Deadly 2015 Amtrak Derailment Caused by Distractions

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RR crossing freight trainIt has been a little more than one year since Amtrak 188 derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight passengers and injuring more than 180 others. Since that time, the victims and their family members have been waiting to hear whether the engineer was responsible for their heartbreak and they’ve finally received their answer.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a meeting on May 17 to make a determination of the cause of the deadly derailment.

Loss of situational awareness

The meeting affirmed that the derailment occurred when the Washington-to-New York City train was traveling at 106 miles per hour (mph) around a curve, which was more than twice the maximum authorized speed of 50 mph. The NTSB announced that the Amtrak engineer, Brandon Bostian, had a “loss of situational awareness” that occurred when he was listening to radio communications about a separate train emergency that had occurred just prior to the Amtrak 188 crash.

The radio communications concerned a different commuter train engineer, whose train had been struck by an unidentified object. The windshield of the train shattered, inflicting injuries on the engineer from the flying glass. The NTSB investigators determined that Bostian’s attentiveness to these radio dispatches led to his “lost situational awareness as to where his train was located in relation to the curve… The acceleration past 100 mph before entering the curve where the derailment occurred was consistent with a belief that his train had already passed the curve into an area of relatively straight track where the authorized speed was 110 mph,” according to the NTSB press release following the May 17 meeting. The press release went on to strongly advocate for the widespread implementation of more effective train control technology to compensate for human error.

Rail accident liability issues

The unacceptably primitive train control safety measures notwithstanding, train engineers are indeed responsible for the safety of their passengers and the public in general. A train derailment can be among the most deadly types of accidents and the slightest mistake made by an engineer could change a family forever. Often, train engineers can be held liable for these accidents. However, it is just as likely that the victims will file a personal injury lawsuit against the rail service itself. This was the case with the Amtrak 188 crash.

Shortly after the derailment, some of the survivors filed a federal lawsuit against Amtrak. The rail service might be held liable for failing to properly screen and train engineers, or for failing to properly maintain the trains. It is also possible that a derailment could be caused by defective parts, in which case the manufacturer of the defective parts might be held liable for the serious injuries and loss of life.

Legal advocates for train accident victims

At Eisbrouch Marsh, our personal injury lawyers have more than 25 years of experience in providing aggressive legal advocacy services to victims of railroad, car, and truck accidents throughout the Tri-State area.

If you or a loved one was injured in a rail accident, it’s imperative to contact a lawyer right away to avoid forfeiting your right to file a claim. Contact Eisbrouch Marsh for a complimentary, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal rights and learn about your options. Call 201-342-5545.


  1. NBC 10, Sources: Engineer Involved in Deadly Amtrak Crash May Have Been Distracted by Radio Traffic,
  2. NTSB, Train Engineer’s Loss of Situational Awareness Led to Amtrak Derailment; NTSB Says Technology Could Have Prevented Fatal Accident,