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Yes, to give the briefest and clearest answer.
Any employee of a railroad corporation that engages in interstate commerce has coverage for work-related injuries and occupational illnesses under the law formally known as the Federal Employers Liability Act.
FELA was enacted in 1908 to protect railroad employees who were almost always excluded from the state-based workers’ compensation programs that were just then coming into being. While FELA procedures differ significantly from those used by workers’ comp, the intent is the same. Individuals who get hurt, killed or made sick while they were doing their jobs can seek compensation and damages for medical bills, disability, lost wages and, in the worst cases, wrongful deaths.
The first qualification for coverage under FELA is working for a company that is subject to the rules and regulations created to implement the law. So, again, yes, people who work for a railroad company but not on trains do have FELA rights.
And, of course, office workers face risks for workplace injuries and occupational illnesses. The Society for Human Resource Management, for instance, lists four of the most common physical dangers in office settings as
- Slips, trips and falls;
- Repetitive stress and strain, which are also known as ergonomic injuries;
- Fire and smoke; and
- Poor indoor air quality, ranging from particulates to fungal spores.
Railroad employees who work inside rail yard administration buildings and corporate headquarters can also be exposed to cancer-causing particulates, toxic fumes and infectious agents. The extensive use of asbestos insulation in buildings built before the 1980s and the almost constant idling of diesel-powered locomotives in freight and switching yards pose particular dangers to longtime and retired office staff.
Proving a FELA injury or illness claim is not always easy, though. Doing so requires showing that railroad, through its executives, managers or employees, acted negligently and failed to protect the injured or ill worker. Partnering with an experienced FELA attorney can help a current or retired railroad worker find, organize and present evidence of negligence. Documenting negligence makes a railroad strictly liable for settling a FELA claim or for paying a FELA award granted by a civil trial jury.
A former switchman for Tacoma (WA) Rail has filed a lawsuit against the railroad. He contends that the railroad created a dangerous railroad work environment that contributed to the accident that caused him to lose a leg.
Nathan Johnson, 45, from Fife WA, is seeking damages for his pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses. An earlier claim with the city showed that he is seeking $6 million.
The lawsuit claims that he was trying to climb into a moving rail car when he fell partially under the train. The suit further states that Tacoma Rail actively encourages employees to climb onto and off moving trains to get work done faster and to reduce labor costs. Further, the claim states that the safety appliance on the railroad car were inadequate and in violation of the Federal Railway Safety Appliance Act.
Our extensive experience in Virginia and North Carolina as railroad accident attorneys has shown that railroads often will try to avoid their liability for workers’ injuries on the job. We have represented many railroad workers who have been badly injured on the job, and have been pleased to reach large settlements and verdicts for our railroad worker clients.
One of the most important things we want to stress is that railroad workers should not be afraid to take legal action against a railroad whose negligence may have led to your injury. In reality, there have been many successful personal injury lawsuits in recent years against railroads. Consult an expert railroad personal injury attorney in your state and the results can be highly favorable.
The number of pedestrian rail fatalities in Washington state climbed to 27 in 2015, rail officials stated this week, which has prompted a new safety campaign to warn people about the dangers of railroad tracks and crossings.
The new goal for 2016 in the state is zero railroad fatalities. Nationwide, Washington is ranked #9 in train fatalities from Jan-Sept 2015, which is the most recent data available from the Federal Railroad Administration. California was tops on the list with 119 deaths, and Texas was second at 50 deaths.
Fatality risks tend to climb due to the number of trespassers on tracks, improving train technology that makes locomotives quieter than ever, and also based upon the number of trains running per day in a given area.
According to the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission railroad safety supervisor, the major problem is with trespassing. “People don’t grasp that it takes a mile for a full sized freight train to come to a stop,’ he told the press this week.
Bad weather can make it harder for pedestrians to see or hear trains approaching as well. And there was more warm weather in the state last summer, which may have led to more people walking near railroad tracks.
In addition to the 27 pedestrian deaths, there also were two drivers who died when their vehicles were struck by trains at railroad crossings. There also were 104 non-fatal incidents on railroad tracks in Washington state in 2015, which led to cuts and bruises, and amputations in the worst cases.
Most of the accidents and deaths that occurred were on BNSF owned railroad tracks, which owns over 50% of the railroad lines in the state.
Because of the high number of deaths and injuries, the state chapter of Operation Livesaver is going to increase its number of safety presentations at schools and produce more radio and TV ads to warn of the dangers of walking near railroad tracks.
As personal injury lawyers in train-pedestrian accidents, we often see railroads and the government claim that these types of tragedies are ‘trespassing accidents.’ The public may not be aware, but it is the responsibility of the railroads to maintain railroad tracks and keep them safe. Fencing off railways and trestles in areas with high foot traffic is vital to keep people from walking on train tracks. If you have a loved one who died walking on train tracks, know that the railroad does have responsibilities to keep high traffic rail lines safe. The railroad track is actually private property, and most railroads do little to mitigate these risks. Talk to a personal injury lawyer to learn about the responsibilities of railroads in maintaining their property safely.
A man died in Huron Township OH on Nov. 24 after a train smashed into his car at a railroad crossing.
The man was driving a 2008 Ford van on Rye Beach Rd. in Huron Township when he approached the railroad tracks south of SR 2. He tried to skirt the railroad crossing gates when a Norfolk Southern train slammed into it.
The train pushed the vehicle 1/2 mile down the tracks before it could stop. The man died at the scene.
Police said that it appeared that the crossing gates were working, but the crash is still being investigated.
All too many deadly accidents occur at railroad crossings across our country. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed at a railroad crossing, it is vital to have as much information as possible.
For instance, did you know that there are many strict federal regulations that apply affecting the responsibilities of train crews and railroad companies? These duties include providing adequate warnings that train crews must sound at railroad crossings at proper intervals.
Federal regulations also set maximum speeds for specific sections of track. Regulations also dictate when a horn and/or whistle must be sounded at crossings. There also are strict regulations regarding the maintenance of proper sight lines at railroad crossings; shrubs and vegetation must be cut so that drivers can see oncoming trains.
Our Virginia railroad accident attorneys possess an excellent knowledge of pertinent state and federal laws that are in play in rail crossing accidents. We also contract with retired railroad workers who often investigate the circumstances and accident scene at specific crash sites. Such diligence in our investigations has led to sizable settlements in some railroad crossing accidents. In some of these incidents, we were able to prove that adequate warnings were not provided by the train crew.
Railroad crossing accidents are often complex, and it takes a highly experienced team of personal injury lawyers and railroad experts to ensure that all regulations were followed by the crew and railroad company. When they are not, sizable legal settlements can and do happen, which can help a seriously injured person recover from devastating injuries.
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.
It was 20 years ago on Oct. 25 that a horrifying collision between a Chicago commuter train and a school bus in Fox River Grove IL at a railroad crossing led to the deaths of seven students.
Since then, there have been a number of safety improvements at railroad crossings across the US, but accidents can and still do occur.
Some of the changes at railroad crossings include more traffic signals at crossings, better connections between traffic signals and warnings on trains. Also, there are more signs and markings on pavement to warn drivers and pedestrians to get off the tracks quickly.
It was at 7 am on Oct. 25, 1995 when a Metra train out of Chicago, which was operated by Union Pacific Railroad, smashed into the rear of a school bus at a grade crossing at Algonquin Road in Fox Grove IL.
The bus had crossed the tracks and was stopped for a traffic signal at a road right next to the road. The crossing gate came down on the bus and the engineer on the train blew the whistle, but the bus driver claimed she never heard these warnings.
The end of the bus was approximately three feet over the tracks when the train smashed into it.
In a report a year later, the National Transportation Safety Board had criticism for how buses were being routed and the general oversight of the bus drivers.
The NTSB also said that the intersection design was improper, and the warning and traffic signal interaction also led to the crash. The NTSB further recommended more rigorous grade crossing inspections and guidelines so drivers better know if their vehicle is in the path of a train.
Since the crash, there have been no more such incidents in IL, but there have been situations where buses were stuck on tracks because the crossing gates came down improperly.
Our railroad accident attorneys are glad that there have been safety improvements on railroad crossings, but serious injuries and deaths still do occur. We settled a train crossing accident case in Prince William County VA when a freight train hit the rear of a car with two small children inside. Neither child was killed but both suffered head and other injuries.
The driver of the car claimed that he could not see the train until the last second. We eventually demanded a settlement for our client – the mother – from the driver and Norfolk Southern, for $133,000.
A 16 year-old boy was hit by a train in NW Houston TX last Friday and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police reported that the young man was hit at 8:45 am near West 34th Street and TC Jester in Houston. His body was thrown under a trestle on the bridge that crosses the street White Oak Bayou. Police added that the student was walking on the tracks with a friend.
The other boy ran off the tracks when he saw the train approaching but the other did not seem to hear or understand how close the train was.
When a train goes through a crossing in Texas, the protocol is for the train crew to sound two longer whistles, a short whistle and then another long one as the train goes through the crossing. In an emergency, the crew is supposed to sound the whistle at a different cadence to warn people off the tracks.
Some have questioned if there was a delay when the whistle was sounded, and the incident is being investigated by the Federal Railroad Administration.
Our rail accident legal firm in Virginia has seen many train accidents involving both pedestrians and vehicles. In some cases, the train operator fails to provide sufficient warning to the car or pedestrian and serious injury can result. In other cases, we have seen instances where the driver’s or pedestrian’s view is obstructed by vegetation at a railroad crossing, leading to a serious accident.
Anyone who has a loved one injured or killed on train tracks should ensure that the railroad company was adhering to all regulations at the time of the accident. Negligence on their part can lead to devastating consequences.
By Richard Shapiro, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney
A 22 year-old man from Richmond CA was killed last March when he died at a railroad crossing in this small California town.
Media reports stated that the man spent all day and night volunteering at a school, and he then was driving home. He reportedly fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a guardrail in front of a railroad crossing at Regatta Blvd. and 34th Street in Richmond. One of the steel beams of the guardrail struck his head and he died at the scene.
The police report stated that the steel guardrail was there to protect the crossing gate. The California Public Utilities Commission put in a plastic barrier around the guardrail after the accident. That agency stated that these rail barriers are put in by railroad companies to prevent drivers from hitting the railroad gates and damaging them.
The family is filing a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit, and the suit names Contra Costa County, the city of Richmond and Richmond Pacific Railroad.
Our railroad accident law firm in Virginia offers our sincere condolences to the family of this man. Each year about 31% of all railway fatalities occur at railroad crossings, which means that someone in the US dies at a crossing every three days.
In many of these cases, there are inadequate gates and lights, or they are not working properly. In other cases, the pedestrian or driver does not have a clear view. We once represented a client who was driving over a Norfolk Southern railroad crossing when a train came suddenly around the corner and smashed into his car, severely injuring him and his small children.
Many accidents at railroad crossings could be eliminated if railroad companies were more proactive about making the crossings safer. Obviously in the above CA case, the railroad company created a situation where an accident was waiting to happen. In more common cases, railroad companies should ensure that the flashers and gates at crossings are working properly.
Railroads must assure that the warning time before the train comes is appropriate so as not to cause motorists to conclude that the gates are malfunctioning—this can be a dangerous trap. Any malfunction in crossing signals can be a serious injury or death trap for car drivers.
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.