The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) last month launched a new web request page for train bridge safety inquiries. Now state and local officials can request information about the safety of railroad bridges in their communities.
Once the request has been filed with the FRA, the railroad has 30 days to provide a safety report.
According to FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg, the FRA has urged railroads in the past to be more transparent and responsive to state and local leaders that are concerned about the condition of railroad bridges in their communities. She noted that providing these safety reports on local bridges is an excellent first step but more needs to be done.
The FRA also has requested more funding to double its bridge specialist staff and to create a rail bridge inventory throughout the US.
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act signed by President Obama last year mandates that railroads provide safety information about railroad bridges to state and local officials on a regular basis.
Our railroad accident attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina are familiar with how railroads will cut corners on safety to increase profit margins. Sometimes they will do this by leasing part of their railroad line to a short line railroad. This means they no longer have to spend money on maintaining that section of track. So, the railroad can save maintenance costs and blame the small railroad company for any accidents that occur.
Or, the railroad will fail to properly inspect and maintain railroad bridges to save money. That is why we support the FRA’s recent action to make it easier to obtain safety reports about railroad bridges.
There are times when railroads will neglect public and worker safety and it leads to serious accidents We once handled a case where a railroad bridge worker had his lower leg crushed by 1600 pound bridge timber. The railroad eventually accepted that it was at fault, but it would not offer a settlement higher than $400,000 during mediation. So, our Virginia railroad accident lawyers went to trial and eventually the young man won a verdict of $1.5 million.
Metro-North, a major commuter railroad line in the New York City metro region, reported this week that both customer and employee injuries increased in 2015.
Statistics show that total employee injuries are up by 9.5% from 2014. Meanwhile, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reportable injuries have increased by 1.7%.
However, injuries for customers on Metro-North increased in 2015 by 30%.
Metro-North officials said that the increase of accidents is partially caused by expanded incident reporting requirements. This was ordered by local officials after more accidents in 2013.
The statistics stated that there were 360 customer injuries on the line in 2015, which is the second most ever in a five year period. More than half of that increase was due to a major train crash in Valhalia NY, which killed six and injured 46.
FRA asked Metro-North two years ago to expand what it considers a reportable injury to customers. In the past, injury reports were anything that occurred on the train or platform. Now, customer injury statistics reflect any injuries that occur inside a terminal.
Regarding employee injuries, while the FRA reportable injuries were up only 1.7%, total employee injuries were up by over 9%. The rail line believes that could be attributed to its implementation of the Confidential Close Call Reporting System, which allows employees to report safety issues privately.
Our railroad injury attorneys in Virginia Beach are glad to see that there is a stronger emphasis at Metro-North on employee and public safety. As our attorney Richard Shapiro wrote in 72 American Jurisprudence Trials, found in most of the nation’s law libraries, on page 37, preventing railroad injuries requires strong regulations, railroad emphasis on safety and more:
“The prevention of injuries requires effectively implemented railroad safety and health programs, union support, and an appropriate level of governmental regulation. Railroads, unions, and the government share the common goal of reducing casualties in the railroad industry. In addition, all seek to ensure that injured employees are adequately and appropriately compensated. All of these are a part of national efforts to prevent injuries among railroad employees. There has been friction between the railroads and the workforce as to whether railroads are “reporting” all worker injuries or illnesses to the FRA as legally required.”
As the treatise also notes, injuries are not usually FRA reportable unless the injuries require medical attention or prescription medication.
As we have seen in some of our railroad worker injury cases, serious injuries can occur when the railroad neglects safety, such as this $825,000 settlement where the railroad worker suffered a serious injury due to a loose ladder on a train car.