Monday, September 25, 2006

Who's At Fault?

In our real profession - the one that pays the bills - we had to be in Federal District Court on mediation of a lawsuit involving a car and a semi tractor-trailer rig. If your gut reaction was that the truck driver was at fault, don't read any further. You do the transportation industry a disservice by your attitude and we don't need any more readers like you.

However, any reasonably sane person, one without pre-conceived ideas about truckers who get away with murder, would have looked at this case and seen that the trucker was absolutely not at fault for the accident. It got us thinking about how the railroad industry and Passenger Rail in particular gets a bum rap whenever something goes wrong.

Put a trespasser on the tracks and let him get hit by Amtrak and you can bet there will be a lawsuit against Amtrak. Why? We don't really know, because the trespasser knew he/she was trespassing and there is no constitutional right to walk in the middle of a busy rail line. We think it is immaterial whether Amtrak was on or off schedule, whether the engine crew sounded the horn, whether there was adequate control of speed, and whether or not the brakes were applied soon enough, if at all. Get off the d--- tracks!

But that's not the way the judicial system sees it, and that's one reason why it costs more today than ever before to subsidize passenger rail. You look at all the passenger-miles (or ton-miles for freight/cargo) that are put in every single day, and you have to conclude that the system works and that there are only a microscopic percentage of personnel on railroads who are negligent and/or wilful about the performance of their jobs.

We are researching the figures, and may have more to say at a later date, but the point is this: Passenger Rail is daily paying the costs of this warped judicial system in insurance premiums and in unnecessary settlements. These are settlements where the transportation company is looking at spending high five- and six-figure sums to defend a lawsuit that no judge has the stones to throw out of court because it may take a different turn if a so-called "fact-finder" (read member of the jury) doesn't like the cut of the transportation company's jib.

It's not entirely the judge's fault, because he/she is bound by precedent that says this is what you have to do, and hamstrung by a general impotency in the legislatures of this land to stand up and do anything about it.

We rant, but here's one of those things that could help make Passenger Rail solvent (hear us well, Misters Kummant and Bush), and every day it is just business as usual. Who's at fault? Often it is NOT the railroad.

Next time you see a trespasser on railroad property, tell that person to GET OFF THE D--- TRACKS!

©2006 - C. A. Turek -

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