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Ohio Man Dies in Rail Crossing Accident

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.

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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.

Tired BNSF Employees Complain About 12 Hour Shifts

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.

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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.

Safety Improvements Underway at Deadly TN Railroad Crossing

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.

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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.

 

20 Year Anniversary of School Bus-Train Crash Remembered

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.

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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.

 

 

Families of Canada Train Derailment Victims Sue Railroad

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.

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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.

 

Congress Passes Bill To Delay Train Safety Upgrades

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.

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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.

 

Questions Arise After Fatal Pedestrian/Train Accident

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.

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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.

 

 

Broken Rail Led to WV Oil Train Derailment, Officials State

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.

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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.

Family Files Suit for Death at Dangerous Train Crossing Guardrail

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.

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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.

 

Northern Virginia Law Enforcement Increasing Train Track Safety Awareness

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.

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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.

Our railroad injury law firm has experience with many of these tragic train accidents. And we have seen plenty of railroad accidents that were the fault of the railroad company. 

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.