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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Worker Sues Railroad For Injuries on the Job

A man from Benton IL has sued his former railroad company, claiming that he suffered disabling injuries when he fell down a hole while on the job as a railroad conductor.

The man filed the railroad lawsuit Jan. 8 in the US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois against the Illinois Central Railroad Company.

Federal-Employee-Liability

The suit alleges that on Feb. 11, 2014, the former worker was on the job – transporting rail cars for the company when he fell into a hole on company property.

He claims in the lawsuit that his injuries are due to negligence on the part of the defendant, including providing him with a safe place to work and failing to inspect tracks, the road bed and work surfaces for dangerous areas. The suit also states that the worker suffered severe and permanent injuries that have led to pain and suffering and lost wages. He is seeking at least $75,000 plus court costs.

All of our railroad injury attorneys in Virginia hope that this former worker recovers fully from his injuries quickly. Injuries at a railroad facility are quite common, and we have represented many railroad workers who were hurt while engaged in their job.

One client was a railroad brakeman and conductor who was checking the air brakes on a mile long freight train in April 2003. As he walked along the railroad ballast rock along the tracks, his foot fell into a depression in the rock, and this caused him a serious lower back injury.

The client had back surgery in June 2005, but it did not solve his back pain problems. He eventually need to have back fusion surgery and this meant that he was ruled completely disabled at the young age of 37.

Our Virginia and North Carolina lawyers studied the scene of the accident and determined what caused the sudden depression in the ballast rock. We brought in a railroad truck structure expert who determined that the track was constructed improperly, which led to small, hidden voids in the ballast rock. This case was settled satisfactorily for $900,000.

Driver Killed When Train Hits SUV in Chicago

Police stated this week that a woman from Arlington Heights IL was killed when her SUV was struck by a commuter train. 

The driver was going southeast on Northwest Highway and was crossing railroad tracks when she was hit by a Union Pacific Northwest train at Euclid Avenue. the SUV caught fire after the crash and was pushed by the train for several blocks. No one else was injured in the crash.

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Our Virginia railroad accident law firm has seen many needless deaths occur at railroad crossings over the years. One of the common problems at railroad crossings is that trees, shrubs and vegetation are not properly maintained and this can lead to obstruction of sight lines.

Our Virginia rail crossing law firm uses retired railroad employees as investigators in incidents such as they above. In this sort of case, we would send investigators to the scene of the crossing. We often represent clients who were hit at a railroad crossing and often can prove that appropriate safety measures were not followed at the railroad crossing.

For example, in one Virginia railroad crossing accident, we sent investigators to the crossing and carefully examined the trees, vegetation and brush around the area. Our client stated that he could not see the train at the crossing until the very last moment. Our railroad accident team studied Virginia common law as well as potential jury instructions and various other circumstances, and made a demand for settlement from the man’s insurance company and also Norfolk Southern. This resulted in a settlement amount in excess of $100,000. 

 

1 Dead After Train Hits Car in Jacksonville FL

One person died in Jacksonville FL when an Amtrak train slammed into an SUV that was straddling the tracks last week, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The police stated that the train hit the Chevrolet Tahoe at approximately 7:20 PM on Jan. 14. The driver of the SUV died after he was taken to a local hospital. According to witnesses, the driver apparently stopped on the tracks due to traffic.

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No passengers or anyone else was injured in the crash. Police continue to investigate the accident.

Our research and experience as railroad accident attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina tells us that 31% of railway fatalities occur at railroad crossings.

Despite what some people think, most train crossing crashes do not occur because the driver was trying to cross the tracks before the train got there. In fact, many railroad crossings are ‘passive’, meaning that they do not have gates or flashing lights. At many of those crossings, the driver is supposed to watch and listen for train. However, many of these railroad crossings have poor visibility. That was the case in one of our train crossing crash cases, where a Norfolk Southern train appeared suddenly and hit our client’s car, which caused serious injuries to his two children.

A study was done of train crossing crashes, and sight obstruction was found to be a problem in 689 crashes, which led to 87 deaths.

Active railroad crossings with flashing lights and gates also can be made to be safer. One problem with them is the warning time may be too long, which makes drivers impatient and they may drive around the gates. Sometimes the gates and flashing lights do not work properly, which opens the possibility of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

 

FRA Scrutinizes Railroad Merger Due to Safety Concerns

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. wants to merge with Norfolk Southern Corp., but federal regulators in the US worry that mergers of large railroads could lead to railroad safety concerns.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulates rail safety in the United States, and is looking carefully at the proposed merger, as it scrutinizes safety worries that could result when such large railroad companies merge.

Some of the challenges include the combination of the safety cultures of two different companies. Specifically, FRA wants to know which company’s safety rules and protocols would be followed first, and how to build the newly combined workforce so that communication channels remain open.

FRA may not block a railroad merger; the Surface Transportation Board must approve it. However, the FRA does work with railroads on safety integration plans to make sure that safe operations continue when a merger occurs.

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One of the major safety concerns is related to oil train safety. The last few years have seen several fiery derailments of oil-laden trains that led to serious injuries and deaths. One of those cases occurred in Lynchburg VA, where an oil train derailed and spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil into the James River.

Our railroad injury attorneys are pleased that the FRA is looking carefully at this proposed merger and is ensuring that public safety takes precedence above all else. Our experience with railroads in personal injury lawsuits tells us that such large corporations are quick to put profit ahead of safety at times.

In a record setting $60 million verdict in a train derailment case, we represented a man who suffered terrible injuries when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into his gas station. Even though it was obvious from the huge amount of evidence we brought to the case that the railroad was clearly at fault, Norfolk Southern denied responsibility for a full year.

Anyone who suffers an injury in any kind of railroad accident should know that the railroad often will try to deny responsibility, so it behooves you to consult with an expert railroad personal injury attorney in your area about the case. Look for a law firm that has a record of multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts in train accidents and derailments.

New York Metro Hit With $250,000 Fine for Retaliating Against Injured Worker

The US Labor Department levied a $250,000 fine against New York-based Metro-North Railroad after it retaliated against an injured railroad worker. The Labor Department ordered Metro North to pay the punitive damages award to a train coach cleaner who hurt his leg on the job in November 2011 in Connecticut.

The federal government stated that a Metro North supervisor told the injured worker that management would file disciplinary charges and deny promotions to anyone who reported being hurt at work.

The $250,000 fine is the biggest that has ever been awarded for punitive damages for retaliation in the history of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The railroad also must pay $10,000 to pay for the worker’s attorney costs.

During the case, the Labor Department cited other instances where the railroad apparently threatened to retaliate against injured workers. One case involved a woman who crushed her foot with a barrel. Rather than file an injury report, the hobbled woman came to work on crutches.

We are railroad injury attorneys in Virginia who have seen railroads routinely attempt to deny claims for on the job injuries. We have to say however, that the above attempt at retaliation against an injured worker on the job truly is a new low. We are glad that the Labor Department assessed such a large punitive award; hopefully it will warn other railroads to not attempt to intimidate injured workers!

A recent injured railroad worker case in Virginia we handled involved a railroad conductor who suffered a serious back injury after he fell due to an insecure ladder on a train car. Of course, the railroad denied responsibility, but we were able to show that the handhold on the ladder was insecure and that this was a regulatory violation. We also brought in a top notch railroad safety expert, who pointed out the specific regulations that had been violated. In the end, we were pleased with the $825,000 settlement in favor of our injured client.

 

Trains Should Be Kept Fully Staffed for Safety

The Indiana State Legislative Board Chairman wrote an urgent plea last week that all train crews should be kept to two and not reduced to one, as the state government is considering, under pressure from railroad interests.

There are more than 4,000 miles of track in Indiana, Brian Farkas wrote, and he argues in the article that an excellent safety record in the state could be jeopardized if railroad carriers reduce crew sizes to save money.

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The possible action stems from the Railroad Safety Improvement Act that Congress passed in 2008. It featured provisions to require positive train control technology on all railroads. This new technology, while a vast safety improvement, was not designed to effectively replace a crew member. Rather, it is designed to reduce train crashes.

Farkas wrote that he thinks it would be a dangerous error if the state legislature agreed to reduce train crew sizes. A member of the state legislature in Indiana recently introduced a new bill that would require all freight train crews to consist of at least two engineers. Naturally, the bill is strongly opposed by railroad industry lobbying groups.

The chairman urged Indiana readers to call their state representatives to voice their support for the train safety bill.

We certainly hope that the state legislature in Indiana does not decide to allow railroads to reduce their freight train crews. Every train crew should have at least two members to ensure that the train is being operated safely. The news media has been filled with recent stories of serious train accidents and derailments that led to loss of life. A train collision with another train in 2008 led to several deaths, and all was because the lone train operator was on her cell phone.

Our Virginia personal injury law firm works often on railroad accident cases, such as this $190,000 settlement. Anything that can be done to reduce the chances of train accidents sounds good to us.

 

Switchman Who Loses Leg Sues Railroad

A former switchman for Tacoma (WA) Rail has filed a lawsuit against the railroad. He contends that the railroad created a dangerous railroad work environment that contributed to the accident that caused him to lose a leg.

Federal-Employee-Liability

Nathan Johnson, 45, from Fife WA, is seeking damages for his pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses. An earlier claim with the city showed that he is seeking $6 million.

The lawsuit claims that he was trying to climb into a moving rail car when he fell partially under the train. The suit further states that Tacoma Rail actively encourages employees to climb onto and off moving trains to get work done faster and to reduce labor costs. Further, the claim states that the safety appliance on the railroad car were inadequate and in violation of the Federal Railway Safety Appliance Act.

Our extensive experience in Virginia and North Carolina as railroad accident attorneys has shown that railroads often will try to avoid their liability for workers’ injuries on the job. We have represented many railroad workers who have been badly injured on the job, and have been pleased to reach large settlements and verdicts for our railroad worker clients.

One of the most important things we want to stress is that railroad workers should not be afraid to take legal action against a railroad whose negligence may have led to your injury. In reality, there have been many successful personal injury lawsuits in recent years against railroads. Consult an expert railroad personal injury attorney in your state and the results can be highly favorable.

New York Town May Shut Down Deadly Rail Crossing

A small town in Westchester County, NY may shut down the railroad crossing where an SUV driver and five train passengers died in a disastrous railroad crossing crash last year.

The Feb. 3, 2015 train crash prompted the town of of Mount Pleasant NY to study whether vehicle traffic should be diverted from the hazardous railroad crossing at Commerce Street.

The town supervisor noted that this type of major accident indicates that the crossing could simply be too hazardous to remain open. An actual closure of the crossing would require New York state approval.

amtrak

The deadly crash happened during rush hour during the week on Metro North’s Harlem line, which runs from Grand Central Station in New York City into Westchester County. It also continues on into nearby Putnam and Dutchess counties.

The crash occurred when the SUV driver stopped on the railroad tracks after she had been diverted from the Taconic State Parkway after another accident.

After the train smashed into the SUV, the third rail that powers the train pierced the floor of the first train car. Also, 12 pieces of rail tore through the car, which caught fire.

More light has been shed on this crash this month, after the NTSB released many of its investigation documents about the likely cause of the crash.

The NTSB documents revealed that the traffic control system at the railroad crossing that controls stoplights was out of compliance with federal guidelines when the crash happened.

This is known as a preemption system, which is supposed to activate traffic lights as trains approach the crossing. The aim is to clear vehicle traffic from railroad tracks and to prevent accidents.

The system was not properly configured to clear track traffic coming from Taconic State Parkway, according to Steve Ditmeyer, a former federal rail official. Ditmeyer now runs a consulting firm in Virginia, and he recently reviewed the NTSB report at The Wall Street Journal’s request.

He noted that the proper stoplight sequence did not occur when the crash happened, but he was not certain if it played a major role in the crash. Since the crash, the preemption system at that crossing has been changed.

Our Virginia and North Carolina personal injury lawyers have represented the families of many train crossing accident victims over the last decade. This experience has provided us with a detailed grasp of why serious injuries and wrongful deaths happen at rail crossings.

If the families of the deceased in this tragic train/car crash want to collect compensation for their pain and suffering, it is important for them to work with the best railroad accident attorney they can. In Virginia, we often retain former railroad workers–who have retired–as investigators, or retain former federal railroad administration experts, and they conduct thorough investigations of railroad crossing crashes or railroad derailments. This work gives our team unique insights into the causes of these mostly preventable accidents. That type of skilled litigation is what helped us to win a recent $1 million settlement in a Virginia train accident.

 

 

 

 

27 Pedestrian Rail Deaths In Washington State Prompts Safety Campaign

The number of pedestrian rail fatalities in Washington state climbed to 27 in 2015, rail officials stated this week, which has prompted a new safety campaign to warn people about the dangers of railroad tracks and crossings.

The new goal for 2016 in the state is zero railroad fatalities. Nationwide, Washington is ranked #9 in train fatalities from Jan-Sept 2015, which is the most recent data available from the Federal Railroad Administration. California was tops on the list with 119 deaths, and Texas was second at 50 deaths.

Fatality risks tend to climb due to the number of trespassers on tracks, improving train technology that makes locomotives quieter than ever, and also based upon the number of trains running per day in a given area.

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According to the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission railroad safety supervisor, the major problem is with trespassing. “People don’t grasp that it takes a mile for a full sized freight train to come to a stop,’ he told the press this week.

Bad weather can make it harder for pedestrians to see or hear trains approaching as well. And there was more warm weather in the state last summer, which may have led to more people walking near railroad tracks.

In addition to the 27 pedestrian deaths, there also were two drivers who died when their vehicles were struck by trains at railroad crossings. There also were 104 non-fatal incidents on railroad tracks in Washington state in 2015, which led to cuts and bruises, and amputations in the worst cases.

Most of the accidents and deaths that occurred were on BNSF owned railroad tracks, which owns over 50% of the railroad lines in the state.

Because of the high number of deaths and injuries, the state chapter of Operation Livesaver is going to increase its number of safety presentations at schools and produce more radio and TV ads to warn of the dangers of walking near railroad tracks.

As personal injury lawyers in train-pedestrian accidents, we often see railroads and the government claim that these types of tragedies are ‘trespassing accidents.’ The public may not be aware, but it is the responsibility of the railroads to maintain railroad tracks and keep them safe. Fencing off railways and trestles in areas with high foot traffic is vital to keep people from walking on train tracks. If you have a loved one who died walking on train tracks, know that the railroad does have responsibilities to keep high traffic rail lines safe. The railroad track is actually private property, and most railroads do little to mitigate these risks. Talk to a personal injury lawyer to learn about the responsibilities of railroads in maintaining their property safely.

 

19 Year Old Killed at Train Crossing in Idaho

A nineteen year old died last week in Kuna, Idaho, when a train slammed into his car at a railroad crossing at more than 50 MPH.

The local police stated that Peter Francois was struck by the train at a crossing in Kuna ID at a crossing on Black Cat Road. They also stated that the Union Pacific train was going 55 MPH when the wreck happened.

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It is unclear why the man did not stop the car at the railroad tracks. The police stated that there is a stop sign at the crossing. There is no crossing arms or flashing lights at the location, however. Police said that it appeared that the train engineer did follow the mandated protocol of blasting its horn before the crossing.

While the number of train crossing accidents have fallen greatly in the last 30 years, most that still occur are in rural areas. Rural crossings are not usually required to have crossing arms and flashing lights.

Unfortunately, railroad crossing accidents still are quite common, even though there are far fewer these days than decades ago. Our railroad accident attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina know that the majority of these accidents do not happen because the car driver is trying to beat the train. At passive rail crossings that have no flashing lights or gates, drivers have to watch carefully for train traffic. However, we have found that in many cases, drivers do not have a clear view to the left and right at the crossing.

One of our clients was going over railroad tracks in Virginia when a train suddenly appeared and slammed his car into a ditch, which led to a sizable settlement.

There have been studies of train crashes at railroad crossings, and it was found that sight obstruction from 2001 to 2005 had led to 87 deaths at the crossings. States have been quite slow to inspect railroad crossings and to remove all obstructions. If they did so, perhaps there would be fewer of these senseless tragedies. Anyone who has had a loved one killed at a train crossing should consult with an experienced attorney, because there are cases where the accident was not the driver’s fault.