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Man dies after fall from train door

Maryland commuters and long-distance travelers use Amtrak by the thousands, enjoying the ability to sit back and relax on their journey, or even multitask and get some work done while they head to their destination. Every year, 25 million people utilize Amtrak trains. Tragically, since 1972, 40 people have been killed as a result of the sliding doors on these trains. Though the number may not be concerning in terms of scale, there are 40 families who have been put into mourning by these incidents.

Unlike buses or airplanes, train doors are not controlled or heavily-monitored by attendants, in part fue to concern of egress in case of an accident. Amtrak doors can lead to death when victims have walked off or fallen to their death from fast-moving Amtrak trains, at times leading to wrongful death claims against Amtrak.

Rail companies such as Amtrak deal with accidents when trains collide with cars, people and other trains. For many years the focus on safety has been on improving emergency exits for passengers that are trapped inside the train during an accident. The impetus for this move came, in part, after a series of derailments in which passengers were unable to quickly get out of train cars. One collision occurred in Silver Spring when a Maryland Mass Transit train collided with an Amtrak train killing eight passengers and three crew members, several died because they couldn't open the door to the outside.

In the tragic event that a victim falls out of a train to their death, close family members may be able to bring a wrongful death suit against the company. A wrongful death occurs when a person is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another. Family members of one victim that fell off an Amtrak train to his death filed in a California District Court in 2010. The victim had recently had a seizure and was disoriented and weak. The lawsuit claimed that the Amtrak officials failed to tell the victim's son that his father needed someone to accompany him on the train.

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, "Unlocked Amtrak doors linked to series of deaths," Staci Matlock, Oct. 21, 2012

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