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Yearly Archives: 2017
Federal railroad safety investigators concluded last month that a culture of safety lapses at Amtrak is what caused a collision between a passenger train and a backhoe that killed two Amtrak workers and injured 39 outside Philadelphia in April 2016.
Federal investigators determined that Amtrak workers at the site lacked critical safety equipment that the railroad required that would have steered the train around repair work being done on tracks.
The NTSB also found 20 cultural safety lapses, including an absence of a job briefing at the work site before high-speed trains were allowed to get back on the track, were among the unsafe issues that led to the fatal train crash.
The NTSB also found that Amtrak had tried to enforce safety rules but that Amtrak management had such a poor relationship with unions that workers were not reporting safety violations.
The case involved an Amtrak passenger train that hit a backhoe at 100 MPH at 7:50 AM near Chester, Pennsylvania. The crash derailed the train and obliterated the backhoe. The accident killed the backhoe operator and the track supervisor. Also, 39 people were injured on the train. The train crash caused $2.5 million in damage.
Safety board investigators found that one of four tracks in that area had been closed for 55 hours for repairs. But the track next to it, which was blocked by the backhoe, was only shut down temporarily during each worker shift and was left open by accident for passenger train traffic.
The night foreman lifted the track closure at 7:29 AM as the backhoe was still on the track, but the day foreman failed to restore the track closure on a call minutes later. This allowed the fatal crash about 20 minutes later.
Amtrak does have an automatic braking system installed that is supposed to avoid train crashes and derailments. Also, workers are equipped with supplemental shunting devices that can be placed on the track near construction sites that can change track signals to tell train engineers when tracks are closed.
But workers at the site of the fatal wreck did not have shunts.
Our train accident and derailment attorneys in Virginia are dismayed to read of the many safety lapses at Amtrak that led to a preventable train derailment. It is vital for railroads, including those run by the US government, to strictly obey safety rules. When railroads fail to do so, the results can be devastating in terms of deaths and personal injuries. Those injured and the grieving families involved in this terrible accident should remember that they have the right to seek compensation in civil court through either a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
US Congress will be investigating the safety of freight trains that are growing increasingly longer operated by CSX, Union Pacific, and other major railroads to increase profitability, according to the US Government Accountability Office.
As of 2017, train length is unregulated in the United States. Any effort to add rules to restrict train length will face strong railroad industry opposition because railroads like to increase the length of trains to increase profit margins; longer trains mean more efficient fuel use, better use of locomotive power and more rail cars filled with product without needing more crew.
In addition to the study being conducted by GAO, the Federal Railroad Administration is increasing its inspection presence at CSX railyards. An FRA spokesman did not explain the concerns over the length of CSX trains, but he noted that increased inspections could be due to complaints about safety and a large number of railroad accidents in recent months. The spokesman noted this month that there have been more accidents involving long freight trains that are being investigated by the FRA and NTSB.
Members of Congress reported this year that they have received more complaints about safety at railroad crossings, as well as complaints about traffic jams at crossings.
CSX told investors in October 2017 that its freight trains are 400 feet longer since March. That is when the new CEO launched a new plan to increase profits and streamline rail operations. However, FRA data shows that train accidents at CSX and incidents per miles traveled are at the highest in 10 years.
Concerns about safety have increased since a fiery derailment of a 180 car CSX freight train in Pennsylvania in August 2017. There also was a derailment on Nov. 27 of a CSX train in Florida that spilled molten sulfur.
CSX employees and unions have argued that many train conductors do not have the experience to safely operate such long trains.
Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys in Virginia are concerned about the increasing length of freight trains. The longer trains are, the more likely it is that a derailment could occur. Also, a longer and heavier train will take much longer to stop in case of an emergency. It is very common for railroads to push the rules to increase profits, and they are known to cut corners regarding safety if it means more money for shareholders.
If you have been injured in a railroad accident, be sure to read our books on railroad accidents and railroad worker accidents. You may be entitled to compensation when a railroad is negligent and causes your injuries in an accident.
A railroad crossing accident that killed a 74-year-old woman in Edinburgh, Indiana is sparking new worries about crossing safety across the state.
The woman, Sharon Gobin, was killed after her car was hit by a train that was rolling through downtown Edinburgh at 1 PM on November 20. The accident is still under investigation, but it has been confirmed that the crossing lights were flashing when the crash happened.
However, the accident is renewing efforts by some residents to have better safety features at many crossings along the Louisville-Indiana Railroad. Recent upgrades to rail lines have allowed trains to up their speed from 25 MPH to 49 MPH. The 49 MPH speed limit applies to downtown Edinburgh.
Over the last 24 months, community leaders and mayors have tried to get the US government to force the rail company to upgrade safety features at crossings south of Indianapolis. The mayor of Edinburgh and officials from other towns in the area were able to obtain $5.4 million in funding to pay for better warning signals and related safety features at 20 railroad crossings in Johnson County, Indiana. But that money is not going to be available until 2022. Trains have already up their speeds to 49 MPH, so there are serious concerns that more fatal crashes will happen.
Town officials also noted that they are concerned about the higher speeds allowed at crossings, as well as the limited visibility at several crossings, including the one where Gobin died last month.
There are nearly 300 people killed at railroad crossings in the United States every year. That is nearly one death per day. Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys in Virginia think that that number could be reduced substantially if there were better safety features at more railroad crossings across the country.
Another major problem with many railroad crossings is poor visibility. It is very common for vegetation and trees to grow up around railroad crossings that make it difficult for drivers to see oncoming trains. It is the railroad’s responsibility to ensure that this vegetation has been cut back, but they do not always do so. One of the railroad crossing accidents our Virginia personal injury attorneys handled once involved a man who stated that he could not see the train until the last minute. In that case, we made a demand for settlement from the driver’s insurance company and also from Norfolk Southern. That case was settled for $50,000 and $29,000 against the insurance company, and $32,000 and $22,000 against Norfolk Southern.
Reports from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) show that a Cleveland, Ohio train crossing is one of the most dangerous in the United States.
The FRA report states that the crossing is at the 8200 block of Bessemer Avenue in Cleveland. The report indicates that the crossing is in the top 15 of railroad crossings in the US with 12 or more accidents in the last decade.
According to nationally recognized railroad safety expert Bob Comer, FRA reports show that 34 accidents have occurred at the crossing since 1980. There was a collision between a car and Amtrak train in December 2015 that had several minor injuries.
Comer noted that Norfolk Southern appears to be in compliance with federal safety standards, but there are still accidents at the crossing for several reasons. He stated that the crossing may need to be redesigned as there is a jog in the road, and there is also a rise in elevation at the crossing. Further there are industrial properties all around the crossing and high brush and trees that affect visibility.
He also stated that there is not enough signage warning about poor visibility at the crossing. Comer suggested that adding a traffic light at the crossing would greatly improve safety. The light would correlate with trains approaching.
According to the Cleveland councilman for that district, the intersection does need more safety measures.
Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys in Virginia know that line of sight is critically important at railroad crossings. Drivers need to be able to see if a train is coming before they begin to go through a railroad crossing. If their ability to see down the railroad tracks is affected, it can be dangerous to make the crossing.
Many railroad crossings have warning lights and bells to tell motorists that a train is coming. It is not clear if these are featured at the crossing in Cleveland, but clearly, there are line of sight issues and a lack of signs that warn of poor visibility.
Foliage growing around railroad tracks is one of the most common line of sight issues. If brush and trees are not properly cut back, it can lead to serious accidents. Our Virginia railroad accident attorneys hope that improvements are made to this railroad crossing soon to prevent further accidents.
Our railroad crossing accident attorneys have seen cases where poor visibility led to an accident at a railroad crossing. While a sizable settlement was reached, we would like to see fewer of these accidents in the future as localities do more to ensure full visibility at railroad crossings.
A jury in Tyler, Texas awarded more than $8 million to a truck driver from East Texas who suffered serious injuries in a railroad accident in May 2015.
The truck driver was injured while he was unloading a feed truck into a train car at a trans-loading facility in Mt. Vernon, Texas. The railroad conductor told the truck driver to get on the top of the train car, but he then moved the car without telling the truck driver. He fell more than 15 feet and suffered serious personal injuries that left him without the ability to work.
The key moment in the personal injury lawsuit came when the conductor provided contradictory testimony regarding the accident.
The man who was injured told the media that he was relieved that he had been compensated for his injuries so that he could begin the healing process.
Our railroad injury and personal injury attorneys in Virginia are pleased that this injured truck driver received ample compensation for his railroad accident injuries. In the type of railroad work accident described, it is very important that the railroad conductor and the truck driver communicate clearly to avoid a serious accident. Because that did not happen, the truck driver is now dealing with life-changing personal injuries.
Personal injury lawsuits constitute the majority of civil lawsuits in the United States. Many of these accidents occur on the job and can often be avoided.It is important to avoid workplace accidents because they, of course, injure workers, but also cost companies a lot of money. Here are some tips to avoid workplace accidents:
- Have a safety and wellness plan. This is the foundation for a safe workplace. The program should cover all aspects of employee safety and health. The above case could have been avoided if there was a protocol in place to prevent the train car from being moved when someone was on top of it.
- Educate staff. It is important to constantly cultivate a culture of safety with employees and management. There should be regular training about the importance of following safety procedures to prevent personal injuries and lawsuits.
- Study safety vulnerabilities. Every business and industry are unique, so you should ensure that you study the ways that accidents can happen in your specific workplace. That way you can avoid them.
If you were injured in a workplace or other type of accident, you may be able to receive compensation if someone acted negligently, as in this $130,000 neck injury settlement we handled a few years ago.
At least 17 of the top commuter and intercity railroads will receive millions of dollars in funding from the US government to increase rail safety with automatic braking systems that are intended to automatically slow down trains that are in potentially dangerous situations.
The Department of Transportation stated last month that it would issue $197 million in funding after commuter railroads have opposed looming deadlines to implement the safety systems, known as positive train control or PTC.
Congress ordered PTC to be implemented by 2015, but commuter rail systems complained that they lacked the funds to meet the date. The new deadline is now the end of 2018. The new federal funds should help the commuter rail lines to meet the new deadline for PTC, which could reduce the chances of train crashes and derailments.
Some of the busiest commuter rail lines in the country welcome the funding infusion.
In Florida, the Southern Florida Regional Transportation Authority will get $32 million to install PTC. This is the second-highest tranche of funding for a single commuter rail group. The Tri-Rail commuter line is 72 miles long and runs through the crowded Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. Also, the Florida Department of Transportation will receive nearly $2 million funding for the Central Florida Rail Corridor.
According to Federal Railroad Administration Executive Director Patrick Warren, the federal funds for PTC installation will help some of the busiest commuter railroads in the country to improve rail safety for millions of train passengers every day.
In recent years, there have been several possibly preventable train crashes in which PTC could have been a lifesaver. In Hoboken, New Jersey in 2016, a commuter train smashed into a major commuter train station, killing a woman and injuring 100 other people. The train was shown to have been moving at double the intended speed. A PTC system could have automatically slowed the train so that it could have entered the terminal normally.
Research indicates that the implementation of positive train control can lead to a reduction in train-to-train crashes, derailments due to excessive speed, train movements through malfunctioning train switches, and unauthorized entry of trains into work zones.
Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina would like to see PTC installed as soon as possible on commuter train lines. There is no doubt that positive train control systems will lead to a reduction in train crashes and derailments that lead to serious injury and death, personal injury lawsuits, and wrongful death lawsuits.
Work is continuing in Virginia to install Positive Train Control (PTC) onto railroad tracks that experts say could have prevented many recent, fatal train accidents, such as in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Virginia Rail Express (VRE), a popular commuter rail line in the state and in the metro Washington DC area, stated in early March 2017 that it is on track to have all trains and cab cars outfitted with PTC in the next few months.
VRE trains are on CSX and Norfolk Southern tracks in Virginia, and Chief Executive Officer of the VRE, Doug Allen, stated last week that the commuter rail line is working with both rail companies to get PTC done.
Allen noted in a press conference that VRE is installing radios and computers, which communicate constantly with the systems being installed on all tracks. Once the system is fully operational, it will be able to stop or slow a train automatically to avoid a train crash or train derailment.
Several recent train crashes on the East Coast have highlighted the need for PTC.
In May 2015, an Amtrak train was going too fast on a curve near Philadelphia. Eight people were killed. In September 2016, a New Jersey Transit train crashed in the Hoboken commuter station, killing one. Many experts believe the train accidents could have been prevented with PTC.
VRE wants to start testing the new PTC systems by September 2017, and hopes to have the system up and running by next year.
Our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys in Virginia are pleased that positive train control is soon to be fully operational on all VRE trains in the Commonwealth. PTC can likely prevent many serious train accidents and derailments that kill and seriously injure many people nearly every year.
Our personal injury rail road accident law firm has handled lawsuits where a train derailed and led to catastrophic personal injuries. Our law firm and co-counsel represented a gas station worker who suffered a traumatic train injury when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into his workplace.
The man suffered many serious, orthopedic injuries and brain damage. The train crash verdict was $60 million with interest, and we were proud to get that case resolved so the victim could get the medical care he needed.
If PTC can prevent those types of disastrous train crashes, the system will be entirely worth the cost.
Cancer including mesothelioma that is linked to asbestos exposure has been found to kill Maine residents at the fastest rate in the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A March 2017 CDC report on mesothelioma and asbestos has brought new focus onto the many dangerous of asbestos exposure. Researchers in that study found that from 1999-2015, the annual death rate due to malignant mesothelioma in Maine was 22.06 per million residents. That is the highest rate in the country. The state of Washington was the only other state that was above death rates of 20 per million.
Across the US, 45,221 people who were mostly male died from mesothelioma in that time period. Mesothelioma is a terrible and incurable cancer of the lining that surrounds the major organs, including the lungs, heart, and digestive organs. It is normally fatal. The sole cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, most commonly in industrial related work decades ago.
The CDC report determined that there was a 4.8% increase in mesothelioma deaths in the above time period. Health officials noted that most of those deaths were in those over 85. This suggests that the asbestos exposure happened long ago. Mesothelioma usually takes 20 to 50 years to develop in people who have been exposed to asbestos fibers.
The report shows that mesothelioma is still claiming many American lives, even though it has been 45 years since the US started to regulate how workers are exposed to asbestos. The EPA currently bans the use of asbestos in many products, but it still is permitted in some products, such as roof shingles.
The CDC stated that mesothelioma deaths have dropped in people under 55. But the fact that there still are deaths shows that some workers still are getting exposure to asbestos.
In the case of Maine, the majority of mesothelioma cases are first diagnosed from the ages 55-84. The CDC report focused on job site exposure to asbestos, but the substance occurs naturally in soil and rock. The study noted that some common Maine industries are higher risk for mesothelioma, such as construction, ship and boat building.
Maine’s homes are also some of the oldest in the US; at least 31% were built prior to 1950. Thus they are more likely to contain asbestos fibers. Materials that have asbestos in them do not usually pose a health risk as long as they are not disturbed. but any renovation or demolition work can cause the deadly fibers to be released into the air.
Our railroad attorneys have handled many mesothelioma and asbestos cancer cases involving railroad workers, who were exposed to asbestos insulating materials which was prevalent on railroad for decades, on steam engines, diesel engines, railroad work places and railroad equipment. The study in the state of Maine has shown that workers with exposure in shipbuilding or other industries that were heavy users of asbestos insulating materials, have been stricken with asbestos cancers 30 to 50 years following their exposures. The same findings apply with railroad workers handling asbestos insulating materials, These workers are turning up with terrible mesothelioma cancer or asbestos related cancers decades after their exposures.
Our railroad mesothelioma attorneys are concerned that the rate of mesothelioma deaths is on the rise. If you or a loved one are suffering from mesothelioma, we suggest that you download our free guide Understanding Mesothelioma and the Devastating Impact of Asbestos on Railroad Workers. This guide will provide you with a good overview of your legal options. You may be able to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation for injuries associated with asbestos exposure.
A 59 year old man was killed on March 12 in Longmeadow, Massachusetts when his work truck was struck at a railroad crossing by an Amtrak plow train.
The death of the man at the railroad crossing has brought up many worries and complaints from many in the community. Many feel that there should be additional safety features at that railroad crossing, which is in Longmeadow at the crossing on Bernie and Pondside Road.
There is a stop sign at the railroad crossing and a railroad crossing sign. However, residents say the lack of traffic signals or gate arms are a serious danger at the crossing. Most of the other crossings in the area have those safety features.
There have been other ftal crashes at this crossing, and now the Longmeadow town manager is talking about adding those safety measures at the crossing.
He noted that the Department of Public Utilities in Massachusetts has the responsibility and authority to add safety features.
Safety at railroad crossings has improved substantially over the years. Back in 1981, there were 728 deaths at US railroad crossings. That had fallen to 233 by 2015, despite the substantial growth in the US population.
However, in 2016, the total number of deaths at US railroad crossings climbed to 265. Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys hope that this increase is temporary and is not a trend.
Our railroad accident attorneys have seen in past railroad accident lawsuits that serious personal injuries and deaths can occur at railroad crossings.
It is important to realize that while drivers and pedestrians have responsibility to stop at these crossings, there are many federal regulations in play at railroad crossings, and sometimes one of the stakeholders could be in violation of a law or rule that leads to an unsafe crossing.
Federal regulations, for example, set rules for when a train must blast its horn when approaching a crossing. Federal rules further dictate how trees, shrubs and vegetaation must be cut at a railroad crossing to ensure visibility.
The federal rules for railroad crossings are largely laid out in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and another set of standards is issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA).
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed at a rail road crossing, it is important to understand that railroad crossing accidents are very complex. In the case of personal injury or wrongful death at railroad crossings, we employ retired railroad workers as investigators to get to the bottom of the case.
Many people who are seriously injured or killed at railroad crossings are entitled to substantial financial settlements due to negligence on the part of a stakeholder, such as the railroad or the local authority that maintains the crossing.
A leading freight railroad has been urging Congress to pay for passenger railroad companies to install positive train control or PTC on all passenger trains.
BNSF Railway has been one of the leading companies promoting the use of PTC, a technology that will slow a train down automatically that is going over the speed limit.
PTC will eventually be required by law for all freight trains. But BNSF says that the efforts for more train safety will be futile if passenger and commuter trains do not have the same technology; all of the various types of trains share the same tracks.
BNSF is actively urging Congress to fund PTC for commuter rail services. The head of BNSF told Congress this month that he fears that a crash will happen where a freight train has PTC but the passenger train does not.
Congress first gave commuter and freight trains until Dec. 31, 2015 to install PTC. This advanced GPS technology can prevent derailments, collisions, crashes and improper train switching.
But railroads struggled to meet the deadlines and lawmakers gave them until the end of 2018 to comply. However, recent train crashes in New Jersey and elsewhere have increased pressure on stakeholders to get PTC done as soon as possible.
Freight trains are getting PTC installed faster than commuter trains. BNSF recently tested 35,000 PTC segments in the last 60 days, and 85% of them had no problems.
Our railroad accident attorneys have long been advocates of PTC. The idea of positive train control has been around since 2008 when a Metrolink crash in California killed the train operator and two dozen others. In that terrible train crash, the operators was texting a friend on a cell phone, which caused him to run a red light, and tragedy resulted.
President Bush signed a law that would require all railroads to implement PTC systems by the end of 2015. Now the deadline is the end of 2018. We hope it is installed before then because the Federal Railroad Administration states that the system could prevent up to 52 accidents each year.
The new system is expensive and will present both time and financial challenges for railroad companies. But the fact is that the technology will save lives. Also, major freight companies are largely on schedule with PTC. Commuter and passenger trains are lagging, but perhaps with some federal help, they will be able to meet the 2018 deadline as well.
If so, many tragic train crashes, personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits could be avoided.