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Why You Need an Experienced Railroad Derailment Lawyer When You Suffer Injuries or Lung Damage From a Train Wreck
No one can feel completely safe when a train goes off the tracks. “Train wreck” did not become shorthand for a disastrous situation for no reason.
As Virginia-based railroad injury lawyers for going on 40 years, we have seen firsthand some of the worst results from train derailments. We helped several victims of the Norfolk Southern chemical train crash in Graniteville, South Carolina (SC), that released a massive cloud of deadly chlorine gas. We also secured a $60 million award for a man who suffered permanent brain damage after a train literally flew off its tracks and crashed into the gas station service building in which our client was working.
- A Brief History of Railroad Injury Law in Virginia
- Dangers From Trains Transporting Chemicals, Oil Ever-Present
The people most likely to get injured or killed in train derailments are, of course, crew members, track workers and rail yard employees. When on-the-job accidents occur, railroad staff have undeniable rights to file claims for the payment of medical bills, lost wages, disability costs and, in the worst cases, funeral expenses and wrongful death settlements.
Railroad workers who get hurt or killed while on duty are covered by the Federal Employers Liability Act. Usually shortened to FELA, the law does much of what state workers’ compensation laws do for workers in other industries. The biggest difference is that when a railroad refuses to settle a work-related injury or death claim, the rail employee or the employee’s family must file a federal lawsuit. The case itself can be heard in a state court, but it is essential to hire an attorney who has national experience with handling FELA lawsuits.
A few reasons for this include the following:
- Federal safety laws control the actions of railroads and violating those laws automatically creates liability.
- Obtaining critical evidence and company records often requires filing requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
- How to identify the types and locations of records and evidence that might be destroyed or lost will not be obvious to someone working their first FELA case.
- Most railroad companies operate across state lines, giving them resources a law firm that only takes local cases will lack.
Perhaps most importantly, knowing the railroad company usually proves invaluable in successfully countering the arguments and obstructionism of the defense team in a FELA lawsuit. An attorney who has spent decades fighting for the rights of rail employees will have many connections inside a company who can confirm details about a derailment and corporate policies and procedures. An experienced FELA attorney will also be able to call upon a broad range of experts to conduct investigations and testify on his client’s behalf.
If you need information regarding your legal rights after any type of railroad accident involving injuries or deaths from a train derailment, crash or release of toxic chemicals, please contact our law firm for a free and confidential consultation.
An Amtrak train traveling from New York City to Miami slammed into a freight train in the early morning hours of Feb. 4, killing at least two people and injured 116 others. Thousands of gallons of fuel also were spilled.
Amtrak stated that the train was carrying eight crew and 139 passengers when it struck a CSX train near Cayce, South Carolina at 2:35 AM. Both of the dead worked for Amtrak, according to South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster at a news conference. Video of the scene appeared to show the CSX train was on the correct track, while the Amtrak train was not, the governor added.
The South Carolina Amtrak crash was the second train accident involving the company in less than a week. Last Wednesday, an Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia struck a garbage truck in rural Virginia. A sanitation worker in the truck was killed.
The cause of the latest Amtrak wreck was not clear. The NTSB stated this morning it had begun an investigation of the train crash. A railroad consultant named Steven Ditmeyer stated in a telephone interview with the New York Times that it looked as if one of the trains had not obeyed a signal.
Amtrak has had a series of high profile crashes and derailments over the last several years, which has led to harsh criticism from government officials and consumer groups. The Federal Railroad Administration reports that it has had approximately two derailments per month, which is approximately 25% of the accidents FRA reports.
Amtrak has responded to criticism that it is a safe travel option for more than 30 million passengers per year and has a strong record of safety. But after a 2016 derailment in Pennsylvania where a train hit a piece of track equipment and killed two, Amtrak acknowledged that improvements needed to be made.
Amtrak has installed postive train control (PTC) on segments of its rail network in the northeast US, which can automatically slow speeding trains or stop them if an engineer does not obey a track signal. Ditmeyer noted that PTC could have prevented this type of train crash, but CSX is not required to have their PTC system operational before the end of this year. The end of 2018 was the date set by Congress after several delays, but few railroads seem to be in a hurry to spend the time and money on the safety system, the rail consultant stated.
Our Virginia and North Carolina railroad accident attorneys are alarmed that yet another railroad crash has occurred that could have been prevented if positive train control had been installed. Just last week, we wrote a post about the Amtrak railroad crash that killed a 28 year old man in Crozet, Virginia.
Railroads have opposed PTC upgrades because of the cost, but what is a human life worth? Now two more people are dead and many more are injured in a train crash that may have been preventable. Both railroads will likely face expensive personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, so we urge all US railroads to stop using the cost excuse and get PTC installed on its railroad tracks immediately.
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.
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.
A Long Island, New York Rail Road commuter train crashed at the end of a platform on Jan. 4 as it pulled into a station, hurling passengers to the floor and slamming them into one another.
The front of the slow moving commuter train hit a bumping block as it was pulling into Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. The train left the tracks and slammed into some railroad work equipment. A rail also pierced the floor of one of the train cars.
Approximately 100 people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Many had been standing up, waiting to get off the train as it slowed.
Many people were carried out of the train on stretchers. Others sat stunned on the pavement, holding ice bags to their heads and bleeding.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the train crash.
Our Virginia railroad accident personal injury attorneys studied this Long Island train accident, and will be watching closely for the NTSB’s conclusions on the cause of the crash. This train crash bears similarities to the train crash that happened in Hoboken, New Jersey last year. In that case, the train engineer may have lost consciousness as the train was pulling into a station. That crash killed one and injured dozens of others. Here, the railroad’s own track maintenance personnel may have been involved in the cause of the terrible crash, time will tell.
In the Long Island commuter train crash, it is possible that the engineer had a medical emergency or was distracted by something as the train pulled into the station. This could have been prevented if the train had been equipped with Positive Train Control (PTC), which would automatically stop a train before it is able to run a red signal orproceed at high speeds into a dangerous situation, because PTC is capable of automatically slowing a train’s speed. The railroad industry has lobbied to delay federal mandates on installing PTC on train until 2018. We fully appreciated that these safety improvements will cost substantial monies, but the railroads must be forced to make concrete strides in moving forward with PTC systems.
Anyone who was injured in the Long Island train crash could have injuries that could take months or years to recover from. In that case, filing a personal injury lawsuit could be appropriate. With appropriate legal guidance from a railroad accident attorney, a railroad accident personal injury lawsuit can result in compensation that can be used to help the injured to recover from their injuries, and to compensate them for lost work time. Our railroad injury law firm lawyers have handled dozens of prior railroad derailments and light rail prior injury cases, throughout the eastern USA and have the knowledge and experience necessary in these type of cases.
In the wake of a deadly commuter train crash in a busy Hoboken, New Jersey train station, New Jersey Transit has approved a budget that includes funding for large parts of positive train control (PTC) system, which would include an automatic braking system that could automatically stop a train in an emergency situation.
New Jersey Transit approved an agreement for leasing radio frequency spectrum, which is an essential part of a PTC system, to cover northern and eastern areas of the railroad in the state. In April, the transit authority worked out a deal to cover the southern, central and western areas.
NJ Transit has until the end of 2018 to fully implement PTC, per the federal deadline for the installation of PTC on all commuter train systems.
When the commuter train in Hoboken crashed, killing one and leaving 100 injured, the NTSB quickly concluded that an automatic braking system may have prevented the disaster. In that crash in late September 2016, the commuter train was rolling into the Hoboken station at a normal 5 MPH, but suddenly increased speed and crashed into the terminal, spraying debris through the waiting crowds of commuters.
It is not yet known why the train sped up; the engineer has no memory of the crash.
When a train derailed in Philidelphia in May 2015, the NTSB also determined quickly that the derailment would have been prevented by PTC.
Our railroad accident and railroad derailment lawyers are glad that New Jersey Transit is working on installing PTC on its trains and rail lines. PTC could prevent 52 accidents per year, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The NTSB also claims that if PTC had been in place, it could have prevented 15 train crashes since 2005 that killed 50 people.
Our personal injury attorneys implore the US and state governments to implement Positive Train Control more quickly. We should be keeping up with countries in Europe and Asia that already have versions of PTC in place.
When train derailments occur, the injuries and deaths are devastating to families. And those derailments can lead to huge personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that can cost the railroad tens of millions of dollars in a jury verdict. PTC is a smart investment.
A long Island Railroad work train sideswiped a New York passenger train on the evening of Oct. 8, injuring 30.
While there were no life threatening injuries reported, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano did stated that some of the injuries included broken bones and concussions.
The passenger train involved in the railroad crash was the train that leaves at 8:22 from Penn Station in New York. The rail accident happened after 9 PM. The crash caused the first three cars of the passenger train to derail.
Mangano said the crash happened near a switch, but is was unclear if a switch malfunction led to the crash and derailment.
Our railroad injury personal injury attorneys based in Virginia are relieved that there were apparently no life threatening injuries in this train crash. However, there were serious personal injuries reported and we hope all of the injured passengers recover.
As personal injury lawyers who have won record-setting verdicts in train derailment cases, there are far too many train accidents across America that occur due to lapses in safety. Earlier this month, a serious commuter train crash occurred at a busy station in New Jersey, killing one and injuring more than 100.
In both of the train crashes, it appears that safety issues led to serious accidents. One important safety feature that could prevent some collisions and derailments is Postive Train Control or PTC. This system is based on GPS technology and would automatically stop a train if a collision were imminent. Railroads lobbied Congress to push back the date to install PTC on all commuter trains until 2018. That’s too bad, because it is possible that these two serious train crashes may have been avoided with better safety techology in place.
The engineer who was running the train in Hoboken NJ that smashed into a busy commuter rail terminal, which killed a woman and injured more than 100, told federal investigators this week that he was only going 10 MPH as he approached the station, but has no memory of the crash.
The statement from the train engineer, Thomas Gallagher, came as federal investigators discovered that a data recorder on the train that was supposed to record speed and braking data did not work. Investigators say there is a second data recorder but it is under a collapsed part of the station’s roof and they cannot get to it.
Federal rules require that commuter trains have a functioning recorder in the lead car, and the boxes also are supposed to be inspected each year.
Gallagher stated that he was fully rested and the train was functioning normally last Thursday morning before it crashed. The crash took the life of Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, who was standing on the train platform.
The investigation will continue in the coming weeks, and investigators hope they can get to the second data recorder soon.
Months before this deadly New Jersey train crash, federal rail authorities have found dozens of safety violations in safety audits that focused on NJ Transit’s safety and operations.
From what the engineer is telling investigators, it is possible that he had some type of medical emergency during the crash. Hopefully this will become clearer in the coming weeks.
If he did have a medical emergency in this tragic train crash with death and personal injury, this points to the need more than ever of Positive Train Control (PTC) on all passenger trains as soon as possible. This is a GPS-based safety system that can prevent over speed derailments and train to train collisions.
PTC could prevent many terrible train crashes and derailments, such as this case with serious personal injury in Virginia that we won a verdict for $60 million.
But there’s also another possible simple explanation of the engineer falling asleep and having no recollection of the circumstances. Many safety experts have called for no less than two operators or engineers of not only commuter railroad trains, but on freight trains and passenger trains.
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.
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 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.
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.
On June 3, a crude oil train derailed in Mosier, Oregon, spilling thousands of gallons of oil and causing local residents to evacuate.
The 16 car derailment in Oregon was caused by a set of broken bolts that were missed during a routine inspection by a track inspector with the Oregon Department of Transportation.
ODOT recently concluded that several lag bolts that fastened rail lines to the ties had sheared off and rusted over several years. The inspector simply missed them.
The trains are owned by Union Pacific Railroad and its own inspectors passed over those same bolts several times.
The accident shows that some simple steps could have prevented the derailment. For example, if the inspectors from Union Pacific or from the state government had walked the stretch of track rather than just driven over it in a truck, the accident could have been prevented.
The unseen bolts have exposed what some experts say is a major flaw in national railroad inspections. Federal requirements give the railroad leeway as far as how they inspect the track and government checks are rare.
The Federal Railroad Administration blames Union Pacific for the accident and is considering enforcement action against the company. The FRA stated that broken lag bolts can be spotted by inspectors if they walk the tracks instead of drive. Regulators add that walking the curved sections of track is an especially good idea but Union Pacific does not do so.
The FRA stated after this accident that it expects railroads to go beyond its minimum inspection requirements to ensure track safety.
The railroad industry states that 99% of hazardous material shipments arrive safely, but there have been two dozen crude oil spills by rail on the last few years in North America. Most of them were caused by back track, which highlights the need for safety inspections to be stepped up.
Our train accident attorneys in Virginia are glad no one was hurt in this oil train derailment. We are very familiar with how railroads will sometimes cut corners to increase profits. We wish that railroads would do a better job with inspecting tracks so that there are fewer serious train derailments.
While inspections cost money, train derailments cost more, and lead to serious injuries and death. We won a $60 million jury verdict in Manassas VA where a train derailed and crashed into a gas station, causing serious brain injuries for a worker there. We eventually proved that Norfolk Southern was responsible for the accident.