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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Train Conductor Sues Railroad for Personal Injuries

A railroad conductor in Harrisburg PA has sued Delaware and Hudson Railway Company for what he claims are repetitive stress injuries that are allegedly due to his employer’s negligence and failure to provide a safe work environment.

The complaint alleges that the former conductor suffered repetitive trauma to his arms and legs by working in an environment that included large mainline railroad ballast rock that shifts underfoot constantly. Because of this, he claims that he will have to suffer with this medical condition for years, which is impairing his ability to work.

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He is seeking a trial by jury and is seeking more than $150,000.

As experienced FELA attorneys in Virginia, we know that repetitive stress and sudden injuries are extremely common in railroad-related jobs. We had a railroad conductor client who was injured in 2003 while he was walking along his mile-long freight train checking the air brakes. His foot fell into a depression in the ballast rock. He twisted and suffered a major back injury. He had major back surgery in 2005 but he still had considerable pain that left him unable to work.

His doctors eventually did fusion surgery on his lower back, which left him completely disabled at 37 years of age. Our law firm carefully studied the accident scene and hired a hydro-geologist to review how water flowed through that area. We also hired a railroad track structure expert to review that section of track.

The railroading expert discovered that there were little pieces of wooden crosstie mixed into the ballast rock in the area where the fall happened. He reported that this was improper track construction; the ties can create gaps in the ballast rock. As the wood breaks down, it leaves small holes or voids in the rock. The bottom line: We achieved a $900,000 in this railroad personal injury case.

If you are injured on the job at a railroad, please review our guide A Railroad Worker’s Rights When Injured on the Job.

Our railroad injury lawyers have decades of jury trial courtroom experience and handle railroad injury cases east of the Mississippi river, so essentially anywhere in the eastern United States.

 

 

DC Metro’s ‘SafeTrack’ Plan Being Delayed

DC Metro officials this week confirmed that the final draft of their ‘SafeTrack’ repair plan is going to be delayed as metro officials continue to work with the Federal Transit Administration to meet safety guidelines.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced initial draft of the huge repair plan on May 6, and promised the final draft yesterday.

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A track explosion two weeks ago prompted FTA to step in and stop Metro’s plans to release the final draft.

FTA issued a set of actions to Metro on May 7 and warned that they had to take the actions immediately or risk a full system shutdown for safety reasons. FTA has blasted Metro publicly for failing to have enough workers trained on emergency response, running too many trains in service at one time and not doing enough daily safety inspections.

The FTA order also addressed major employee negligence issues, such as train operators running red lights and running trains too fast. New speed restrictions are now in place and are slowing daily commutes for thousands of passengers.

The SafeTrack program proposes to repair the entire Metro system over a year with single tracking, line closures and reduced service hours on all lines.

As Virginia railroad injury attorneys, we find it alarming that so many safety failures have crippled the DC Metro system. We remember a few years ago when two DC Metro trains slammed into each other, killing four people. There also have been multiple fires on Metro lines and several explosions over the last three years.

We hope that those who have been injured by DC Metro during these multiple safety failures are able to recover from their injuries. Our railroad injury law firm has helped victims of many train accidents, and we know that small safety errors can lead to deadly results.

 

DC Metro Fires 20 Managers After Multiple Smoke/Fire Injuries

After several years worth of DC Metro safety incidents that have led to several deaths and dozens of personal injury lawsuits, the general manager for the trouble-plagued metro system fired 20 station managers as part of his effort to reform the system.

The general manager, Paul Wiedefeld, followed through on earlier threats to fire managers in the troubled public transit system, after a catastrophic start to the year with multiple tunnel fire and smoke incidents that sickened many passengers. Also, a smoke and fire incident in 2015 led to the death of one woman and more than 70 personal injury suits for people who were sickened by smoke.

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In that 2015 case, electrical smoke near the L’Enfant Plaza station overcame the train and killed a woman and left the other passengers needing medical attention.

The mass firings came just a few days after DC Metro introduced a new ten month repair plan called SafeTrack that will result in virtual 24/7 work on metro tracks and equipment. This will result in entire sections of the system being closed for days at a time and many instances of single tracking trains during rush hour. This will cause major delays and headaches for tens of thousands of workers, but is viewed as essential to making the system safe.

Our train crash and accident lawyers in Virginia hope that DC Metro gets its act together soon. We have reported on the above tragic train disaster in 2015 before. Defective power cables generated a massive smoke cloud that overwhelmed hundreds of passengers. Passengers tried to flee the train by forcing open the doors. Power was cut off to stop the fire on the tracks, which meant that the train could not move, leaving passengers trapped.

We hope that the new safety emphasis with Metro means that there will be no more injuries and deaths, but if there is, we also hope that the injured parties will seek the counsel of experienced train accident personal injury lawyers.

 

 

 

 

Missouri Woman Wins $20 Million in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The widow of a Steele MO man who died in a rail road crossing crash in 2012 won $20 million last month in a wrongful death lawsuit verdict.

After just two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict favoring the plaintiff against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The deceased was a successful and well-known businessman who owned several lumber mills.

The late businessman died in a crash with a BNSF train on Oct. 20, 2012. The crash occurred when Spence drove his Chevrolet Silverado over railroad tracks on Stoddard County Road 470 in Steele. The only signal at this crossing was a railroad crossing sign without lights and gates.

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BNSF stated in reaction to the verdict that there was no negligence by BNSF, and it claimed that the evidence showed that the man did not stop at the railroad tracks.

However, the man’s family stated in response that BNSF needs to improve all of its railroad crossings by cutting down vegetation that obscures sight lines for drivers. They also urged that the railroad install lights and gates at all public crossings.

The plaintiffs also argued that the crossing was defective due to inadequate sight distances and no lights and gates.

It is common for many people to not realize that the railroad is responsible for maintaining the safety of public railroad crossings. One of the sources that apply to the proper maintenance of shrubs and vegetation at railroad crossings is the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. this publication has details about the sight lines that should be available for drivers coming to a railroad crossing. It is common for overgrown vegetation at crossings to prevent the driver from seeing the approaching train. Many railroads will try to argue, as BNSF did, that the driver was at fault for not stopping. Fortunately, the jury did not buy that argument in this incident.

As railroad crossing accident attorneys in Virginia, we have handled many railroad crossing incidents over the years. When we are retained for a railroad crash personal injury case, we often employ retired railroad workers to investigate the incident so that we have the highest chance possible of recovering damages for the client.

 

CA Police Investigate Fatal Railroad Crossing Crash

Just days after a fatal railroad crossing crash in San Leandro CA, police were well into their investigation of what caused the wreck that killed a woman and her three year old daughter.

Vanessa Henriquez, 30, and her 3-year-old daughter, Saidy, were in an SUV that got trapped between railroad crossing arms and several other cars when it was hit by an Amtrak train traveling nearly 80 MPH.

According to local police, the intersection and railroad crossing is unusual because it allows multiple cars to build up between the railroad crossing arms. They noted that even if the driver can see an oncoming train, there is nowhere to go.

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As experienced railroad crossing accident lawyers in Virginia, we know that these wrecks can have devastating consequences for the occupants of the vehicle. These accidents happen too often; the Federal Railroad Administration states that railroad crossing crashes happen every 12 minutes, with 9570 accidents occurring in 2009.

There are many reasons that railroad crossing accidents happen, and not all of them are due to driver error. One of the common problems is that the railroad fails to properly maintain the railroad crossing, which leads to vegetation obscuring sight lights.

In other cases, the safety gates may fail, and sometimes a car can get stuck on the tracks. We do not have enough information on the above tragedy to know if that occurred here. If we worked on that case, we would review data from the locomotive cameras, black box data event recorders and signal information to determine if there was any failure on the part of the railroad company.

From what the police stated, it sounds as if the entire design of that intersection could be hazardous, and that fact would also be closely scrutinized by our attorneys if we represented the grieving family.

Death at Railroad Crossing Highlights Danger with Maintenance of Way Vehicles

A deadly railroad crossing accident in Gilroy CA last year involving a Union Pacific maintenance vehicle has raised serious safety questions about these type of vehicles traveling through crossings and whether they always trigger crossing gates and lights.

The man who died, Don Williams, 55, was driving through the railroad crossing in Gilroy at Masten Avenue when his truck was blindsided by a maintenance of way vehicle that weighed 50 tons. According to the state highway patrol crash inquiry, the UP vehicle did not activate the grade crossing gates or signal lights.

Investigations by the California Highway Patrol and the Federal Railroad Administration determined that the UP driver had operated the rig negligently and violated several UP company safety policies. A warrant is out for his arrest.

Beyond the tragic death of Williams, this accident highlights what some railroad safety experts say is a major flaw in the way in which maintenance of way vehicles and other rail vehicles operate on the nation’s railroads. That is, they do not always activate bells and gates at railroad crossings.

The railroad crossing in question does have bells and lights but it was not functioning when he crossed the tracks because the rig did not ‘shunt’ the track. The wheels of the vehicle did not make electrical contact, so when the driver came to the crossing, there was no warning for drivers.

The FRA states that this is a common problem. The agency released a new safety recommendation last week in light of William’s death. FRA advised all railroads to review their procedures for how maintenance of way vehicles go through crossings.

The new FRA recommendations note that the crossing activation system is unreliable and all maintenance of way vehicles must approach railroad crossings slowly. However, these are only recommendations and there are no current federal regulations for how these vehicles go through railroad crossings.

Also, the technology that is still used to detect trains today was first designed in 1872, and continues to be used across the country.

Our railroad accident attorneys in Virginia are greatly concerned that some maintenance of way vehicles do not properly trigger crossing gates and lights at railroad crossings. It also is alarming that a train engineer in this case apparently neglected his duties and proceeded through a railroad crossing with blatant disregard for safety.

There are cases where a railroad and its employees disregard public safety and should be sued in civil court for damages. This provides a warning to other companies and individuals to always put public safety first. An experienced railroad injury attorney can often win a large financial settlement in cases where the railroad obviously acted in a negligent fashion.

Train Conductor Sues Union Pacific for Injuries on Job

Union Pacific Railroad is being sued after one of its employees was allegedly thrown from a rail car in Cheyenne WY.

The plaintiff filed his lawsuit on April 8 in Laramie County District Court in Wyoming. The complaint stated that he was working as a conductor on Oct. 30, 2014 when he was thrown from the car and suffered a partial amputation of his right foot.

The complaint states that the railroad caused the accident because it did not provide safe tools and equipment for the worker to do his job, and also it failed to ‘provide an efficient hand brake,’ and did not ‘provide a safe and proper procedure to perform the assigned task.’

Therefore, the plaintiff is seeking compensation for his medical costs, pain and suffering, loss of income past, present and future, and permanent disability.

As experienced FELA attorneys in Virginia, we know many situations where railroad safety improvements have occurred after the railroad has been exposed to serious financial liability through jury verdicts. Our law firm’s Richard Shapiro has been active in the coordination of information regarding dangerous railroad hazards with attorneys who represent injured railroad workers around the country.

One of the main reasons we do this is to hope that well informed FELA attorneys around the country as well as well informed railroad workers will bring about a safer work environment for all railroad employees.

Over the years, it seems that FELA has had a strong effect in improving railroad safety; there has been a decline in recent years in employee deaths and injuries in the railroad industry, which coincides with aggressive filings of FELA lawsuits on behalf of injured workers. We think that FELA is a strong tool to keep railroad roads focused on constantly improving worker safety.

Anyone who has been injured on the job at a railroad should consult with an experienced FELA attorney immediately.

Feds Issue New Safety Orders for DC Metro

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has ordered the Washington Metrorail system to take immediate action to reduce the chances of smoke and fire problems after a tunnel fire last week that forced metro officials to close a station for the evening.

The FTA has issued the new safety orders that mandate that the transit agency pinpoint power hot spots and to engage in immediate repairs in those high risk areas. FTA also has ordered Metro to engage in immediate training sessions with employees to boost emergency planning.

This federal directive has come down after there were two separate smoke and fire emergencies near the Federal Center metro stop last week, forcing the closing of the entire station. The FTA noted in its directive that early information showed that the transit authority’s responses to the emergencies were slow and inadequate.

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also has sent out its own recommendations to Metro, but this was right before the transit agency outlined its new, massive rehabilitation plan that will shutter large sections of the entire Metro system for a full year. This plan will require major repairs and upgrades that will take weeks and months in some areas.

These most recent incidents are just the tip of the iceberg for Metro. Last year, there was a tunnel fire near the L’Enfant Plaza station that killed one person and left dozens with smoke inhalation injuries. Attorneys representing those Metro passengers recently filed 87 personal injury lawsuits against the transit authority.

We are glad that Metro is finally going to be engaging in long-needed repairs to its systems in the DC area. Injuries involving chemical or smoke inhalation are very serious, and it requires the services of a highly experienced railroad injury attorney to gather the evidence and to work with doctors and other professionals, including a toxicologist, to show that respiratory injuries were a direct result of the metro accident.

 

 

FRA Releases List of Deadly Railroad Crossings

The Federal Railroad Administration just released its list for the worst and most dangerous railroad crossings in the US, and a notorious railroad crossing in Alabama made that list. However, state officials in Alabama claim that the problem has been fixed.

The majority of the problem railroad crossings are in heavily populated areas such as Phoenix, Baton Rouge, Memphis and Cleveland.

However, the crossing in Evergreen AL on I-65 with a population of 4,000 people also made the list. FRA states that the crossing has had 13 accidents in the last decade, and five fatalities; that is the highest number of deaths for any single crossing on the list.

Local witnesses who live near the Evergreen crossing have described the train crashes they have seen. They noted in some cases, cars that were waiting in the intersection were caught on the railroad tracks. The mayor for the town stated last year that he had ‘raised hell’ since 2010 to get safety gates on the crossing. They finally were added in 2013, and that seems to have fixed the dangerous problem.

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Our railroad accident lawyers in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina have seen many railroad crossing accidents over the years.

We had a railroad crossing case in Prince William County VA where our client was hit by a freight train. The impact caused the car to spin off the road but fortunately, neither the man or his children were killed. Both children suffered facial and head injuries.

Our investigation determined that the train crew had not acted improperly as they were not required to blow their whistle at that rural crossing. However, we also looked at the vegetation and brush around the track and reviewed the police officer’s notes, and we found that the driver could not see the train until the last second.

We demanded a settlement from both the client’s insurance company and Norfolk Southern.