The partners at Clarkson Wright & Jakes are deeply saddened by the tragic tram tragedy that took place in Croydon early on Wednesday morning (9th November). Our thoughts go out to all those involved. Given the number of enquiries we have received and continue to receive, we thought it would be useful to summarise the general advice that we are giving to our callers in response to the most common questions.
What caused the accident?
There is some speculation over this; however, most reports indicate that excessive speed was the main cause. The corner on which the derailment occurred has a speed restriction of 12 mph and the bend in question is extremely tight. The initial view of the independent Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is that the tram was travelling much faster than 12 mph. Residents local to the accident scene have seemingly reported in the past that trams travel too fast for the area. This seems to indicate that the operator of the tram was well aware of the law being routinely broken by its employees.
When will any form of report be available?
It is not surprising that the RAIB is already involved in reviewing the accident and, from experience of incidents of this nature, a full report (at least in draft form) will be published in about six months’ time. This will help victims and their families obtain clear answers on the cause of the accident and various other relevant issues.
Who is legally responsible?
If excessive speed indeed proves to the main cause, then from a legal perspective, both the operator of the tram, First Group, and the manufacturer of the tram are likely to have to compensate victims involved in the incident and their families. Both owe a general duty of care to members of the public using the tram. This duty to look after passenger safety has almost certainly been breached. Neither the operator nor the manufacturer can argue that they did not cause the accident in view of the doctrine of “vicarious liability”. This allows victims to bring a claim against a company for the negligent actions of its employees. However from a legal perspective it may well be a case that if claims have to be brought that both parties are included in proceedings. As the law stands if a Court were to find either First Group or the manufacturer of the tram to blame by even 1% then that party would in effect be responsible to compensate the victim for 100% of his or her losses.