The video below shows a Spanish passenger train hurtled off the tracks right in front of a camera. The entire train derailed killing 80 people and injuring another 140. The energy and force released in such a crash is immense and, in what is likely to be played repeated in lawsuits, the driver said that they were doing 120 miles per hour coming into the turn. That would be twice the limit for the urban section. He was heard exclaiming “we’re only human, we’re only human” after the crash.
The Madrid to Ferrol train derailed near the city of Santiago de Compostela and the section has an urban zone with a speed limit of 80 kph but the driver indicated that they were moving as 190 kph.
Witnesses say that driver Francisco Jose Garzon,who helped rescue victims, had shouted: “I’ve derailed! What do I do?” into a phone.
Source quoted one of the drivers as saying ‘I hope there are no dead, because this will fall on my conscience.”
In the United States, this would be a negligence per se case if they were moving at twice the speed limit. There would be little proximate causation problem since the violation of the law is directly related both legally and factually to a derailment. In the United States, there is also a lower standard for negligence (that is the company is more easily subject to liability) as a common carrier.
Obviously, the Spanish tort system is different and tends not to generate the same high awards as in the United States. These cases fall generally under Article 1902 of the Spanish Civil Code. The violation of an administrative standard creates a presumption in these cases in Spain and there are obviously analogies to U.S. tort law despite the differences between common law and civil code systems. I am not sure whether the train company is a governmental or quasi-governmental agency and whether that will alter the way such recovery can take place. Perhaps our Spanish readers can enlighten us.
The tragic loss of life should leave such recovery as less of a priority as dealing with the many grieving families and determining the cause to protect other passengers. The video will be extremely helpful though this seems a clear case of excessive speed. I am simply unclear on how such a speed could be reached above the limit without alarms or intervention on a modern train.
Source: Daily Mail