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The Latest Metro North Railroad Crash Is Criminal Negligent Homicide

December 2, 2013
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Over this holiday weekend, a deadly Metro North Railroad accident occurred on a stretch of railroad track which was well known to be dangerous. So far five people senselessly lost their lives in this tragic fatality and many more were injured when the train derailed in the Bronx.

Our New York City wrongful death attorneys firmly believe that punitive damages are appropriate because the actions of the train operator were likely criminally negligent homicide and at a minimum were willfully indifferent to a serious risk of harm.

The initial TSA reports indicated that the online recording system demonstrates that the train was traveling at over 80 miles per hour when approaching a curve, where the posted speed limit was only 30 miles per hour. That is almost triple, the legal speed limit for this stretch of track. The online recording devices also demonstrate that the train’s brakes were not utilized which means that the train entered a curve at an unreasonably high rate of speed, which virtually guaranteed a derailment. This hazard was no surprise, since this was not the first time a train has gone off the tracks at this particular spot. New York State Senator Chuck Schumer has also spoken out and unequivocally denounced the high rate of speed and the operator’s actions. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that our Westchester accident lawyers have seen a fatality result from the reckless behavior of an operator.

Whenever there is a train collision or derailment, it is almost always the result of either operator negligence, switchman negligence or negligence in the maintenance of the train. This is because the train operators are usually in exclusive control of the train and collisions and derailments do not usually occur unless someone did something wrong or failed to do something that they were supposed to do. While punitive damages are generally not allowed in simple negligence cases, our Westchester accident attorneys believe that the facts of this accident demonstrate more than just negligence. We believe that it demonstrates gross negligence and recklessness that justifies an award of punitive damages and prosecution of the train operator.

In general New York law allows an award of punitive damages where the defendant’s action was so reckless or wantonly negligent as to be the equivalent of a conscious disregard of the rights of others. The New York Courts often utilize the criminal standards to determine or analyze whether a punitive award is appropriate. Under New York Penal Law 125.10, a person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide when, with criminal negligence, he causes the death of another person. Under New York Penal Law 15.05, a person acts with criminal negligence when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his actions will cause the death of another person. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. Given the prior accidents at this location and the self evident fact that a train traveling at almost triple the speed limit creates a substantial risk of a fatality, this train accident was certainly the result of gross and criminal negligence.

 
The Law Offices of Michael H. Joseph