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Monthly Archives: September 2016

New Jersey Train Station Crash Kills 1, Injures 100

A New Jersey Transit train crashed and derailed as it arrive into Hoboken Terminal just before 9 am on Thursday morning. The rush hour train crash killed one person and injured more than 100. Images posted on social media showed that the train tore through a wall and severely damaged the station, leaving train debris strewn about and twisted metal columns after the wreck.

hoboken

According to witnesses, the train pulled into the station traveling far too fast, overrunning its stopping point. It slammed into a bumper block, went airborne and slammed into a passenger concourse in the terminal. One witness who was in the front car told the media that the train did not appear to slow at all as it came into the station. Another passenger on the train stated that the train did not brake at all when it entered the station.

The woman who died was Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, from Hoboken. She died when she was hit by debris while standing on the platform.

The engineer’s name is Thomas Gallagher, 48, and he was treated and released from a hospital. He is cooperating with investigators on the train accident.

Some federal lawmakers said after the crash that positive train control could have helped avoid this tragedy. The system combines GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor trains and to stop them automatically from crashing, derailing or speeding. New Jersey Transit has not yet installed PTC. The deadline set by Congress to install PTC in all passenger trains has been extended until 2018.

The train’s event recorder has been recovered and NTSB investigators are analyzing its contents.

Our View

Our personal injury attorneys send condolences to the family of the woman who was killed in this tragic Hoboken train derailment and crash. It is too early to speculate about the cause of this train accident, but it is alarming that the train apparently did not slow at all as it entered the train station. Whether the engineer fell asleep, was texting on a cell phone or had a medical emergency, there is little doubt that PTC could have prevented this train accident in Hoboken and could have saved a life and prevented many serious personal injuries.

Positive train control has gotten much attention ever since a 2008 Metrolink train crash in California that killed more than 20 people. President Bush signed a laws that required PTC systems to be installed by the end of 2015, but unfortunately, railroads lobbied to get that deadline extended until 2018.

Other safety experts have pointed out that if the railroads or commuter train companies were required to have two crewmembers in the engine or in the forward car, it would prevent tragedies like this where a single crew member gets distracted or falls asleep.

Our hope is that this train crash will serve as a wake up call for railroads to stop dragging its collective feet and get PTC installed on its trains as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Lethal PA Railroad Crossing Called ‘Seriously Deficient’ by Railroad Experts

A railroad crossing in Halifax PA where new mother Trisha Hoffman died on Sept. 4 has been termed ‘seriously deficient’ by two railway experts interviewed in early September by PennLive.com.

Pennsylvania state law does not require that drivers stop at all railroad crossings. They only must stop for flashing lights, gates, or if they know a train is oncoming.

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The problem with that railroad crossing at Susqeuhanna Trail Road and Route 147 in Halifax is that it is very difficult for drivers to see that a train is oncoming before it is almost on top of you. That is the opinion of Gus Ubaldi, an airport and railroad engineering expert with Robson Forensic in Lancaster PA.

That railroad crossing also has no stop or yield sign, even though it is recommended by nationally accepted standards for railroad crossings.

Norfolk Southern Railroad uses that track and crossing, but it told PennLive.com that the crossing is public, so that the Public Utility Commission of PA should determine signage and other requirements for it. However, it was determined that the crossing is actually private according to the Federal Rail Administration, so Norfolk Southern would be responsible for safety concerns.

According to Ubaldi, a driver on Susquenhanna Trail Road has to see a train 732 ft. down the railroad track from 70 feet before the car reaches the crossing. But at this crossing where the woman perished, the driver approaching the crossing cannot see anything other than trees and brush. When the driver is able to see a train approaching, the car would already be over the tracks.

Ubaldi stated that in his expert opinion, the deceased driver was not at fault

Our View

Our railroad crossing accident attorneys truly regret the loss of in this tragic railroad crossing accident. Railroad accidents obviously can lead to serious personal injury and death if crossings are unsafely maintained. From the coverage of this Pennsylvania railroad crossing accident, it would appear that Norfolk Southern may not have properly maintained the crossing, leading to a railroad crossing death.

Railroad crossings must have proper sight lines for drivers, with bushes, brush and trees properly cut away from the tracks. If the railroad crossing was improperly maintained, the railroad could potentially be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Our attorneys have worked on million dollar railroad crossing accident settlements before, and we hope this young woman’s family considers all of their legal options carefully.

 

 

 

Kentucky RR Crossing Has Major Safety Issues

Changes have not yet been made to a railroad crossing in Oakland KY that saw a local man lose his life in a train-car accident in early August 2016. And State Rep. Michael Meredith has taken notice.

Meredith stated recently that the crossing makes it too easy for a train to sneak up on the driver. He noted that you have to be almost over the railroad track before you can look down the line to see if a train is coming.

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He added that there have been two fatalities at that railroad crossing in the last five years. He is pushing the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to look at this area of the track.

Railroad crossings across Kentucky are reviewed every few years, but only five crossings per year usually receive funding for any upgrades.

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents are not always the fault of the driver. As a railroad crossing accident personal injury lawyer, I know that railroad companies do not always maintain the railroad crossing as carefully as they should. Sometimes, vegetation will grow up around the railroad track and make it difficult for the driver to see an oncoming train.

Our railroad accident attorneys represented a client in Prince William County VA a few years ago. His vehicle was struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train. The children in the back seat had various injuries, including one who had a skull fracture around his eye.

We examined the scene of the accident, noting that the car driver had stated he had no chance to see the train and could not have avoided the accident. We noted the vegetation, trees and brush at the railroad crossing. We demanded a settlement from the father’s insurance company and also from Norfolk Southern. It settled for approximately $125,000. 

 

Railroads Sluggish to Adopt Safety Technology as Deadline Passes

Many commuter and freight railroads continue to be slow to adopt safety technology that could prevent deadly crashes and derailments. This is in spite of the fact that that Congress has mandated that railroads install positive train control or PTC. 

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PTC uses digital radio signals, GPS and signals on tracks to monitor the position of trains. It has the ability to automatically stop or slow a train to prevent it from disobeying a signal. This has the potential to prevent derailments and serious accidents, including trains entering tracks that are closed for maintenance.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, some railroads have made some progress, but many others have yet to equip a single train or track with the technology.

Congress passed the law in 2008 which gave railroads seven years to install PTC. Last year that deadline was extended for three more years. But according to Sarah Feinberg, head of the FRA,, railroads should not delay in installing the technology. Every day that goes by without PTC, she said, we are risking another serious train accident.

As of summer 2016, PTC is installed on 9% of freight route lines and 22% of passenger rail lines. Freight railroads  have also outfitted 34% of their locomotives with PTC.

However, progress varies greatly by railroad. BNSF has equipped 3/4 of its locomotives, while Union Pacific has barely equipped any of its locomotives at this point.

Our View

Our railroad accident attorneys in Virginia hope that more railroads will get PTC implemented as soon as they can. It seems wrong that the technology exists right now to greatly reduce the chances of train collisions and derailments – thereby saving many lives – yet many railroads are dragging their feet to install PTC. 

They may think they are saving money by not installing PTC, but as this $60 million verdict shows, a train derailment can be extremely costly for a railroad, both in dollar terms and in terms of its professional reputation.

Ohio Man Dies in Railroad Crossing Accident

A 70 year old man in West Chester Township OH near Cincinnati died on Aug. 24 in a rail road crossing accident. 

The driver was crossing the railroad track when his SUV was struck at high speed by a train.

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There were witness reports that stated that the crossing gates may not have come down in time. West Chester Township police are investigating whether the gates were working properly. Another witness stated that he did not hear the train blow its horn or whistle.

Our View

It is not unusual for safety gates to malfunction; either they stay up entirely or they drop too late. We have even seen gates come down too late and trap a car on the tracks. If the safety gates did indeed malfunction in this train accident tragedy, the family of the deceased should talk to a personal injury attorney.

Our railroad crossing accident lawyers have represented clients who were injured at railroad crossings. In this Virginia case a few years ago, our client’s car was hit by a freight train, which left his two children in the back seat with skull fractures and other injuries. 

Our train accident attorneys from Virginia investigated the accident scene and took careful measurements and photos. We also looked carefully at the trees, brush and vegetation, because the car driver stated that he was not able to see the train until the last moment.

We also looked at VA common law, the jury instructions that would be given at trial and we demanded settlement from the insurance company of the driver and also from Norfolk Southern. The settlement helped the children to recover from their injuries.

 

New Study: Peritoneal Mesothelioma Risk Does Not Decline After Decades

A recent published clinical study in Italy has shown one of the most devastating and deadly factors about malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: The risk for contracting the terminal disease is high even many decades after the asbestos exposure ended. 

asbestos

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a horrible form of mesothelioma that infests the membranes that surround the organs in the abdomen.

Asbestos exposure is well known to be the major cause of mesothelioma. But this latest study conducted new research that conclusively showed that the specific risk of peritoneal mesothelioma is still very high after many decades have passed from the exposure period.

The study was conducted by Italian scientists abroad and used a group of former textile workers. The group featured 1083 women and 894 men who were exposed heavily to asbestos, even if that exposure was short.

Among the 1977 former workers, 1019 had died. Research concluded that these workers were 30% more likely to die of peritoneal mesothelioma than the public. These workers also have a 33% higher risk of dying from pleural mesothelioma.

Critically, the study found that the risk of lung cancer did decline after 25 years after asbestos exposure. However, the risk of contracting mesothelioma of either type did not drop as time passed.

asbestos

Researchers determined that asbestos fibers have a quality they call ‘biopersistance,’ which means that the body has a very difficult time ridding itself of them. The irritation and inflammation at the cellular level because of constant exposure to the sharp asbestos fibers is thought to trigger the disease.

Our View

This disturbing study on the horrors of mesothelioma should serve as a potent reminder to all workers who think they were exposed to asbestos years ago: You should undergo regular medical examinations by a qualified physician to determine if you have any sign of any asbestos-related disease developing.

Our mesothelioma attorneys in Virginia handle railroad mesothelioma cases mostly, and we know how railroads such as Norfolk Southern, CSX and BNSF Railway were exposing their workers to asbestos daily , when they knew it was dangerous.

We have handled several successful mesothelioma lawsuits in the past against big railroads, and wrote this free guide for workers who have been exposed to asbestos: Understanding Mesothelioma and the Devastating Impact of Asbestos on Railroad Workers. 

If you have been exposed, you should review this free guide so that you know what your potential legal options are.