Subway Accidents: Who is Liable?

By Peter DePaolis

The WMATA Metrorail subway system, which serves Maryland, the District and Virginia, is a transportation hub for many metro area commuters. While no mechanical system is without its flaws and occasional failures, WMATA has seen more than its fair share of safety concerns and mechanical problems.

Mechanical Failures

The Metrorail has had multiple mechanical failures since it went into operation in 1976. The Metrorail has derailed on dozens of occasions, sometimes resulting in injuries and deaths, including:

  • In 1982, the Metrorail derailed. Three people died and 25 others suffered injuries.
  • In 2007, a Green Line train derailed and injured 18.
  • In 2010, a Red Line train derailed and injured three.

The Metrorail has also been involved in numerous collisions over the years, and some have been deadly:

  • In 1996, a train failed to stop at a station because the train’s computer-controlled braking system failed, killing the train operator.
  • In 2004, a Red Line train rolled backwards and struck a stopped train, injuring 20, because the operator was not paying attention.
  • In June 2009, nine people died and 70 people suffered injuries when two Red Line trains collided. A train operator was among the deceased.
  • In November 2009, two trains collided in a train yard, injuring operators and cleaning staff.

Safety Issues

The Metro transportation system has its own police force, created in 1976. The Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) is in place to prevent people from abusing the system, but also to protect commuters from criminals. Despite the existence of the MTPD, crime continues to be an issue.

  • In 2009, the MPTD reported nearly 100 instances of aggravated assault, one homicide, over 800 thefts, over 150 motor vehicle thefts, one rape and almost 900 robberies.
  • Crime on the Metrorail tripled between 2005 and 2009.
  • In 2010, thugs beat a 16-year-old unconscious to steal his shoes on a Metrorail train.
  • In 2010, a riot began, and dozens of unruly young men kicked and beat random people in the crowd at a Metrorail station.
  • In February 2011, good Samaritan Robert Joy spotted a group of teens beating a young boy at a Metrorail station; when he tried to use his cell phone to call the police, the gang took his phone and beat him before running off. A Metro employee then refused to allow Joy to use the Metro phone to contact authorities, instead offering him 50 cents to use a pay phone.


The WMATA regulates itself and has its own internal systems in place for dealing with Metro accidents and crime. However, a person who suffers an injury because of WMATA’s negligent maintenance practices and negligent policing of its stations and parking lots should still have the opportunity to obtain justice in court. An experienced and knowledgeable Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer is the key to making sure a lawsuit against the WMATA is successful. If you have suffered an injury on the Metrorail or if a loved one has died because of Metrorail injuries, contact a Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney right away to find out if you have a case.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.