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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.

 

 

 

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.

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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. 

 

Railroad Unions Blast Amtrak Corporate Changes for Deaths in Philadelphia

Leaders of railroad unions say there has been a perfect storm of Amtrak corporate changes that is mostly to blame for two workers dying on railroad tracks near Philadelphia earlier this month.

Union officials wrote a letter to Amtrak President Joe Boardman last week and said that employee training is insufficient, and they demanded major changes in the policy on ‘close call’ reporting of dangerous incidents.

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They maintain that routinely hazardous conditions exist on the Northeast Corridor that Amtrak serves daily. Amtrak stated in response that it always tries to improve safety measures at the railroad, and that management and unions must work together to make this happen.

It was on April 2 that an Amtrak train slammed into a backhoe south of Philadelphia at high speed, killing two workers. The accident is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Our train accident attorneys in Virginia have seen far too many cases where railroads put profits ahead of employee and passenger safety. Many train accidents occur that probably could have been avoided if the railroad had better adhered to safety regulations.

It is particularly alarming when Amtrak, which is managed and run by the US government, is itself possibly not following safety regulations. Last week the Federal Railroad Administration ordered a complete safety review of Amtrak’s work crew rules and regulations.

Grieving families in a case where a person or company is guilty of neglect should file a wrongful death lawsuit to ensure that the family’s financial needs will be taken care of in the future.

 

 

 

FRA Demands Immediate Amtrak Safety Review

The Federal Railroad Administration has directed Amtrak this week to conduct an immediate safety review, due to violations that were revealed in the fatal crash and derailment in Pennsylvania on Sunday.

The FRA told Amtrak this week to do a safety stand down, which is a review of all of its work safety protocols with track workers and train dispatchers.

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In the crash this week, an Amtrak train slammed into a maintenance vehicle on the tracks in Chester PA, which killed two workers.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that a very simple safety device could have prevented the deadly disaster. It is a removable circuit that is made to ‘shunt’ tracks and trigger a red light stop signal. It was not in place, even though Amtrak rules state that it should have been.

Federal investigators are focusing on miscommunication on April 3, as a shift of track workers and supervisors took over for the previous crew. The train that slammed into the backhoe was on an active track that had been ‘fouled’ earlier, meaning that it had been removed from use temporarily because of a chance that workers on the next track could be endangered as they did their work. Investigators are working to determine how the train was allowed to continue through that stretch of track.

The investigation is ongoing, but they have uncovered several violations of safety rules that are troubling enough for the FRA to step in and demand a safety review.

Our train crash attorneys in Virginia truly regret the loss of life in this preventable train crash and derailment. It is sad that it appears that basic safety protocols were not followed by Amtrak that may have led to this deadly collision. How ironic it is that a railroad managed by the US government does not itself apparently follow its own safety rules issued by the FRA.

Our hope is that the cause of the crash is quickly determined, and that the families of the deceased pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. When handled by experienced train accident counsel, a train crash and derailment suit can result in multi-million dollar settlements.

Feds Told Amtrak to Install More Safety Systems Before Deadly Crash

Federal agencies have told Amtrak and other railroads several times over the last few years to use essential back up safety systems for workers on railroad tracks to prevent deadly accidents, as the crash and derailment that just happened in Chester PA this week.

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Sources with information about the Amtrak crash investigation that killed two workers have said that a communication lapse during a shift change may have led to the workers being on the tracks. Meanwhile, safety precautions that are intended to route trains away from those workers were cancelled.

This exact accident scenario has been a regular problem on US railroads, according to a 2014 Federal Railroad Administration report. That report stated that FRA is alarmed at the repeated occurrences of railroad workers being hit by or nearly hit by trains that seem to be due to miscommunications.

FRA stated in the advisory that back up safety systems were needed until positive train control was installed on all trains. While Amtrak has PTC on most trains in the NE corridor of the US, experts still say the system has not eliminated the need for back up safety protocols.

According to NTSB investigators, the Amtrak train slammed into a backhoe on the tracks in Chester PA at over 100 MPH and did not even slow down until five seconds before the crash. The brakes on the train were applied at the last seconds before impact.

The FRA report from 2014 recommended several backup systems where there could be the possibility of a communications break down. One of the devices is worn by workers that would alert them that a train is approaching, and would also warn train engineers of people on the tracks. Another system would be used for track maintenance vehicles.

Our railroad injury lawyers in North Carolina and Virginia are angry that this preventable accident that led to two deaths ever happened. It is the obligation of the railroad to use vital safety procedures and equipment to ensure the safety of workers and train passengers. We hope that the families of the deceased and injured file personal injury lawsuits against the responsible parties because effective counsel could likely win very large settlements or verdicts in this tragic case.

 

Iron County, Missouri Officials Urge Upgrades of Dangers RR Crossings

Dangerous railroad crossings are all too common in Iron County, Missouri, according to officials here. In December 2015, an Amtrak train slammed into a truck at a railroad crossing in Middlebrook MO and killed a local man.

In that case, it appeared that the man may not have seen the oncoming train and he drove over the tracks into its path. That particular crossing has only a yield and railroad sign but no warning devices.

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Officials say that that fixing that particular crossing in Iron County is one of their top priorities. They say that they intend to install more flashing lights and gates at some of the more dangerous crossings in the county. They also intend to add lights and gates at another crossing in Annapolis MO that is especially hazardous for tractor trailers. Trucks tend to get stuck on those tracks and that could lead to another deadly incident.

Our Virginia railroad crossing accident attorneys have seen far too many injuries and deaths in the past few years in these cases. In our experience, there is a tendency for the local police to just take the word of the railroad company’s investigator and blame the car or truck driver for the collision. However, there are many cases in our experience as railroad accident lawyers in Virginia where the railroad was negligent.

For example, there are often maintenance issues at particular railroad crossings. In particular, we have seen many railroad crossing accidents where there was too much growth of vegetation around the tracks and this obscured the vision of the driver.

It is the responsibility of the railroad to ensure that the railroad crossing is properly maintained, which includes vegetation being cut back that can reduce sight lines. Also, the railroad must ensure that the safety gates and lights are working properly.

In railroad crossing cases where the railroad was negligent, settlements of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars are possible. So, it is always worthwhile to speak to an experienced railroad accident lawyer if you have been involved in a railroad crossing accident.

 

 

 

Amtrak Train Derails in Kansas – 29 Injured

Five cars on an Amtrak train in Cimarron, Kansas derailed early yesterday morning, sending 29 people to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

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According to Amtrak, the train was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when it derailed at approximately midnight on Feb. 12.

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, five cars derailed and were on their side.

Although the cause of the accident is not clear at this point, one of the passengers told the NTSB that she felt the train shaking just before some of the cars derailed.

The NTSB has sent a team to the area to investigate the derailment. We expect that more information will be released about this derailment in the coming days.

Our train accident personal injury attorneys have worked on many passenger injury cases in the past, and we hope that all injured Amtrak passengers in this derailment recover quickly.

One of our attorneys, Richard Shapiro, was the author of 72 American Jurisprudence Trial Treatise, which is found in most US law libraries. It has a great deal to say about railroad and employee safety, which also is relevant in derailment cases such as this one.

According to the treatise on page 38: ‘Track safety is closely related to employee safety. FRA rules establish track safety standards. Track safety standards deal with such issues as operating speed limits, drainage under and adjacent to the roadbed, vegetation posing a fire hazard or visual obstruction, ballast and crosstie requirements, track geometry, rail defects, switches, frogs, and regularly scheduled inspections as frequently as twice a week.’

We are sure that the NTSB will be taking a very close look at the condition of the railroad track in the area of the derailment.

Our train derailment attorneys in Virginia have seen major railroads outsource track maintenance in the past, which can lead to safety problems. For example, CSX has tried to save money by leasing less used railroad tracks to smaller, short line railroads. This means that CSX does not have to maintain the track anymore. This means that CSX can then blame the small railroad for any mishaps that occur.

In cases where the railroad was negligent, we have had success in securing sizable settlements.

1 Dead After Train Hits Car in Jacksonville FL

One person died in Jacksonville FL when an Amtrak train slammed into an SUV that was straddling the tracks last week, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The police stated that the train hit the Chevrolet Tahoe at approximately 7:20 PM on Jan. 14. The driver of the SUV died after he was taken to a local hospital. According to witnesses, the driver apparently stopped on the tracks due to traffic.

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No passengers or anyone else was injured in the crash. Police continue to investigate the accident.

Our research and experience as railroad accident attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina tells us that 31% of railway fatalities occur at railroad crossings.

Despite what some people think, most train crossing crashes do not occur because the driver was trying to cross the tracks before the train got there. In fact, many railroad crossings are ‘passive’, meaning that they do not have gates or flashing lights. At many of those crossings, the driver is supposed to watch and listen for train. However, many of these railroad crossings have poor visibility. That was the case in one of our train crossing crash cases, where a Norfolk Southern train appeared suddenly and hit our client’s car, which caused serious injuries to his two children.

A study was done of train crossing crashes, and sight obstruction was found to be a problem in 689 crashes, which led to 87 deaths.

Active railroad crossings with flashing lights and gates also can be made to be safer. One problem with them is the warning time may be too long, which makes drivers impatient and they may drive around the gates. Sometimes the gates and flashing lights do not work properly, which opens the possibility of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

 

Track Defects and Human Error Cause Most Train Accidents

A new study of federal rail records has found that most train accidents are due to track problems and human error, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Some of those accidents and derailments have involved oil trains, but rather than focus on rail improvements and engineer training, US regulators continue to focus on beefing up tanker cars instead.

After several dozen crashes, derailments and oil spills in the last few years, rail authorities in Washington DC have enacted new regulations that will make oil tanker cars more robust. While this is seen as a good thing by many, the oil tanker cars themselves do not cause most of the accidents.

According to the former director of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Brigham McCown, the first responsibility of the government and rail companies should be to prevent the accident in the first place.

The study conducted by the newspaper in Columbus OH found the following:

  • 1/3 of train crashes in the last 20 years were at least partly due to track problems, including splits in the rail or a bad joint.
  • About 1/3 of the crashes were due to human error. These errors include an engineer nodding off as the train flies past a stop signal, or a worker not setting a brake properly.
  • Most of the other accidents reported to the Federal Railroad Administration were due to mechanical, electrical and signal issues.

The study stressed that as more trains are moving more oil by tanker car across the US, there should be a greater emphasis on improving train worker training, as well as beefing up rail line inspections by the Federal Railroad Administration. Railroads say that they are investing in better rail inspection technology, and also are purchasing better detectors that are installed along tracks.

While our rail accident attorneys based in Virginia appreciate the federal government’s efforts to improve oil tanker cars, it should be demanding that railroad companies enact tougher rail inspections. It also should pass new regulations that toughen training standards for all train engineers.

Railroads will always try to minimize their costs in any way possible, either on rail safety or in pay outs to victims in personal injury lawsuits. They always need to be closely regulated to ensure safety of the public.

We once had a $60 million verdict involving a Norfolk Southern train that derailed and smashed into a gas station, which led to severe and permanent injuries for our client. After a year of denying responsibility, the railroad finally admitted its culpability in the tragedy.

It took a lot of work on our part to get that verdict, but that is sometimes what it takes to get railroads to admit their role in derailments. Hopefully, tougher regulations on rail safety and engineer training in the future will reduce the likelihood of these types of accidents.

 

 

 

 

Most Railroads Won’t Meet Deadline For New Safety Technology

By Richard Shapiro, Railroad Accident Attorney

Only a few railroads will come close to meeting a new federal deadline to install new safety technology that may prevent some crashes. Some of those crashes include derailments due to excessive speed, such as the deadly Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia last May. 

Just three railroads have turned in their safety plans to the federal government. This is necessary before they can place the new technology – positive train control (PTC) – into operation. The railroads are BNSF Railway, Metrolink in Lose Angeles, and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Amtrak has not yet submitted their plan, but railroad authorities state that they think PTC will be operating in the Northeast Corridor by the end of the year.

The PTC being put into place uses GPS, wireless radio and computer technology to monitor the position of trains and will automatically slow or stop trains that may derail because they are going to fast or are about to crash into another train.

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A rail safety law that was passed seven years ago gave railroads seven years to install PTC. The technology is expensive, and many railroads did not move quickly. However, the May 12 Amtrak crash, which killed eight and injured at least 200, has spurred the federal government to start to push rail companies to get PTC installed as soon as possible.

As Virginia railroad accident attorneys, we have seen many train derailments occur due to poor maintenance and lax safety standards on the part of railroad companies. About 40% of train derailments in the US are caused by broken rails and track problems, and many others are caused by excessive speed.

A major union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, called this year for rail companies to do more for rail safety and to keep train tracks in proper repair. This is especially important in the case of oil trains; all it takes is one worn out section of track for a major derailment to occur, and this can be a true disaster when dozens of tankers carrying crude oil are involved.

Some companies have been fighting the installation of PTC on oil tanker cars, which we find to be truly unfortunate. The installation of PTC can not only reduce the incidence of oil trains derailing: It could prevent most derailments, such as the Amtrak crash that took so many lives. We hope that all railroad companies will get on board and get PTC installed as soon as possible, and generally do more to increase the safety of the US rail system.