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Elderly couple dies in train accident in suburban Chicago

Although summer still has many weeks to run its course, Chicago and the state of Illinois have already been subjected to some brutally hot weather this season. While excessive heat calls to mind the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke, high temperatures can have other, more indirect, means of causing injury and death.

According to an investigation into a train accident in Glenview, Illinois, the oppressive heat gradually expanded the steel rails on a local railroad track. This expansion caused the rails to deform and led a passing freight train to derail atop a bridge. As forward momentum carried the careening cars onto the bridge, the structure collapsed under the cars' crushing load. Tragically, an elderly couple lost their lives when their car was underneath the bridge at the time it gave way.

Senator Dick Durbin weighed in on the issue, saying railroads have a duty to perform routine inspections of their bridges and to repair any defects they find. But Sen. Durbin indicated that they may need additional help. He has asked the Federal Railroad Administration to perform some checks and inspections on Chicagoland rail infrastructure to ensure that railroads are carrying out their duties thoroughly. It is unknown when the FRA will take on this additional role.

Many accidents can be prevented through proper care and maintenance. Over the course of centuries, cases and statutes in tort law have defined what a person's responsibilities are to prevent harm to others. When parties are negligent, however, and fail to live up to their legal responsibilities, injured parties may be able to obtain compensation for their injuries.

Source: Daily Herald, "Durbin wants feds to check for vulnerable bridges," Marni Pyke, July 10, 2012.

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Intersection Collisions, IllinoisInstitute for Continuing Legal Education