides, “A common carrier is under a duty to its passengers to take reasonable action . . . to protect them against unreasonable risk of physical harm.” A bus or transit company, like WMATA, as a common carrier, owes a higher duty of care to members of the travelling public. When injuries occur on a subway, train or bus, there are special rules that apply to common carriers, and the rules and time limits for truck crash and car wreck cases may not apply. If you have specific questions regarding these laws, we at Abrams Landau Ltd. are eager to help. Read more about my thoughts on this horrific accident.