St. Paul Train Crash Liability Under $1 Million

March 2, 2001

The St. Paul Companies announced that “its net exposure from claims expected to arise from the Feb. 28 rail accident in North Yorkshire, Britain is less than $1 million (U.S.).” The latest in a series of train crashes in the U.K. left at least 13 people dead and more than 70 injured early Wednesday morning.

The bizarre and deadly accident occurred when a Land Rover towing a trailer with a car on it veered off an overpass in as yet unexplained circumstances, and landed on the main east coast railway line. Seconds later a passenger train, traveling at an estimated 125 mph, collided with the wrecked vehicle. Derailed almost immediately by the shock, it crashed head-on into a freight train loaded with 1500 tons of coal going in the opposite direction. Rescue workers are still at work trying to clear the line, and have said that there may be still more victims in the wreckage.

“St. Paul International, a subsidiary of The St. Paul, provides property (rolling stock) insurance coverage to the passenger train operating company involved in the accident, GNER,” said the announcement. “The $1 million net exposure includes the impact of reinsurance arrangements in place. St. Paul International does not underwrite liability coverage for either train involved.”

Accident investigators are trying to determine why the Land Rover, driven by Gary Hart, 36, left the road. His wife told the BBC that it was an accident that was “totally out of his control and he could do nothing to prevent it.” Some commentators have speculated that Hart may have fallen asleep, others have cited a tire blowout as the possible cause.

Unlike previous rail accidents in the U.K., there doesn’t appear to be direct liability on the part of the train operators, or the track owners. Newspaper reports have concentrated on the possible fault of the driver, saying that, If there is liability, it would be the U.K.’s largest automobile insurance claim ever.

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