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Monthly Archives: July 2016

North Carolina Pastor Dies in Railroad Crossing Accident

A pastor from Gaston County, North Carolina is dead after the waste management truck he was driving was hit by a Piedmont and Northern Railroad train near Lowell NC last Monday. 

According to the local police department. the driver of the truck was Thomas Collins, who was the pastor of New Canaan Baptist Church. He also drove part time for the local waste management company.

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The truck caught fire after it was hit by the Piedmont and Northern Railroad freight train.

The state police continue to investigate the crash. According to Sgt. Brian Holland from the local police department, there is no railroad crossing signal or stop arm at that crossing, ‘but I wish there was.’

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents happen every day in America, and thousand are killed every year in these accidents.

Our experience as railroad accident attorneys tells us that there are several causes of railroad crossing accidents:

  1. Maintenance problems: We have seen cases where there was too much vegetation around the railroad tracks, which obscured the driver’s vision of the oncoming train.
  2. Train operator error: Human factors contribute to more than 1/3 of car-train accidents.
    In every railroad crossing collision between a car or truck and a railroad’s train or engine, an experienced railroad crossing lawyer will learn whether the locomotive engineer operated the train horn in a timely fashion, if the engineer was obligated to blow the train horn/whistle, what the railroad’s operating rules required when approaching the crossing and what the witnesses actually heard in this regard. Secondly, maximum train speed is regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration, and the engine event recorder (black box) data must be reviewed to verify braking, speed, horn, throttle position and so forth.

    In some cases, the train operator falls asleep or is otherwise distracted. This means that they lose precious time to apply the brakes if something is on the tracks ahead. Also, railroads typically push railroad engineers hard and they often work long hours, with little warning when they need to report for duty.

  3. Safety gate failure: Sometimes safety gates and sensors fail.

Our railroad accident lawyers are adept at reviewing locomotive cameras, black box data recorders and signalization data so we are able to determine what factors led to the railroad crossing accident. In cases where the railroad is found negligent, large settlements can result. 

 

 

 

CT Congresswoman Reintroduces Rail Safety Enforcement Act

Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is leading an effort on Capitol Hill to reintroduce the Rail Safety Enforcement Act, which would mandate that railroads establish and implement a Fatigue Management Plan. It also would provide railroad workers with a defined start time, or at least 10 hours notice before reporting to the job. 

DeLauro made the announcement at the West Haven CT train station on Wednesday. This was the location where a Metro-North Railroad train struck a track supervisor and killed him in May 2013.

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At the announcement, a former railroad conductor commented that the biggest safety issue in the railroad industry is ‘fatigue, fatigue and fatigue.’ Francis Ariola is now the legislative director of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation union’s Transportation Division. He noted that union members are plagued with constant fatigue because they have extremely unpredictable work schedules.

Ariola noted that many workers are on call 24/7 and get as little as 90 minutes notice when they have to report for work.

The fate of the Rail Safety Enforcement Act is uncertain at this time, given that it is a presidential election year.

Our View

Our Virginia railroad injury attorneys know that railroads often disregard the need for adequate rest and sound sleep for train engineers. Serious injuries and deaths often result. For example, a National Transportation Safety Board report recently found that crew member fatigue played a major role in the collision of two trains. 

Our railroad accident attorneys truly hope that the Rail Safety Enforcement Act is passed into law soon so that train engineers will be able to get the much needed rest they need to prevent many train accidents. Some train accidents lead to major accidents that leave crash victims devastated and injured for life, such as this $60 million personal injury verdict we worked in in 2000. Any law that can reduce the chances of such a terrible accident is worth it.

 

 

Jury Awards $4.4 Million to Injured Railroad Worker

After a five day trial in St. Francois County, Missouri, the jury awarded $4.4 million to an injured BNSF Railway worker.

According to the lawsuit documents, Rob Hays from Raymore MO was working for BNSF operating a weld truck with a rail replacement crew along the Mississippi River north of Ste. Genevieve.

He was driving the truck with a remote control device while standing on a platform on the truck’s side. Rocks from a bluff near the tracks had fallen and were piled up next to the tracks, which is a violation of the clearance standards of the railroad. They struck the bottom of his platform and he was knocked off and dragged on the tracks.

trestle

He suffered a broken pelvis and hip and had to have part of the small intestine removed. The man no longer can do the heavy work of his old job but he can currently do office work.

The railroad stated that the worker was at fault, but the jury found BNSF 100% at fault. They also found that the railroad had broken a rule by the Federal Railroad Administration that mandates handrails on the platform.

Our View

Our railroad injury attorneys frequently represent workers who have been hurt on the job. It is hardly uncommon for the railroad to deny responsibility for the worker’s injuries. It usually takes the expertise of experienced and aggressive FELA attorneys to get the worker the compensation he deserves.

We had a railroad worker client who suffered serious back injuries when his foot fell into a depression in the ballast rock along railroad tracks he was walking beside. Our legal team was able to show that the track was improperly constructed, which led to the railroad ties creating small voids in the ballast rock profile. The railroad claimed it did not know about this problem but our lawyers were able to settle this tough case for $900,000.

WV Widow Names 100+ Companies in Asbestos Lawsuit

A recent case in West Virginia is a good illustration of how many different companies can be sued for exposing a former worker to asbestos, which can lead to mesothelioma in some cases. 

The lawsuit was filed by Lois June Wells from Middlebourne WV. her late husband Robert Wayne Wells was employed by Weirton Steel in Weirton and also for Miles/Mobay in nearby New Martinsville. One might think that only those two companies would be named in a wrongful death lawsuit but her mesothelioma lawsuit named 103 different companies that were allegedly responsible for his asbestos cancer, which led to his death in July 2015.

asbestos

The companies named in the suit have been accused of negligence for many reasons. The suit states that the companies knew or should have known of dangers posed by their products and that they did not provide warnings or supply safety equipment. Also, the suit alleges that equipment and supplies were not labeled and warnings were not provided.

Our View

Mesothelioma is a terrible form of lung and organ lining cancer that develops many years after the person is exposed to asbestos. Our mesothelioma law firm often represents railroad workers who developed asbestos cancer related to their work on railroads.

It could prove difficult in the West Virginia case for the woman’s legal group to prove more than 100 companies are responsible for her husband’s death, but we will watch that case with interest to see how it unfolds.

Large corporations are notorious for trying to deny that their products or conduct led to asbestos cancer in any of their workers. Many of the railroad companies we have sued tried to downplay for years the risks associated with asbestos exposure. This is not a surprise because companies do not want to spend money to make their workplaces safer.

However, our FELA law firm has been able to show in our mesothelioma lawsuits that the company(ies) usually knew years ago that asbestos exposure can lead to serious health consequences. Once we are able to establish that fact, as well as the fact that the company had asbestos-containing products to which the decedent was exposed, we have won very large personal injury asbestos settlements for our clients. 

 

Deadly Railroad Crossing Was Slated for Safety Improvements

A deadly railroad crossing in southern Colorado where five family members died when an Amtrak train slammed into their SUV, had been slated for several safety improvements for years. 

The rural railroad crossing near Trinidad CO, near the New Mexico border, was identified for several safety improvements since 2013, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

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According to the department, the safety overhaul for that crossing was to include flashers, gates, bells and a constant warning system at the crossing, which current only has signs.

The only person who survived in the family was a four year old girl. She still is in the hospital with serious injuries.

There have been six other accidents at the same crossing since 1986. One of them was fatal in 2010.

People who live near the crossing say that the driver’s view is completely obstructed by trees and overgrown brush. One noted that a driver ‘cannot see anything’ at that crossing, so it is very important to stop and look very carefully before proceeding.

Our View

We send our condolences to the family of those who were killed in this tragic railroad crossing accident. Serious personal injuries at railroad crossings are all too common across the US. If you or a loved one is injured at a crossing, it is important to have as much information as possible.

Many people do not know of all the regulations that are in effect at railroad crossings. There is a maximum speed set for a train at a specific crossing, and regulations also dictate when a horn or whistle must be sounded. Also, regarding shrubbery and vegetation, there are strict rules about maintaining them so that sight lines are clear for drivers.

The railroad that owns the tracks is responsible for maintaining the safety of the railroad crossings it uses, generally speaking. When a railroad crossing is not properly maintained and an accident occurs, it is possible that the railroad could be held liable in civil court, and the victims could receive a large settlement. 

 

 

3 Railroad Employees Missing After Head-On Crash in Texas

Two BNSF freight trains slammed into each other on the same track outside of Amarillo TX, with at least one railroad worker injured and three missing. 

According to a spokesman for the Carson County TX sheriff’s office, the chances of finding the missing crew members alive is low.

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The two train crash happened at 8:25 central time on Tuesday near Amarillo. The trains were carrying consumer goods and the wreck happened on the main line, which is called the Southern Transcon that connects Los Angeles with Chicago.

Experts say that while the investigation is in the early stages, it appeared that this type of accident could have been prevented if positive train control technology had been used. Railroads got an extension last year on implementing PTC until 2018, after most railroad were unable to meet a 2015 deadline. The system is designed to stop trains automatically when they are in an incorrect position or do not observe traffic signals.

BNSF stated that it intends to install PTC on the section of track where the accident happened.

Our View

Our hearts go out to the families of the injured and missing men in this train accident. As railroad accident attorneys, we know that many railroads have been delaying the implementation of PTC to save money. As I once wrote, this is an absurd argument when you consider the costs of upgrading safety equipment compared to the costs associated with the type of train crash above.

It is estimated that 20 year installation, testing and maintenance costs for PTC would be as much as $24 billion. That is a great deal of money, but the above wreck is going to cost BNSF millions and millions of dollars in property damages and government fines. Also, there will almost certainly be very expensive wrongful death lawsuits for the men who are missing and presumed dead.

Our railroad accident attorneys think that railroads should put PTC systems into their trains and infrastructure as soon as possible, even if profits are reduced for a few years. Such actions would help railroads to avoid massive lawsuits that can cost them millions of dollars.