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Monthly Archives: April 2016

FRA Announces $25 Million Funding for Rail Safety Improvements

The Federal Railroad Administration has started to take applications from local governments, states and railroads for $25 million in grants to fund their railroad safety efforts.

Applicants can ask for funds for safety upgrades to railroad crossings, tracks, tunnels, yards, bridges, etc. The grants have been made available under the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

According to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, as the population of the US grows, rail is playing a bigger role in moving people and freight around the US. “To do that safely, we must invest in our rail infrastructure,” he said last week.

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FRA stated that it would accept railroad safety funding applications until June 14.

Our railroad accident attorneys are pleased that FRA is making these funds available to upgrade railroad safety in America. Our railroad accident lawyers have represented many clients who have suffered serious injuries, or their loved ones have even died, in various types of railroad accidents.

Whenever we see the federal government improving railroad crossings it certainly is a positive, especially for railroad crossing safety. However, when a railroad that owns the tracks that run over those highway crossings is sued because of injury or death, that’s the moment that the railroad claims that they have very little or no responsibility whatsoever. What most consumers may find surprising is that the railroads often receive money from state or federal government for lights or gates at crossings and do everything they can to avoid paying for them.
Even in the face of prior injuries or deaths at the crossing, the railroads who operate on the tracks argue that it should not be their responsibility to pay for gates or lights because the public has built a highway across their Railroad right-of-way. Their position, often overlooked by the public, is that it is local, state or federal government that should improve the safety of motorists traveling across the railroad crossing.
This type of multiple party responsibility is exactly what makes civil injury or death litigation at railroad crossings complex. Indeed, most states have variable or different jury instructions in these types of cases that dictate the railroad’s responsibility at a railroad crossing collision.

Many people do not know that the railroad company that uses that crossing is responsible for maintaining the safety of the crossing. The safety gates must work and flashing lights must be operational, and all vegetation and grass needs to be regularly cut away from the tracks to not obscure driver vision.

A good railroad accident attorney with experience in the state in which the accident occurred can be invaluable in recovering damages in a lawsuit. For example, our railroad accident lawyers bring in retired railroad workers to investigate railroad crossing accidents. Using their expert testimony, we have been able to prove in some cases that appropriate precautions were not taken at some railroad crossings.

Railroad Unions Blast Amtrak Corporate Changes for Deaths in Philadelphia

Leaders of railroad unions say there has been a perfect storm of Amtrak corporate changes that is mostly to blame for two workers dying on railroad tracks near Philadelphia earlier this month.

Union officials wrote a letter to Amtrak President Joe Boardman last week and said that employee training is insufficient, and they demanded major changes in the policy on ‘close call’ reporting of dangerous incidents.

Federal-Employee-Liability

They maintain that routinely hazardous conditions exist on the Northeast Corridor that Amtrak serves daily. Amtrak stated in response that it always tries to improve safety measures at the railroad, and that management and unions must work together to make this happen.

It was on April 2 that an Amtrak train slammed into a backhoe south of Philadelphia at high speed, killing two workers. The accident is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Our train accident attorneys in Virginia have seen far too many cases where railroads put profits ahead of employee and passenger safety. Many train accidents occur that probably could have been avoided if the railroad had better adhered to safety regulations.

It is particularly alarming when Amtrak, which is managed and run by the US government, is itself possibly not following safety regulations. Last week the Federal Railroad Administration ordered a complete safety review of Amtrak’s work crew rules and regulations.

Grieving families in a case where a person or company is guilty of neglect should file a wrongful death lawsuit to ensure that the family’s financial needs will be taken care of in the future.

 

 

 

FRA Demands Immediate Amtrak Safety Review

The Federal Railroad Administration has directed Amtrak this week to conduct an immediate safety review, due to violations that were revealed in the fatal crash and derailment in Pennsylvania on Sunday.

The FRA told Amtrak this week to do a safety stand down, which is a review of all of its work safety protocols with track workers and train dispatchers.

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In the crash this week, an Amtrak train slammed into a maintenance vehicle on the tracks in Chester PA, which killed two workers.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that a very simple safety device could have prevented the deadly disaster. It is a removable circuit that is made to ‘shunt’ tracks and trigger a red light stop signal. It was not in place, even though Amtrak rules state that it should have been.

Federal investigators are focusing on miscommunication on April 3, as a shift of track workers and supervisors took over for the previous crew. The train that slammed into the backhoe was on an active track that had been ‘fouled’ earlier, meaning that it had been removed from use temporarily because of a chance that workers on the next track could be endangered as they did their work. Investigators are working to determine how the train was allowed to continue through that stretch of track.

The investigation is ongoing, but they have uncovered several violations of safety rules that are troubling enough for the FRA to step in and demand a safety review.

Our train crash attorneys in Virginia truly regret the loss of life in this preventable train crash and derailment. It is sad that it appears that basic safety protocols were not followed by Amtrak that may have led to this deadly collision. How ironic it is that a railroad managed by the US government does not itself apparently follow its own safety rules issued by the FRA.

Our hope is that the cause of the crash is quickly determined, and that the families of the deceased pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. When handled by experienced train accident counsel, a train crash and derailment suit can result in multi-million dollar settlements.

Feds Told Amtrak to Install More Safety Systems Before Deadly Crash

Federal agencies have told Amtrak and other railroads several times over the last few years to use essential back up safety systems for workers on railroad tracks to prevent deadly accidents, as the crash and derailment that just happened in Chester PA this week.

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Sources with information about the Amtrak crash investigation that killed two workers have said that a communication lapse during a shift change may have led to the workers being on the tracks. Meanwhile, safety precautions that are intended to route trains away from those workers were cancelled.

This exact accident scenario has been a regular problem on US railroads, according to a 2014 Federal Railroad Administration report. That report stated that FRA is alarmed at the repeated occurrences of railroad workers being hit by or nearly hit by trains that seem to be due to miscommunications.

FRA stated in the advisory that back up safety systems were needed until positive train control was installed on all trains. While Amtrak has PTC on most trains in the NE corridor of the US, experts still say the system has not eliminated the need for back up safety protocols.

According to NTSB investigators, the Amtrak train slammed into a backhoe on the tracks in Chester PA at over 100 MPH and did not even slow down until five seconds before the crash. The brakes on the train were applied at the last seconds before impact.

The FRA report from 2014 recommended several backup systems where there could be the possibility of a communications break down. One of the devices is worn by workers that would alert them that a train is approaching, and would also warn train engineers of people on the tracks. Another system would be used for track maintenance vehicles.

Our railroad injury lawyers in North Carolina and Virginia are angry that this preventable accident that led to two deaths ever happened. It is the obligation of the railroad to use vital safety procedures and equipment to ensure the safety of workers and train passengers. We hope that the families of the deceased and injured file personal injury lawsuits against the responsible parties because effective counsel could likely win very large settlements or verdicts in this tragic case.

 

Amtrak Derailment Kills Two in Philadelphia

Two people died today and 35 injured in an Amtrak train derailment near Philadelphia, when the train slammed into a backhoe that was on the tracks. The train derailed, with seven crew members and 341 passengers on board.

The train was traveling from New York City to Savannah, GA when the lead engine derailed in Chester PA at 8 AM on April 3.

Two men were on or near the backhoe when the train hit it and died at the scene. Both men were Amtrak employees.

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Passengers on the Amtrak derailed train stated that the crash between the train and backhoe caused a large fireball and smoke.

Investigators stated that it was not clear when the backhoe was on the tracks, but Federal Railroad Administration officials were on the scene and were studying the crash.

It is a shame that this entirely preventable train derailment led to loss of life and injuries. While we do not yet know what led to the tragedy, it is most alarming that the employees on the backhoe were Amtrak workers. Amtrak should be much better at communicating between oncoming trains and other company employees. How is it possible that the workers did not know that an Amtrak train was scheduled to come through that section of track at that time?

Amtrak will face multiple liability issues in this train derailment, both for the injuries to passengers and the deaths of these two workers. An experienced and tough railroad accident attorney will be able to ensure that the injured parties’ rights and those of the families of the deceased are properly represented and protected in upcoming litigation in this matter.

 

Injured Train Engineer Warns About Railroad Crossing Dangers

In 2011, train engineer Darrell May was operating his train according to the rules in Texas and as he rounded a curve at 50 MPH, he saw a stalled tractor trailer on the tracks in front of him. He pulled the emergency brakes immediately, and he and his colleague threw themselves on the floor of the cab.

The collision with the tractor trailer at the railroad crossing was so severe that May was knocked out and he awoke days later in a hospital bed.

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Since that day, the former train engineer’s life has been changed forever. He had head trauma that caused a brain bleed, which makes his right arm tremor constantly. He also suffered nerve damage in his mouth so that eating anything cold causes severe tooth pain. The railroad crossing crash also blew out his back and his lower back has been fused with two rods, four screws and six pins. The back injury also caused nerve damage so that his left foot constantly tingles as if it is asleep.

May recently warned Texas drivers at a press conference to never attempt to beat the train at a railroad crossing or to stop over the tracks under any conditions. He also noted that from the driver’s perspective at a railroad crossing, it is difficult to judge distance, so the train could be a lot closer than you think. It also is hard to tell how fast the train is traveling when looking at it straight on from the tracks.

May also recommended that every railroad crossing post should have a national 800 number and a six digit code. If a driver sees a vehicle stalled on the tracks, they should be able to call that number to alert train operators of the problem.

Our railroad accident lawyers in Virginia have represented far too many people who have been injured at railroad crossings. In some cases, the railroad or the train operator is at fault, but in the case above, the tractor trailer operator was at fault and his actions led to devastating injuries for the innocent victim.

We once handled a case where a railroad worker was injured at a crossing caused by a negligent truck driver, which resulted in a $650,000 verdict. We wish that truck drivers would ensure that such tragic accidents never occur. Even if the truck stalls on the tracks, it is possible that simply properly maintaining the rig could prevent such dangers.

How Google Maps Makes Railroad Crossings Safer

The maps app on your smartphone soon could be able to tell you about the location of an upcoming railroad crossing. Audio and visual alerts will soon be coming to many smartphones because of a new partnership between Google and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Finding innovative ways to reduce the death rate at 225,000 railroad crossings in the US is a major priority of the new FRA administrator, Sarah Feinberg.

Railroad safety has improved overall in the US, but fatalities and railroad crossing accidents increased in 2014, which was the year before Feinberg took the helm. There were 267 deaths in 2014, up from 232 in 2013.

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FRA has not determined what caused deaths to increase so dramatically that year. They think it could be that there were just more drivers on the roads and more trains on the tracks.

But some experts think that technology is not doing a good enough job to prevent railroad crossing deaths, and they hope that the new Google/FRA partnership will help.

FRA currently requires each state to do monthly inspections of 5000 railroad crossings that have the crossing interconnected with a traffic signal. When it is working right, the signals can usually prevent cars and trains from being on the tracks at the same time. But if the signals are not working right, bad things can happen.

As this new partnership gets under way, the FRA hopes that drivers getting alerts from their smartphone about an upcoming railroad crossing can save lives.

Our railroad accident lawyers in Virginia and North Carolina are pleased that the US government is working with Google to leverage technology to prevent needless railroad crossing deaths. Our railroad crossing accident lawyers have represented far too many families of the injured and killed in these mostly preventable tragedies, such as this railroad crossing accident in Prince William County VA that led to a sizable settlement.

 

 

FRA Launches New Railroad Crossing and Trespassing Website

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday launched a redesigned website that has been billed to help drivers, pedestrians and law enforcement to be safer around the more than 200,000 railroad crossings and 140,000 miles of track in the US.

The new portal for railroad crossings is part of FRA’s campaign to cut down on fatalities at railroad crossings and railroad tracks to zero per year. According to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, railroad crossings are in almost every town and city in the United States, and it is very important to prevent fatalities at crossings and on railroad tracks.

FRA data indicates that 96% of all rail-related deaths are preventable and occur either at railroad crossings or by trespassers walking on tracks.

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Last year, FRA, also launched a campaign to cut down on railroad crossing fatalities by working with tech companies such as Google to use the latest FRA data that details where each of the 200,000 railroad crossings are on digital maps. In 2015, 244 people killed at railroad crossings, which was a dip from 264 the year before.

The new FRA portal has many interactive features that includes downloadable fact sheets on safety. Also, there is an easy-to-navigate resource library, making accessing information about railroad crossing safety and trespassing much more streamlined and educational.

We are very pleased as experienced railroad crossing accident attorneys in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina to see that the FRA is stepping up to the plate here. It is really important to use modern technology to cut down on railroad-related deaths. We have represented far too many devastated families whose loved ones were injured or killed at railroad crossings.

By carefully analyzing the scene of a railroad crossing accident, sizable settlements are possible; after all, it is the obligation of the railroad to ensure that railroad crossings are safely maintained and marked. But it would of course be far better if none of these railroad-related accidents ever occurred.

Iron County, Missouri Officials Urge Upgrades of Dangers RR Crossings

Dangerous railroad crossings are all too common in Iron County, Missouri, according to officials here. In December 2015, an Amtrak train slammed into a truck at a railroad crossing in Middlebrook MO and killed a local man.

In that case, it appeared that the man may not have seen the oncoming train and he drove over the tracks into its path. That particular crossing has only a yield and railroad sign but no warning devices.

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Officials say that that fixing that particular crossing in Iron County is one of their top priorities. They say that they intend to install more flashing lights and gates at some of the more dangerous crossings in the county. They also intend to add lights and gates at another crossing in Annapolis MO that is especially hazardous for tractor trailers. Trucks tend to get stuck on those tracks and that could lead to another deadly incident.

Our Virginia railroad crossing accident attorneys have seen far too many injuries and deaths in the past few years in these cases. In our experience, there is a tendency for the local police to just take the word of the railroad company’s investigator and blame the car or truck driver for the collision. However, there are many cases in our experience as railroad accident lawyers in Virginia where the railroad was negligent.

For example, there are often maintenance issues at particular railroad crossings. In particular, we have seen many railroad crossing accidents where there was too much growth of vegetation around the tracks and this obscured the vision of the driver.

It is the responsibility of the railroad to ensure that the railroad crossing is properly maintained, which includes vegetation being cut back that can reduce sight lines. Also, the railroad must ensure that the safety gates and lights are working properly.

In railroad crossing cases where the railroad was negligent, settlements of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars are possible. So, it is always worthwhile to speak to an experienced railroad accident lawyer if you have been involved in a railroad crossing accident.