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Monthly Archives: October 2015

Families of Canada Train Derailment Victims Sue Railroad

A lawyer who represents most of the families of the 47 people who died in an oil train derailment in Quebec two years ago said last week that a Canadian railroad’s refusal to pay into a settlement fund is ‘reprehensible,’ and the families will sue the railroad.

Canadian Pacific states that it does not have any responsibility for the disastrous, fiery wreck in Lac Megantic Quebec in July 2013. It is blaming the derailment on the railroad whose train derailed.

Federal-Employee-Liability

That Chicago-based attorney stated that Canadian Pacific knew that the oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region was very unstable, before it handed it off to the other railroad.

Much of the downtown area of Lac Megantic was left in ruins when a train that was operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway with 70 oil tankers. It derailed on July 6, 2013 and set off several explosions and blazes. The company in Maine has filed for bankruptcy, and the settlement fund is wrapped into those bankruptcy proceedings in Canada and the US.

Wrongful death lawsuits have been delayed until the settlement is approved; it is valued at $339 million US. Judges in Quebec and Maine have approved the fund; it includes $110 million Canadian to settle all of the wrongful death claims.

Canadian Pacific will not contribute to the fund and has opened itself up to many lawsuits. If it had contributed, it would have been offered legal protections.

We are sad to see that Canadian Pacific will not accept liability for this tragic train derailment. As railroad accident lawyers, we have experience with railroad companies trying to protect profits over people.

Our law firm was proud to represent a gas station worker that was seriously injured when a Norfolk Southern Train derailed and smashed into his store. He was left with serious traumatic injuries and a traumatic brain injury.

His first lawyer wisely reached out to our law firm to handle the railroad related liability aspect of the case, and we entered the case as co-counsel to jointly try the case in Manassas, Virginia. We not only helped prove the railroad was negligent, we helped to win him a $60 million verdict, later settled for a confidential sum.

 

Congress Passes Bill To Delay Train Safety Upgrades

After the deadly Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia earlier this year that killed five, some lawmakers wanted to see a speed enforcement system implemented right away. However, this week Congress passed a bill that will delay mandates for railroads to add such safety upgrades.

After the derailing in May, the CEO of Amtrak pledged to make the safety upgrades by the end of the year. However, the new bill will delay the upgrades for 3-5 years. Amtrak has stated that they will try to get it done in three years.

A congressman from PA stated this week that it is everyone’s best interest to delay the safety upgrades until it is possible to get them done safely and fully. He added that if Congress decided to penalize the railroad companies now, it would only lead to reduced rail traffic, which would only hurt consumers.

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It saddens us, as railroad accident attorneys, that this derailment ever occurred, and it’s even sadder that the necessary safety upgrades to prevent such tragedies are being delayed. We have seen all too many times how railroad companies will sacrifice public safety for profits. Some of these companies simply put the bottom line for shareholders above all else.

A recent case we handled was where a railroad conductor was hurt on a train car due to an insecure, loose side ladder. He had a serious back injury that required surgery, and he could not return to his job. Of course, the railroad denied they had anything to do with the injury. Our team argued that the loose ladder was a regulatory violation, so we did not have to produce any evidence that the railroad knew about the problem ahead of time.

Through the expert testimony of a railroad safety specialist, we showed that relevant safety appliance act regulations had been violated. We reached an $825,000 settlement.

 

Questions Arise After Fatal Pedestrian/Train Accident

A 16 year-old boy was hit by a train in NW Houston TX last Friday and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police reported that the young man was hit at 8:45 am near West 34th Street and TC Jester in Houston. His body was thrown under a trestle on the bridge that crosses the street White Oak Bayou. Police added that the student was walking on the tracks with a friend.

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The other boy ran off the tracks when he saw the train approaching but the other did not seem to hear or understand how close the train was.

When a train goes through a crossing in Texas, the protocol is for the train crew to sound two longer whistles, a short whistle and then another long one as the train goes through the crossing. In an emergency, the crew is supposed to sound the whistle at a different cadence to warn people off the tracks.

Some have questioned if there was a delay when the whistle was sounded, and the incident is being investigated by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Our rail accident legal firm in Virginia has seen many train accidents involving both pedestrians and vehicles. In some cases, the train operator fails to provide sufficient warning to the car or pedestrian and serious injury can result. In other cases, we have seen instances where the driver’s or pedestrian’s view is obstructed by vegetation at a railroad crossing, leading to a serious accident.

Anyone who has a loved one injured or killed on train tracks should ensure that the railroad company was adhering to all regulations at the time of the accident. Negligence on their part can lead to devastating consequences.

 

 

Broken Rail Led to WV Oil Train Derailment, Officials State

By Randy Appleton, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney

A West Virginia crude oil train derailment in February 2015 that caused a fire and forced several hundred people to leave their homes was due to a split rail, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) last week.

Two CSX rail inspections in December 2014 and January 2015 did not detect the defect in the rail before the derailment on Feb. 16. The FRA stated that broken rails are one of the top causes of railroad accidents. Railroads that move crude oil through communities  have to be as safe as possible, FRA stated that CSX, as well as other railroad companies, must be more careful in their inspection processes.

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FRA stated that it will mandate that CSX provides inspectors with more access to earlier inspection reports to prevent accidents in the future. FRA also stated that it will look at the need for better railhead wear standards to prevent such derailments.

FRA gave $25,000 fines to CSX and Sperry Rail Service, which is the company that did the inspections. A Sperry Rail Service inspector was reported to have seen the rail fault but declined to get out of his car to look at it.

The derailment outside of Mount Carbon WV caused 27 cars loaded with shale crude oil to fall off the tracks. The oil threatened to leak into local water supplies, and smoke from the large fire forced hundreds to evacuate their homes.

Our railroad accident law firm in Virginia is all too well accustomed to irresponsible train and railroad companies that neglect to ensure that their equipment is in proper working order. This often leads to derailments that cause serious injury. We once had a client whose train derailed, and his body hit metallic parts in the cab. After he left work, he went to the ER because he was having headaches as well as shoulder pain. He started to have headaches often and also tingling in his arms.

It turned out that the accident caused a spinal cord syrinx, which caused spinal fluid to collect beside the spinal cord. Our job was to convince a jury that the derailment led to the injury. It eventually was settled out of court for $190,000.

Family Files Suit for Death at Dangerous Train Crossing Guardrail

By Richard Shapiro, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney

A 22 year-old man from Richmond CA was killed last March when he died at a railroad crossing in this small California town.

Media reports stated that the man spent all day and night volunteering at a school, and he then was driving home. He reportedly fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a guardrail in front of a railroad crossing at Regatta Blvd. and 34th Street in Richmond. One of the steel beams of the guardrail struck his head and he died at the scene.

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The police report stated that the steel guardrail was there to protect the crossing gate. The California Public Utilities Commission put in a plastic barrier around the guardrail after the accident. That agency stated that these rail barriers are put in by railroad companies to prevent drivers from hitting the railroad gates and damaging them.

The family is filing a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit, and the suit names Contra Costa County, the city of Richmond and Richmond Pacific Railroad.

Our railroad accident law firm in Virginia offers our sincere condolences to the family of this man. Each year about 31% of all railway fatalities occur at railroad crossings, which means that someone in the US dies at a crossing every three days.

In many of these cases, there are inadequate gates and lights, or they are not working properly. In other cases, the pedestrian or driver does not have a clear view. We once represented a client who was driving over a Norfolk Southern railroad crossing when a train came suddenly around the corner and smashed into his car, severely injuring him and his small children.

Many accidents at railroad crossings could be eliminated if railroad companies were more proactive about making the crossings safer. Obviously in the above CA case, the railroad company created a situation where an accident was waiting to happen. In more common cases, railroad companies should ensure that the flashers and gates at crossings are working properly.

Railroads must assure that the warning time before the train comes is appropriate so as not to cause motorists to conclude that the gates are malfunctioning—this can be a dangerous trap. Any malfunction in crossing signals can be a serious injury or death trap for car drivers.