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Rick Shapiro, a Virginia and North Carolina railroad accident and disease lawyer, talks about the effect of a past smoking habit on your railroad cancer claim. Rick explains that, just because you smoked in the past, does not ruin your claim against the railroad for exposing you to toxic fumes and asbestos fibers.
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.
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.
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 Rick Shapiro, Railroad Accident/FELA Attorney
Workers with railroad companies such as Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF, Amtrak, etc. have been known to suffer serious lung conditions as a result of exposure to asbestos. The once popular material was embraced by the construction, manufacturing and railroad industries given its cheap price, easy availability and usefulness in absorbing sound and heat. However, asbestos is also a highly toxic fiber which can get lodged in the linings of your lungs and eventually cause deadly conditions like mesothelioma.
Given the well-known danger of asbestos, manufacturers were finally forced by government regulators to severely restrict if not entirely eliminate the use of asbestos in the United States. Back in the 1970s, asbestos usage reached its peak, with more than 800,000 metric tons of the product being used across the country. Thankfully, pressure from the federal government and others forced companies to cut back use so that by 2011, just barely 1,000 metric tons of asbestos were used in the U.S.
Despite the dramatic drop in asbestos usage, there has not been a similar decline in the number of mesothelioma cases. Though many people would expect the number of mesothelioma and other lung disease cases to drop by corresponding amounts, the rate of mesothelioma diagnosis has actually remained constant in the U.S. for decades. According to the American Cancer Society, the rate of mesothelioma diagnosis increased substantially between the 1970s and the 1990s and has remained fairly constant since then. Today, approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year.
Why have the rates remained the same despite the dramatic drops in asbestos usage? For one thing, even though new usage of asbestos has declined dramatically, old asbestos can still lurk in buildings undetected. Because of how prevalent asbestos used to be, there are many structures that could contain asbestos which might inadvertently harm workers who never even knew it was there. The time and expense associated with asbestos cleanup has deterred some people from taking action to remove the harmful substance.
Another reason why mesothelioma rates have not declined is that asbestos exposure can take years if not decades to manifest as mesothelioma. In some cases, even a short-term exposure to asbestos can result in the development of mesothelioma fifty years later.
Given this long lead-time, many people who worked in and around asbestos decades ago are only now being diagnosed with lung disease.