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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.
DC Metro officials this week confirmed that the final draft of their ‘SafeTrack’ repair plan is going to be delayed as metro officials continue to work with the Federal Transit Administration to meet safety guidelines.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced initial draft of the huge repair plan on May 6, and promised the final draft yesterday.
A track explosion two weeks ago prompted FTA to step in and stop Metro’s plans to release the final draft.
FTA issued a set of actions to Metro on May 7 and warned that they had to take the actions immediately or risk a full system shutdown for safety reasons. FTA has blasted Metro publicly for failing to have enough workers trained on emergency response, running too many trains in service at one time and not doing enough daily safety inspections.
The FTA order also addressed major employee negligence issues, such as train operators running red lights and running trains too fast. New speed restrictions are now in place and are slowing daily commutes for thousands of passengers.
The SafeTrack program proposes to repair the entire Metro system over a year with single tracking, line closures and reduced service hours on all lines.
As Virginia railroad injury attorneys, we find it alarming that so many safety failures have crippled the DC Metro system. We remember a few years ago when two DC Metro trains slammed into each other, killing four people. There also have been multiple fires on Metro lines and several explosions over the last three years.
We hope that those who have been injured by DC Metro during these multiple safety failures are able to recover from their injuries. Our railroad injury law firm has helped victims of many train accidents, and we know that small safety errors can lead to deadly results.
Metro-North, a major commuter railroad line in the New York City metro region, reported this week that both customer and employee injuries increased in 2015.
Statistics show that total employee injuries are up by 9.5% from 2014. Meanwhile, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reportable injuries have increased by 1.7%.
However, injuries for customers on Metro-North increased in 2015 by 30%.
Metro-North officials said that the increase of accidents is partially caused by expanded incident reporting requirements. This was ordered by local officials after more accidents in 2013.
The statistics stated that there were 360 customer injuries on the line in 2015, which is the second most ever in a five year period. More than half of that increase was due to a major train crash in Valhalia NY, which killed six and injured 46.
FRA asked Metro-North two years ago to expand what it considers a reportable injury to customers. In the past, injury reports were anything that occurred on the train or platform. Now, customer injury statistics reflect any injuries that occur inside a terminal.
Regarding employee injuries, while the FRA reportable injuries were up only 1.7%, total employee injuries were up by over 9%. The rail line believes that could be attributed to its implementation of the Confidential Close Call Reporting System, which allows employees to report safety issues privately.
Our railroad injury attorneys in Virginia Beach are glad to see that there is a stronger emphasis at Metro-North on employee and public safety. As our attorney Richard Shapiro wrote in 72 American Jurisprudence Trials, found in most of the nation’s law libraries, on page 37, preventing railroad injuries requires strong regulations, railroad emphasis on safety and more:
“The prevention of injuries requires effectively implemented railroad safety and health programs, union support, and an appropriate level of governmental regulation. Railroads, unions, and the government share the common goal of reducing casualties in the railroad industry. In addition, all seek to ensure that injured employees are adequately and appropriately compensated. All of these are a part of national efforts to prevent injuries among railroad employees. There has been friction between the railroads and the workforce as to whether railroads are “reporting” all worker injuries or illnesses to the FRA as legally required.”
As the treatise also notes, injuries are not usually FRA reportable unless the injuries require medical attention or prescription medication.
As we have seen in some of our railroad worker injury cases, serious injuries can occur when the railroad neglects safety, such as this $825,000 settlement where the railroad worker suffered a serious injury due to a loose ladder on a train car.
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.
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. wants to merge with Norfolk Southern Corp., but federal regulators in the US worry that mergers of large railroads could lead to railroad safety concerns.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulates rail safety in the United States, and is looking carefully at the proposed merger, as it scrutinizes safety worries that could result when such large railroad companies merge.
Some of the challenges include the combination of the safety cultures of two different companies. Specifically, FRA wants to know which company’s safety rules and protocols would be followed first, and how to build the newly combined workforce so that communication channels remain open.
FRA may not block a railroad merger; the Surface Transportation Board must approve it. However, the FRA does work with railroads on safety integration plans to make sure that safe operations continue when a merger occurs.
One of the major safety concerns is related to oil train safety. The last few years have seen several fiery derailments of oil-laden trains that led to serious injuries and deaths. One of those cases occurred in Lynchburg VA, where an oil train derailed and spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil into the James River.
Our railroad injury attorneys are pleased that the FRA is looking carefully at this proposed merger and is ensuring that public safety takes precedence above all else. Our experience with railroads in personal injury lawsuits tells us that such large corporations are quick to put profit ahead of safety at times.
In a record setting $60 million verdict in a train derailment case, we represented a man who suffered terrible injuries when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into his gas station. Even though it was obvious from the huge amount of evidence we brought to the case that the railroad was clearly at fault, Norfolk Southern denied responsibility for a full year.
Anyone who suffers an injury in any kind of railroad accident should know that the railroad often will try to deny responsibility, so it behooves you to consult with an expert railroad personal injury attorney in your area about the case. Look for a law firm that has a record of multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts in train accidents and derailments.
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.
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.
By Richard Shapiro, Virginia Railroad Accident Attorney
A section of railroad track that was owned by CSX in Lynchburg, Virginia (VA) was set to be replaced – the day after a crude oil trail derailed and broke out in flames.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued this report in late August into the derailment, which occurred on April 30, 2014. The Lynchburg oil train derailment required the evacuation of hundreds of people from downtown.
The NTSB still has not determined the precise cause of the wreck, but should by the end of 2015.
NTSB documents state that the derailment happened at a break point in the track, which means that the rail section was cracked or severed. The break was only a few inches from a repair that was made in January 2014.
The day before the oil train derailed, an inspection of the track section showed there was an internal flaw in that same rail piece. So, CSX planned to replace a 40 foot section of the rail, which was going to be installed on May 1, 2014.
The derailment is one of about nine oil train derailments that have happened in North America since 2013. The biggest and most tragic was the derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people.
In Lynchburg, 17 oil tank cars derailed, with three plunging into the James River and one caught on fire.
Our Virginia railroad accident law office has extensive experience in train accidents and derailments, as well as railroad crossing accidents that were due to train engineer or railroad company negligence. These often preventable mishaps can lead to injury and loss of life, although we are glad the Lynchburg incident resulted in no injuries.
We have represented workers who have been injured by railroad company negligence in the past, such as a CSX conductor who was exposed to asbestos fibers in his work for decades. That case resulted in an $8.6 million verdict.
We hope that CSX and other companies in the industry will put a better focus on safety – both for the safety of the public and the environment.