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Some BNSF Railway workers in Whitefish, Montana are warning that they are working 12 hour shits that compromise safety. They claim that the long shifts can lead to extreme fatigue that could cause dangerous situations when hauling hazardous commodities.
One BNSF employee told the media that the company had started a new schedule that has workers working for 12 hours per day, and sometimes for 6-10 days straight.
That employee stated: “Such a safety sensitive job for engineers and conductors running trains that are up to 17,000 tons, hauling hazardous materials and such.” He added that these tired workers are at work more than at home anymore, and that the railroad is putting its profits.
About 40 employees attended a town hall gathering last week in Whitefish MT, and discussed ongoing problems with the general manager of BNSF in Montana. The major concern by the workers was that the work days are too long with not enough rest.
Some employees talked about having to work long shifts over 12 hours while they waited for the relief crew to show up. Other workers talked about the new system of scheduling that leaves workers unsure which day it is, and which shift they will be covering that day. One employee added that the workers go to the job fatigued and that it is a serious safety issue.
BNSF Railroad spokesperson Matt Jones stated that the company had changed its work scheduling in Whitefish, but that the changes do not affect safety. He noted that hours of service have not altered at all, and that the maximum number of hours worked and required rest periods are set by the Federal Railroad Administration.
Still, worker fatigue is a serious concern, given that it has been found to be the cause of several recent railroad crashes in recent years.
Our railroad accident attorneys are not surprised that BNSF may be pushing the limits on workers so they can make more money. We have worked on many cases in the last decade where rail companies have cut corners that compromised safety in the name of money. Our team has assembled a helpful guide on the Unique Legal Rights Available to All Injured Workers. This could be a helpful guide for you if you are a railroad worker injured on the job.
Work is currently underway at a deadly railroad crossing in Harriman, Tennessee that was the site of a deadly crash that killed two people in 2014.
In May 2014, a car was struck by a train at the crossing of US 27 and Mountain View Rd. in Harriman. Several safety improvements were announced early this year, which were funded by a federal grant.
Now at the crossing there are new warning signs, wider pavement and striping further back from the railroad tracks to warn drivers of the danger.
A Roane County supervisor stated that there are two more signs that will be added, as well. The changes were entirely due to the 100% federally funded grant.
The changes made were based upon a study done by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the railroad. Engineers studies the number of trains and cars that pass through there, the chances of a crash, speed and visibility for drivers.
Our railroad accident legal team has worked on cases with serious personal injuries and deaths that have occurred at public railroad crossings throughout the US. If this ever happens to you, it is important to know about the different federal regulations that affect the duties and responsibilities of the railroad crew that is running the train. These duties include respecting the warnings that trains have to issue when they are coming close to a crossing.
For example, railroads usually set a maximum speed for trains, and federal regulations do as well. Federal regulations also specify when the horn and whistle have to be blasted at a railroad crossing. Also, regarding trees, shrubs and vegetation, there are federal rules on that as well. They specify the details about sight lines that should be available to drivers at railroad crossings.
We have represented motorists who have been injured in railroad accidents, and know it takes a great deal of experience to know if it would be advisable to file a personal injury claim in such an accident. We also have worked on derailments that caused injuries to railroad workers.
In some railroad crossing accidents or deaths, when there are no “active” warnings such as lights or gates, there a wide spectrum of safety issues that must be evaluated. In many tragic railroad crossing deaths, there is no evidence whatsoever that a driver was trying to “beat the train,” contrary to the argument that railroads often advance. Only a careful analysis of the safety of the crossing can answer these liability questions, and it requires objective expert analysis, and this analysis should be done as soon as possible to try to replicate the sight lines that both the train crew and motorist had. In many crossing cases, the railroads rush to alter the scene with slight modifications, and this can include cutting back foliage/vegetation among other subtle changes. If you or a family member suffers a railroad crossing crash, consult with one of our experienced railroad attorneys as soon as possible to assure that the evidence is preserved.
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.
Officers from Fairfax County (VA) Police and the Norfolk Southern Railroad Police have been cracking down on people who illegally walk across railroad tracks Northern Virginia.
The Norfolk Southern Police are in the midst of a year-long Trespass Abatement Program and are focusing their efforts on five areas in Fairfax County in recent days. That is due to the high number of injuries and deaths in these areas in the last 24 months. The Norfolk Southern Police stated that there were three train track crossing fatalities involving pedestrians last year. Two of them were under 18.
This year, there have been no deaths, but one juvenile was injured by a passing train when he was illegally crossing the tracks by foot.
A major trouble spot is near Old Burke Lake Road. There, hundreds of students from Lake Braddock Secondary School cut across the tracks. Many of them are wearing earbuds and cannot hear the trains approaching either.
In many cases, the railroad company does not have properly functioning lights and gates at crossings, which can lead to injuries and fatalities. There were 637 train related deaths in the US in 2008, and many of them were pedestrians struck by trains.If the railroad companies would ensure that that the lights and gates at crossings are always in good repair, and they ensure that train engineers obey all safety regulations, these types of accidents would happen less often.
Below are some key tips to remember for all pedestrians near train tracks:
- Trains don’t always run on a precise schedule, so it is never ‘safe’ to cross a railroad track unless it is at a designated crossing. Of course, it is highly dangerous and illegal to walk on railroad tracks at any time.
- Do not make the assumption that you will hear the train coming. Many modern trains are much quieter than in past years.
- Walking across a train trestle is highly dangerous and illegal. There have been dozens of deaths at train trestles over the years. Don’t become part of those sad statistics.
By Randy Appleton, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney
A new report issued by the Government Accountability Office this week states that Congress should allow more time for freight and passenger trains to install new technology that could prevent deadly train derailings, such as the Amtrak mishap last May that killed eight people.
Congress established a Dec. 31 deadline for rail companies to install new crash prevention technology, which is known as positive train control. This technology was developed in 2008, after a train accident in California that killed 25 people.
The new GAO report found that most railroads will not meet the end of the year deadline. It noted that there have been delays in the installation of the systems. For example, the technology is still being developed and there are only a few suppliers. Also, the federal government has added to the delays. One reason is that railroads had to cease construction on railroad tracks with radio poles because there had been no environmental evaluation process.
The report further noted that the Federal Railroad Administration did not provide enough oversight. It took the FRA seven months to review the initial safety plan that was turned in from a railroad.
Railroads that do not have positive train control could have federal fines and other punishments if they do not have the new technology by the end of the year.
Our railroad injury law firm in Virginia applauds the efforts to improve train safety across the country with the installation of positive train control technology. It is likely that if that technology had been on board the Amtrak train last May, the train could have been slowed down enough automatically to avoid tragedy.
Anyone who has suffered a serious injury from a train derailment usually benefits from speaking to a personal injury attorney. We had a $60 million derailment settlement a few years ago after a train derailed and severely injured a man in his workplace.
By Richard Shapiro, Railroad Accident Attorney
A box truck driver jumped to safety just seconds before an Amtrak train slammed into his vehicle in San Diego CA on Aug. 31.
The wreck happened in San Diego near the intersection of West Washington and Pacific Highway. The box truck had part of its cargo bay over the tracks at the time.
The local police reported that the light turned red on Pacific Highway but the truck was unable to move off the tracks due to traffic ahead of him. The construction company truck was hit by the train just seconds after the driver jumped out. The truck spun into the opposite lanes of traffic and tore off a utility pole. Two other cars were hit, but no one was injured. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
We as railroad accident attorneys in Virginia know all too well the devastating accidents that can occur at railroad crossings across America. The Federal Railroad Administration reports that cars and trains hit each other every 12 minutes, which led to 9600 train/car accidents in 2009.
The reasons for these accidents are many, but they tend to fall into these categories:
- Maintenance problems with the train or rail system, which can include defective brakes on the train.
- Drowsy train engineer; about 34% of all car/train accidents involve some type of human error on the part of the train or car/truck operator.
- Distracted train engineer – Some accidents occur when the engineer is talking or texting on a cell phone.
- Safety gate failure – Some gates malfunction and stay up, even when the train is coming. So, a car can get stuck on the tracks.
Our railroad accident lawyers are experienced in reviewing all relevant evidences – such as train cameras, black box recorders, and signalization information – to see if there were any malfunctions that caused the accident.
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.
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.