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Monthly Archives: June 2016

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Claims Railroad Trestle Is Hazardous

A railroad trestle in Wilkes-Barre PA is a public safety hazard that has killed one person and left another person severely injured, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Luzerne County PA this week.

The trestle crosses over East Thomas St. at South Cleveland St. in Wilkes Barre, and has  a large gap between a set of current and former railroad tracks that is a major hazard, according to the lawsuit.

trestle

That is where a 29 year-old man died last year. He was riding his dirt bike through the opening at 2 am on April 26, 2015 and fell 20 feet to the ground and died. The owners and operators of the bridge had known it was hazardous since May 2014, when an ATV rider also fell through the hole and suffered serious injuries.

Attorneys representing the widow and her daughter filed the suit against the owner of the trestle, the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority and Luzerne County Rail Corp.

The attorneys stated that the defendants did not take any action after the first accident to restrict or impede the public from using the railroad right of way, as well as the trestle.

Our View

Fatalities on train tracks and train trestles are far too common, but in our work as railroad accident lawyers, we find that railroads often delay or fight important safety upgrades to save money. We have seen railroads hesitate to spend money on fences, No Trespassing signs, systems that would allow dispatchers to slow or stop trains and more. We advise all railroads to do more to control track access and to improve protections on train trestles for people who live and work near them.

People whose loved ones have died at or near train tracks such as in the above tragedy should talk to a personal injury attorney to determine if the railroad may be held liable.

 

 

 

Union Pacific Railroad Sued for Man’s Injuries at Crossing

A man from Beaumont TX is suing Union Pacific Railroad for his injuries after a February 2013 crash that happened on a Beaumont railroad crossing on Highway 90.  The man was driving a big rig hauling a crane when the trailer got stuck at the crossing. He hopped out of his truck to look at the damage, and then a train slammed into his rig. The lawsuit alleges that he suffered mental and physical injuries.

 

crossing

The man’s attorneys stated that the trucker did not have a clear view of the stretch of tracks when he got out of his rig. The lawsuit further alleges that the train operators did not blow the horn when they approached the crossing, and they were not paying attention to the tracks when the crash happened.

Our View

We often represent injured clients who were hit by trains at railroad crossings. By using retired railroad workers as investigators, we are able to investigate the circumstances of the crossing and also we can pick up the phone and speak to other experts on railroad crossings. For example, we have represented people who were hit at railroad crossings and we were able to show that appropriate warnings were not followed at the crossing. In some cases, the vegetation was not properly cut around the tracks, which meant that drivers did not have a clear view of oncoming trains. In other cases, the train operators failed to blow their whistle, leading to a collision.

NY Jury Awards $3.2 Million in Machinist Mesothelioma Case

The estate of a machinist mate in New York has been awarded $3.2 million in compensation for the mesothelioma he contracted while working for Jenkins Bros., a company that made the valves that led to his asbestos exposure.

In the case at the Supreme Court of New York, County of Schenectady NY, the estate of Scott Shays was awarded the multi million dollar award for his past pain and suffering and loss of the pleasures of life.

Federal-Employee-Liability

The jury found Jenkins Bros. 50% responsible, stating that the company acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of workers.

According to court documents, Shays was exposed to asbestos gaskets, packing and external insulation that were found in and around Jenkins valves, which he used in his time in the US Navy and Vermont National Guard. He served as a machinist mate fire apprentice from April to December 1976.

Shays died from pleural mesothelioma in April 2016 and was 57 years old.

Our View

Mesothelioma is a horrible and incurable form of cancer that affects the linings of the organs, including the lungs, heart and abdominal organs. It also affects the nerves and blood vessels in parts of the chest, so it is especially painful and difficult to treat. Most mesothelioma victims die within 18 months, and the disease is nearly always caused by exposure to asbestos.

In our work as railroad mesothelioma attorneys, we know that there really is no safe level of asbestos exposure. All types of asbestos can cause mesothelioma. Even if the worker has a short exposure period – as apparently was the case in the above NY lawsuit – it can be enough for the mesothelioma to be considered at least partially related to the person’s occupation.

In the railroad industry, we know that these companies try various tricks and tactics to delay and drag out legitimate claims that are filed under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). For instance, our mesothelioma legal firm once represented two railroad workers who contracted mesothelioma from their work as conductors and switchmen.

The railroad argued that it had no asbestos in products that the workers would have ‘normally’ been exposed to. However, we brought in experienced industrial hygiene experts who accessed internal railroad documents and invoices. They concluded that the workers were indeed exposed to deadly asbestos fibers in their work on the railroad.

They sadly died before the case was brought to conclusion, but at least our mesothelioma attorneys were able to secure a large settlement to ensure the finances of their grieving families.

 

 

 

2015 Philadelphia Train Crash Caused by Distracted Engineer

The Amtrak engineer that ran a train off the rails outside Philadelphia in May 2015, which killed eight people, was most likely distracted by several radio dispatches, according to a source close to the federal investigation.

The engineer who was running Amtrak 188 informed federal investigators that he hardly could recall the moments before the late night crash. He added that he had a vague, dream like memory of the train going too fast around the curve and he hit the brakes at the train tipped over.

Federal-Employee-Liability

Federal investigators found that in the minutes before the deadly crash, there were radio reports that another engineer’s windshield on another train had been hit by something, possibly a bullet. Investigators think that the engineer on Amtrak 188 was distracted by that radio dispatch, as well as a rock that hit his windshield at about the same time.

In addition to the eight who died, more than 200 were injured. Dozens of personal injury lawsuits have been filed so far, and Amtrak is not denying liability for the accident.

Our Virginia railroad crash attorneys hope that lessons are learned from this tragic train crash in Philadelphia. One of the things that could prevent future incidents is Positive Train Control, which would automatically slow down a speeding train that is entering a curve too fast. Of course, many railroads have opposed federal deadlines mandating the installation of Positive Train Control on all passenger trains.

One of our attorneys, Randy Appleton, recently wrote how absurd it is that railroads do not want to spend money on PTC, given the massive liability costs in a major train derailment. Hopefully, all railroads will install PTC in the near future and these types of tragic and fatal train crashes will be a memory.

 

 

Amtrak and CSX Warn Drivers to Be Cautious at Railroad Crossings

Amtrak and CSX have teamed up with local police agencies in the Rochester NY area to remind drivers to take care around railroad crossings. The safety effort started this week along King Road in Chili NY near Rochester.

This railroad crossing was the site of a fatal car and train crash in 2015. Investigators stated that the crossing gates came down and an Amtrak train came through. Before the gates went up, a driver crossed into the path of a CSX train and was killed.

crossing

CSX and Amtrak stated that drivers need to be sure that they always yield to signs and signals at railroad crossings.

The Federal Railroad Administration parroted this message during this safety blitz, and the FRA has promoted a mobile phone app that it is working with Google to add alerts about upcoming railroad crossings on its GPS mapping systems.

Our Take

Railroad crossing accidents are far too common in the US. Thousands of people are killed or injured each year because of these accidents. In fact, the FRA tells us that cars and trains hit each other every 12 minutes in the US.  But contrary to the message promoted by the railroads, the motorist is not exclusively at fault in the causal analysis of tragedies that occur at railroad crossings.

Take as one example stop signs added at railroad crossings in many rural areas. One would think that adding a stop sign at a railroad crossing would be a logical, solid idea to avoid tragedies where railroad trains strike cars or vehicles causing tragic injuries or deaths. In fact, a major study that I blogged about years ago found just the opposite, adding stop signs at many rural crossings increased crossing collisions rather than decrease them. Car drivers clearly need to use great caution around railroad crossings, keeping in mind that modern Amtrak trains travel up to 79 mph and some freight trains travel at 55 or 60 miles an hour. A train can be traveling at 60 MPH or more and appear from around the bend at a railroad crossing in a split second.

While some of these railroad crossing injuries and deaths are due to driver error, our experience as railroad crossing attorneys in Virginia has shown us that railroad negligence often is involved:

  • Maintenance problems: Sometimes the railroad crossing collision is caused due to the lack of light sport gates at a busy railroad crossing. Or, trees or shrub vegetation has grown up around the railroad crossing tracks that obscured the driver’s vision.
  • Train/railroad engineer operator error: In a study of 10,000 car/train accidents, human error was involved in almost 35% of them. Some of these were due to a sleepy train operator.
  • Distracted railroad transportation personnel (engineers or conductors): Train crews, just like car drivers, can become distracted by cell phones, the radio and other things, although more recently the use of cell phones has been banned during regular train operations.
  • Active gates and lights failure: There have been railroad crossing collisions where the gates malfunctioned, and even trapped a car on the tracks with a train approaching.

If you are involved in a railroad crossing accident, an experienced railroad crossing injury lawyer will be able to review all of the evidence of the crash, including video from the locomotive’s on board cameras, data event recorders and signalization information. An experienced railroad crossing injury lawyer may assist in determining if the railroad was to blame, which can result in a financial settlement to compensate you for your injuries, pain and suffering.

 

What To Do If You Are Diagnosed with Mesothelioma in Virginia

Many former railroad workers – including conductors, engineers, switchmen, track maintenance workers and more – are diagnosed with serious cancers after their working days are over. These include mesothelioma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, brain cancer and colon cancer.

We talk to many families loved who wonder, was the cancer caused by being around equipment that had asbestos in it? Many of these family members really had no idea what their loved one did on the job; few of them were ever around the railroad yard or office.

Federal-Employee-Liability

That is why experienced mesothelioma railroad cancer lawyers like us often are investigators for railroad workers and their families. Our job is to dig deep into railroad company records, often decades old, to determine which asbestos-tainted railroad equipment that worker may have been exposed to. Was it the engines themselves? The caboose? The roundhouse? Or was it asbestos-lined brake parts? Was it something else?

It could have been many or all of those things, depending upon the mesothelioma cancer claim. After all, most railroads, including CSX, Norfolk Southern, Conrail and others, used asbestos for decades to heat insulate their products and equipment because of the outstanding insulating quality of most forms of the toxic substance.

As experienced railroad mesothelioma lawyers, we know that the terrible health effects of long term asbestos exposure were known by some railroads as early as 1930. Yet, they continued to expose their workers to the deadly fibers, which can cause this horrible, aggressive and virtually untreatable cancer of the organ linings in the body.

That is why it is incredibly important for former railroad workers and their families to consult with an experienced FELA lawyer if they or loved ones may have been exposed to asbestos in their career. If it can be proven in civil court that you or your loved one was exposed on the railroad job to asbestos which substantially led to his or her asbestos cancer, you can be entitled to a very large financial settlement. ‘

These cases can be very tough to prove; railroads have huge financial resources and defense attorneys who try to argue often that the railroad had no asbestos in its products. We have seen railroads try that trick many times, and we usually are able to find internal railroad documents that state otherwise.

Is Your Railroad Cancer Claim Ruined If You Smoked?

Rick Shapiro, a Virginia and North Carolina railroad accident and disease lawyer, talks about the effect of a past smoking habit on your railroad cancer claim. Rick explains that, just because you smoked in the past, does not ruin your claim against the railroad for exposing you to toxic fumes and asbestos fibers.

What To Do If You or a Loved One is Hurt on the Railroad

Randy Appleton, a Virginia and North Carolina railroad accident lawyer, has over 30 years of experience representing injured railroad workers including trainmen, switchmen, engineers, conductors, and so forth. Randy explains what you need to do after a serious accident while working for a big railroad like Norfolk Southern, CSX, Burlington Northern, etc.