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Category Archives: Railroad Derailings
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Two people died today and 35 injured in an Amtrak train derailment near Philadelphia, when the train slammed into a backhoe that was on the tracks. The train derailed, with seven crew members and 341 passengers on board.
The train was traveling from New York City to Savannah, GA when the lead engine derailed in Chester PA at 8 AM on April 3.
Two men were on or near the backhoe when the train hit it and died at the scene. Both men were Amtrak employees.
Passengers on the Amtrak derailed train stated that the crash between the train and backhoe caused a large fireball and smoke.
Investigators stated that it was not clear when the backhoe was on the tracks, but Federal Railroad Administration officials were on the scene and were studying the crash.
It is a shame that this entirely preventable train derailment led to loss of life and injuries. While we do not yet know what led to the tragedy, it is most alarming that the employees on the backhoe were Amtrak workers. Amtrak should be much better at communicating between oncoming trains and other company employees. How is it possible that the workers did not know that an Amtrak train was scheduled to come through that section of track at that time?
Amtrak will face multiple liability issues in this train derailment, both for the injuries to passengers and the deaths of these two workers. An experienced and tough railroad accident attorney will be able to ensure that the injured parties’ rights and those of the families of the deceased are properly represented and protected in upcoming litigation in this matter.
A Philadelphia law firm stated this week that it will seek punitive damages in lawsuits filed for six more passengers in the deadly Amtrak derailment last May.
The law firm, Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, stated that the complaints that were filed in federal court will be consolidated with others that were filed earlier this year.
The law suits allege that the accident could have been avoided if better safety precautions had been implemented by Amtrak.
Eight people died and 200 were hurt in the May 12 derailment. The train entered a curve at double the 50 MPH speed limit.
Last week, Amtrak announced that it had activated a new safety system on that part of the track. The system is called positive train control or PTC. It is a complex package of equipment and communications upgrades that monitor and control speeds of trains and locations to prevent collisions and derailments.
Anyone who has suffered an injury in a train derailment will have a lot of questions about how to proceed in the legal sphere. Our team of railroad accident lawyers has handled many train derailment personal injury cases in the last 30 years. One of our lawyers wrote a leading treatise on railroad health and safety that sits in most major law libraries.
We also reached a $190,000 settlement in a case where our client was an employee in train transportation service, and the train derailed. Parts of his body hit the train, and he started to have headaches and tingling in his right arm after the accident. The case was tough to settle but with our tenacity and experience, we were successful.
We have written two excellent legal guides on railroad worker injury law that could be useful to you if you have a loved one who has been injured in a train accident. You can download these helpful railroad injury guides here.
After an Amtrak train derailed last May in Philadelphia, which killed eight people and injured dozens, it appeared that the railroad industry’s efforts to delay the installation of safety technology on all passenger trains was at an end.
However, under pressure from Warren Buffett’s BNSF Railway Company, the US Congress passed another law that delayed the implementation of positive train control safety measures for at least 36 months.
This technology would automatically slow a train if it were going too fast, such as on a curve.
Therefore, railroad companies can delay buying and installing safety equipment that likely could prevent accidents such as the derailment in Philadelphia.
The argument by Buffett’s company and other railroad industry advocates was this: If the positive train control technology mandate was not delayed, railroads would purposely slow how they do business due to liability concerns. Their rationale was that if a railroad missed the deadline to install new safety equipment, that company would face serious liability issues because they would be operating outside of law. So, the railroads would then decline to carry both passengers and commodities. They also would not deliver products that are classified as hazardous materials, including ones that are important to US commerce, such as ammonia and chlorine needed for water treatment plants.
BNSF spent almost $4 million to lobby Congress to slow down the safety equipment mandate.
Our railroad accident law firm is hardly surprised that railroad companies have teamed up to delay the implementation of vital safety technology that would save lives. One of our lawyers, Randy Appleton, recently wrote about how money spent to upgrade railroad safety systems is tiny compared to what a major train crash costs.
Appleton wrote that 20 year installation, testing and maintenance costs for positive train control could be as much as $24 billion. However, how much money does it cost when there is a major train derailment that kills and injures scores of people? How much emotional trauma, pain, disabilities, lost wages and loss of work is there when there is another crash?
Our firm’s position is that rail companies should install positive train control as soon as possible to reduce the chances of future accidents.
The head of the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) promised to be aggressive in urging railroad companies to install newly mandated safety systems as soon as possible, even though Congress moved the deadline back to 2018.
The safety system is called Positive Train Control or PTC, and was supposed to be operating nationwide by the end of 2015. Its widespread use could prevent terrible derailments such as the Amtrak crash last May that killed eight people in Philadelphia. Railroads were behind schedule, so Congress decided to give them three more years to install PTC.
The FRA head, Sarah Feinberg, urged this week that railroads should not delay until the last possible moment to install PTC. She urged them to make it their goal to be first across the goal line. She added that the public deserves the added safety features as soon as possible.
The rail administration stated that it will have additional details on how it will approach the new PTC deadline in the coming weeks.
Train derailments are often completely avoidable tragedies that could have been prevented if the railroad had done proper maintenance on equipment and had followed all federal rules and regulations.
Our train accident legal firm worked on a derailment of an Amtrak train in 2000 in South Carolina where a street sweeper jumped a street curb and went up the CSX train tracks and damaged the tracks. An Amtrak train came along and hit the street sweeper, resulting in a derailment that injured passengers and employees.
Our legal team went to work on this very complex derailment case. We studied the damage to the sweeper and we brought in an accident reconstruction engineer. We also did a land survey, took measurements and pictures of the accident scene and much more to build our case.
Our theory was that a lack of a full ballast section allowed the sweeper to hit the cross ties and metal rail of the train tracks. Eventually, we proved that the track damage that led to the derailment would not have occurred if the ballast section had not failed to meet the specifications of CSX.
This case went through two appeals, and eventually CSX and Amtrak paid to settle this very complex case. While the street sweeper did have some liability for the accident, poor safety and maintenance on the part of the railroad companies did contribute to the accident.
Needless to say, we strongly support all railroads installing vital safety equipment to prevent derailments – as soon as possible.
A lawyer who represents most of the families of the 47 people who died in an oil train derailment in Quebec two years ago said last week that a Canadian railroad’s refusal to pay into a settlement fund is ‘reprehensible,’ and the families will sue the railroad.
Canadian Pacific states that it does not have any responsibility for the disastrous, fiery wreck in Lac Megantic Quebec in July 2013. It is blaming the derailment on the railroad whose train derailed.
That Chicago-based attorney stated that Canadian Pacific knew that the oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region was very unstable, before it handed it off to the other railroad.
Much of the downtown area of Lac Megantic was left in ruins when a train that was operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway with 70 oil tankers. It derailed on July 6, 2013 and set off several explosions and blazes. The company in Maine has filed for bankruptcy, and the settlement fund is wrapped into those bankruptcy proceedings in Canada and the US.
Wrongful death lawsuits have been delayed until the settlement is approved; it is valued at $339 million US. Judges in Quebec and Maine have approved the fund; it includes $110 million Canadian to settle all of the wrongful death claims.
Canadian Pacific will not contribute to the fund and has opened itself up to many lawsuits. If it had contributed, it would have been offered legal protections.
We are sad to see that Canadian Pacific will not accept liability for this tragic train derailment. As railroad accident lawyers, we have experience with railroad companies trying to protect profits over people.
Our law firm was proud to represent a gas station worker that was seriously injured when a Norfolk Southern Train derailed and smashed into his store. He was left with serious traumatic injuries and a traumatic brain injury.
His first lawyer wisely reached out to our law firm to handle the railroad related liability aspect of the case, and we entered the case as co-counsel to jointly try the case in Manassas, Virginia. We not only helped prove the railroad was negligent, we helped to win him a $60 million verdict, later settled for a confidential sum.
After the deadly Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia earlier this year that killed five, some lawmakers wanted to see a speed enforcement system implemented right away. However, this week Congress passed a bill that will delay mandates for railroads to add such safety upgrades.
After the derailing in May, the CEO of Amtrak pledged to make the safety upgrades by the end of the year. However, the new bill will delay the upgrades for 3-5 years. Amtrak has stated that they will try to get it done in three years.
A congressman from PA stated this week that it is everyone’s best interest to delay the safety upgrades until it is possible to get them done safely and fully. He added that if Congress decided to penalize the railroad companies now, it would only lead to reduced rail traffic, which would only hurt consumers.
It saddens us, as railroad accident attorneys, that this derailment ever occurred, and it’s even sadder that the necessary safety upgrades to prevent such tragedies are being delayed. We have seen all too many times how railroad companies will sacrifice public safety for profits. Some of these companies simply put the bottom line for shareholders above all else.
A recent case we handled was where a railroad conductor was hurt on a train car due to an insecure, loose side ladder. He had a serious back injury that required surgery, and he could not return to his job. Of course, the railroad denied they had anything to do with the injury. Our team argued that the loose ladder was a regulatory violation, so we did not have to produce any evidence that the railroad knew about the problem ahead of time.
Through the expert testimony of a railroad safety specialist, we showed that relevant safety appliance act regulations had been violated. We reached an $825,000 settlement.
By Randy Appleton, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney
A West Virginia crude oil train derailment in February 2015 that caused a fire and forced several hundred people to leave their homes was due to a split rail, according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) last week.
Two CSX rail inspections in December 2014 and January 2015 did not detect the defect in the rail before the derailment on Feb. 16. The FRA stated that broken rails are one of the top causes of railroad accidents. Railroads that move crude oil through communities have to be as safe as possible, FRA stated that CSX, as well as other railroad companies, must be more careful in their inspection processes.
FRA stated that it will mandate that CSX provides inspectors with more access to earlier inspection reports to prevent accidents in the future. FRA also stated that it will look at the need for better railhead wear standards to prevent such derailments.
FRA gave $25,000 fines to CSX and Sperry Rail Service, which is the company that did the inspections. A Sperry Rail Service inspector was reported to have seen the rail fault but declined to get out of his car to look at it.
The derailment outside of Mount Carbon WV caused 27 cars loaded with shale crude oil to fall off the tracks. The oil threatened to leak into local water supplies, and smoke from the large fire forced hundreds to evacuate their homes.
Our railroad accident law firm in Virginia is all too well accustomed to irresponsible train and railroad companies that neglect to ensure that their equipment is in proper working order. This often leads to derailments that cause serious injury. We once had a client whose train derailed, and his body hit metallic parts in the cab. After he left work, he went to the ER because he was having headaches as well as shoulder pain. He started to have headaches often and also tingling in his arms.
It turned out that the accident caused a spinal cord syrinx, which caused spinal fluid to collect beside the spinal cord. Our job was to convince a jury that the derailment led to the injury. It eventually was settled out of court for $190,000.