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Fatal Train Accident in Massachusetts Highlights RR Crossing Safety

A 59 year old man was killed on March 12 in Longmeadow, Massachusetts when his work truck was struck at a railroad crossing by an Amtrak plow train. 

PTC could prevent many train derailments and crossing accidents.

The death of the man at the railroad crossing has brought up many worries and complaints from many in the community. Many feel that there should be additional safety features at that railroad crossing, which is in Longmeadow at the crossing on Bernie and Pondside Road.

There is a stop sign at the railroad crossing and a railroad crossing sign. However, residents say the lack of traffic signals or gate arms are a serious danger at the crossing. Most of the other crossings in the area have those safety features.

There have been other ftal crashes at this crossing, and now the Longmeadow town manager is talking about adding those safety measures at the crossing.

He noted that the Department of Public Utilities in Massachusetts has the responsibility and authority to add safety features.

Our View

Safety at railroad crossings has improved substantially over the years. Back in 1981, there were 728 deaths at US railroad crossings. That had fallen to 233 by 2015, despite the substantial growth in the US population.

However, in 2016, the total number of deaths at US railroad crossings climbed to 265. Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys hope that this increase is temporary and is not a trend.

Our railroad accident attorneys have seen in past railroad accident lawsuits that serious personal injuries and deaths can occur at railroad crossings.

It is important to realize that while drivers and pedestrians have responsibility to stop at these crossings, there are many federal regulations in play at railroad crossings, and sometimes one of the stakeholders could be in violation of a law or rule that leads to an unsafe crossing.

Federal regulations, for example, set rules for when a train must blast its horn when approaching a crossing. Federal rules further dictate how trees, shrubs and vegetaation must be cut at a railroad crossing to ensure visibility.

The federal rules for railroad crossings are largely laid out in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and another set of standards is issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA).

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed at a rail road crossing, it is important to understand that railroad crossing accidents are very complex. In the case of personal injury or wrongful death at railroad crossings, we employ retired railroad workers as investigators to get to the bottom of the case.

Many people who are seriously injured or killed at railroad crossings are entitled to substantial financial settlements due to negligence on the part of a stakeholder, such as the railroad or the local authority that maintains the crossing.

Owasso, OK Man Blames Railroad Crossing Crash on Malfunction

A man in Oswasso, Oklahoma is blaming faulty railroad lights and gates for him slamming into a train on Feb. 1, causing himself minor injuries and serious damage to his car.

Witnesses say that they were not surprised that the lights were allegedly not working and gates not functioning. Some say that it is a frequent occurence when trains roar through.

A local business owner in Oswasso next to the train tracks stated that trains come through all the time; other witnesses said that when the police came after the railroad crossing crash, the lights were not functioning at the crossing. 

PTC could prevent many train derailments and crossing accidents.

Several hours after the crash, railroad workers were working at the crossing. Sometimes the lights were on, but not apparently when  they should have been.

The railroad company stated that there was maintenance scheduled on the crossing soon, but it would not say if that was why the lights may have not been working.

Our View

According to Operation Life Saver, a rail safety education website, 244 people died in railroad crossing wrecks in 2015, and 967 were injured. However, there has been progress: Railroad crossing deaths have declined by 38% in the period from 2004 to 2013. 

Still, railroad crossing accidents can be very severe because of the sheer size and weight of trains. Our railroad crossing accident attorneys have worked on many railroad crossing cases in the last 10 years.

We once represented a driver in Prince William County, Virginia who was hit by a Norfolk Southern train. He and his two children were fortunately not killed but were seriously injured.

Our train accident law firm brought civil claims on behalf of the man and his two children.

Our attorneys did a substantial investigation of the railroad crossing accident. We found that the train crew had not acted in an unlawful manner and we also looked closely at the vegetation around the railroad crossing.

This was a concern because the man had stated that he did not see the train until seconds before impact.

We examined the common laws of Virginia and we demanded a settlement from the insurance policy of the driver and also demanded settlement from Norfolk Southern. 

There was a satisfactory result for this train accident case that we handled.

In the above case in Oklahoma, it should be investigated why there are reports that the crossing gates and lights were  not functioning when the crash occurred. Also, the fact that the railroad company had scheduled maintenance at the crossing could be a critical factor.

Exiting FRA Chief Hopes Technology Will Save More Lives

Ex-Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Chief Sarah Feinberg was in the job for only weeks in 2015 when a commuter train slammed into an SUV stopped on the tracks just north of New York City. Six people died in the train crash.

That Feburary 2015 train crossing accident highlighteed a problem that has been with the railroad industry for more than a century: the danger when railroad tracks and roads meet.

PTC could prevent many train derailments and crossing accidents.

Feinberg was a former Obama White House advisor who did not have railroad industry experience, and her appointment got plenty of criticism. She sought a new way of thinking regarding keeping the country’s 240,000 railroad crossings safe. Signals, signs, lights and bells are useful, but what if better technology could prevent many railroad crossing accidents?

Fenberg, who left the job as FRA commissioner with Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, truly tried to embrace her outsider status in the railroad industry.

In a recent interview, she said that she tried to hold railroads accountable when they did wrong. She also said that she had the FRA aggressively policy safety violations; the agency was able to close cases at a higher rate and collect more fine money each year than previous commissioners.

Progress After Tragedy

After the New York City commuter train tragedy, another train derailed near Philidelphia, killing eight. Feinberg pushed railroads to install positive train control (PTC) technology that would use GPS navigation systems to automatically slow trains if one was getting into a dangerous situation.

The technology had long been avaialble, but railroads had slow walked adopting it due to the cost. The industry convinced Congress to delay PTC implementation until 2018, but Feinberg fought back and would not accept any more delays. PTC will begin to be installed in 2018.

Feinberg hopes that the next FRA commissioner will continue to push for new technologies to reduce the number of train crashes and derailments each year.

Our View

Our train crash personal injury attorneys in Virginia are glad that ex-FRA Commissioner Sarah Feinberg was such a strong advocate for PTC technology. Our attorneys have been advocating for this technology for years. There is no doubt that PTC can reduce the number of deadly train crossing accidents and derailments that happen every year.

Our railroad crash attorneys know very well the terrible consequences that can unfold in a train derailment. We worked on a record-setting $60 million verdict in a train derailment case in 2000. It involved a gas station attendent who was severely injured when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into his station.

PTC could prevent those types of tragic railroad accidents, and that is why we so strongly support it.

Woman Severely Injured in Railroad Crossing Accident

A woman in Greenbrier, Tennessee was airlifted to a local hospital on November 2 when her car was hit by a train at a local railroad crossing. 

The accident happened at 5 am on November 2 in Greenbriar at the Wilson St. crossing. According to the local chief of police, the woman was in critical condition with serious railroad crossing accident injuries when she was taken to the hospital.

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Earlier in 2016, all of the railroad crossings in Greenbrier City were assinged a risk analysis score, and two of them were slated for improvements. It is not known if the Wilson St. crossing was scheduled for improvements.

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents usually involve very serious injuries, and often death. Thousands of Americans die at railroad crossings annually across the country. In fact, the Federal Railroad Administration states that cars and trains collide every 12 minutes!

As railroad crossing accident attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina, we have seen railroad crossing accidents that happened for many  reasons. In many cases, the local police department just take the word of the railroad and blame the car driver for any accident at a railroad crossing. However, there are some railroad accidents where the car driver was not at fault.

Common railroad accident causes that we have seen in our personal injury lawsuit cases are:

  • Maintenanace problems: Sometimes a train can have defective brakes or a problem with the controls. Also, there can be vegetation that has grown up around the tracks and this prevents the car driver from seeing the oncoming train. 
  • Sleepy train engineer: Human factors, including drowsy engineers, cause 35% of car train accidents. Some engineers are overworked and they fall asleep on the job.
  • Train engineer is distracted: Some train operators are busy talking or texting on a cell phone, and they are not watching the tracks while the train is in motion.
  • Safety gate problems: Sometimes safety gates malfunction and stay up, even when the train is rolling through the crossing.

If your car is hit by a train at a railroad crossing, never make the assumption that it was your fault. This is often not the case at all. We recently represented a driver whose car was hit by a train in Prince William County, Virginia, and we were able to settle the cases for approximately $130,000. This was significant, because his children were injured in the car-train accident and needed medical care to recover.

 

 

US Railroad Workers Testing Positive for Drugs Skyrockets

In early 2016, a railroad worker who had just been briefed on an upcoming assignment was found dead in a restroom, having overdosed on illegal prescription drugs. In the following months, tests that were done after three railroad accidents found that six employees on the trains tested positive for drugs. 

In a report done by the Washington Post, testing in 2016 has shown that almost 8% of workers involved in railroad crashes were positive for various illegal and prescription drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, benzodiazepine, OxyContin and morphine.

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The number of post-crash drug positives was the highest since the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) started to keep records in 1987. Overall, the number of railroad workers who tested positive for drug use went up 43% in the last year. The number increased to 256 last year from 2014.

After rail crashes in 2014, no workers tested positive for drugs, and only two people did last year. With three months left in 2016, 16 railroad workers have tested positive in tests after railroad accidents.

Railroads transported 565 million passengers and 14.2 million carloads of freight in the last year. Train workers are some of the most heavily drug tested in the US. They are drug screened before they are hired, and they are tested randomly on the job each year.

Still, the report shows that there is strong evidence that illegal drug use is on the rise in the railroad industry. That is why in September 2016, the heads of all major railroads in the US were called to Washington to talk in a closed door meeting about the rise in drug use among rail workers and what to do about it. Officials from the FRA, National Transportation Safety Board and the Office of National Drug Control Policy detailed their concerns about the drug problem and asked the railroads to help them deal with it.

One thing that is being changed is that currently, railroad drug testing is limited to 120,000 workers whose jobs are ‘safety sensitive,’ or where lives are put at risk in the performance of their work. Train and track repair workers do not have to undergo drug testing. Federal officials want this to change. They want railroads to start testing these workers as well by April 1, 2017, but so far, industry is resisting a deadline that soon; they have asked for a delay in the additional testing for another 14 months.

Our View

Railroad accidents, railroad crossing crashes and train derailments are too common in America. As railroad accident attorneys who handle serious personal injury and wrongful death cases, we hope that railroads across the US will start to do more stringent testing of all railroad workers for drugs.

After all, when a serious train accident occurs, massive injuries can occur, such as in this $60 million verdict our Virginia railroad accident lawyers handled when a train derailed in Manassas VA. If drug testing could reduce the likelihood of this type of train accident, we are all for it.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Kentucky RR Crossing Has Major Safety Issues

Changes have not yet been made to a railroad crossing in Oakland KY that saw a local man lose his life in a train-car accident in early August 2016. And State Rep. Michael Meredith has taken notice.

Meredith stated recently that the crossing makes it too easy for a train to sneak up on the driver. He noted that you have to be almost over the railroad track before you can look down the line to see if a train is coming.

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He added that there have been two fatalities at that railroad crossing in the last five years. He is pushing the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to look at this area of the track.

Railroad crossings across Kentucky are reviewed every few years, but only five crossings per year usually receive funding for any upgrades.

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents are not always the fault of the driver. As a railroad crossing accident personal injury lawyer, I know that railroad companies do not always maintain the railroad crossing as carefully as they should. Sometimes, vegetation will grow up around the railroad track and make it difficult for the driver to see an oncoming train.

Our railroad accident attorneys represented a client in Prince William County VA a few years ago. His vehicle was struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train. The children in the back seat had various injuries, including one who had a skull fracture around his eye.

We examined the scene of the accident, noting that the car driver had stated he had no chance to see the train and could not have avoided the accident. We noted the vegetation, trees and brush at the railroad crossing. We demanded a settlement from the father’s insurance company and also from Norfolk Southern. It settled for approximately $125,000. 

 

Ohio Man Dies in Railroad Crossing Accident

A 70 year old man in West Chester Township OH near Cincinnati died on Aug. 24 in a rail road crossing accident. 

The driver was crossing the railroad track when his SUV was struck at high speed by a train.

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There were witness reports that stated that the crossing gates may not have come down in time. West Chester Township police are investigating whether the gates were working properly. Another witness stated that he did not hear the train blow its horn or whistle.

Our View

It is not unusual for safety gates to malfunction; either they stay up entirely or they drop too late. We have even seen gates come down too late and trap a car on the tracks. If the safety gates did indeed malfunction in this train accident tragedy, the family of the deceased should talk to a personal injury attorney.

Our railroad crossing accident lawyers have represented clients who were injured at railroad crossings. In this Virginia case a few years ago, our client’s car was hit by a freight train, which left his two children in the back seat with skull fractures and other injuries. 

Our train accident attorneys from Virginia investigated the accident scene and took careful measurements and photos. We also looked carefully at the trees, brush and vegetation, because the car driver stated that he was not able to see the train until the last moment.

We also looked at VA common law, the jury instructions that would be given at trial and we demanded settlement from the insurance company of the driver and also from Norfolk Southern. The settlement helped the children to recover from their injuries.

 

Indiana Truck Driver Injured At Railroad Crossing

A Pike County, Indiana truck driver suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries when his tractor trailer was hit by a train at a railroad crossing near Winslow IN. 

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The truck driver was driving southbound on SR 61 in a truck owned by C&M Giant Tire when a Norfolk Southern train struck the truck at the crossing. The railroad crossing has warning lights and crossbuck signs but no descending gates.

The injured truck driver was able to get out of his truck on his own and he was taken to a local hospital for his injuries.

The sheriff’s department is investigating the accident and no report has been issued at this time.

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents are common across America, and our railroad accident attorneys frequently represent drivers who are injured at railroad crossings. Our Virginia railroad accident attorneys once represented a driver whose care was struck by a Norfolk Southern train in Prince William County, VA. The freight train appeared suddenly and smashed into the rear of his vehicle. His children suffered head injuries and we filed a personal injury lawsuit against the railroad.

Railroad crossing accidents are complex and our strategy was to take careful measurements and pictures of the accident scene. The train crew was not required to blow its whistle at that crossing. We also looked closely at the vegetation and brush at the railroad crossing. This was important because the driver said that the train appeared suddenly and he had no time to get his car clear of the tracks.

We demanded a settlement from the railroad and from State Farm, which led to a good-sized settlement that helped to pay for the medical needs of our client’s children.

A driver who is hurt by a train at a railroad crossing should consult with an attorney experienced in railroad accidents. There can be a number of factors involved that can make the railroad liable for injuries.

 

 

New York State Assembly Passes Legislation to Increase Railroad Safety

An agreement was reached in early July in the New York State Assembly that would improve railroad safety throughout the state. 

The new legislation will establish state coordination of inspections by railroads and local officials of grade crossing warning systems that are connected with traffic lights. The new regulations also will align state law with federal railroad bridge inspection standards and requirements. It also will establish penalties for railroad companies that ignore New York state safety laws and regulations.

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Section 2 of the bill would require all railroad corporations and every municipality or state agency that has jurisdiction where there is an at grade crossing, to conduct at least biennial inspections of all traffic control devices that are interconnected with a highway-rail at-grade crossing warning system.

According to the language of the bill, Section 3 also would impose ‘monetary penalties for violations of laws and regulations against railroad companies that are common carriers, and would increase fines for railroad companies for violations while carrying hazardous materials.’

Our View 

As noted in the language of this bill in New York state, there were more than 250 crossing collision deaths in the US in 2014. Our Virginia railroad crossing accident attorneys often represent the victims of these terrible collisions. Typically, railroad crossing crashes are caused by several things:

  • Train and track maintenance problems
  • Drowsy train operator
  • Distracted train operator
  • Safety gate failure

When we work on a Virginia railroad crossing accident case, we often employ retired railroad workers as investigators. We find that their vast network of connections is very valuable to establish liability in a railroad crossing accident case. In some of those cases, we represented car passengers who were struck and injured by a train. In other cases, we represented crew members who were hurt when a train hit a truck at a rail crossing. In many cases, we were able to win sizable settlements in these railroad crossing accidents.