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Hoboken NJ Train Engineer Had Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder

The engineer running a New Jersey Transit train that slammed into Hoboken Terminal in September had a undiagnosed sleep disorder, according to his attorney this week. 

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The engineer, Thomas Gallagher, recently discovered that he had severe sleep apnea. The test results that confirmed the disorder were sent to federal authorities on Oct. 31.

Gallagher stated that he did not remember the crash at all, and he believes that the sleep disorder may have led to the accident that killed one and injured more than 100.

His attorney stated that the engineer believes that the sleep disorder caused him to black out just before the crash. Gallagher said that he remembered checking his speed as he should just  before pulling into the terminal, blowing the whistle and ringing the bell. The next thing he remembered, he was on the floor of the engine after the accident.

The train smashed into the station in the middle of a busy morning commute. The person who died was on the train platform and was struck by debris. Other commuters also were injured by flying debris, and some passengers on the train also were injured.

Undiagnosed sleep apnea can be a serious danger for professionals who operate trains, trucks, airplanes or other commercial transportation. The condition involves pauses in breathing during sleep, which causes the person to wake up. This can lead to excessive sleepiness during the day.

The Federal Railroad Administration or FRA stated this week that it would release a new safety advisory to urge railroads to more aggressively fight worker fatigue and to install cameras in trains.

Our View

As railroad accident attorneys in Virginia, we wish that the train engineer had been diagnosed with his sleep apnea condition as it could have saved lives. Also, this tragic train accident is another reminder of the importance of commuter trains installing Positive Train Control or PTC.

This system would automatically stop a train before it is able to speed excessively or to run a red signal. PTC was supposed to be installed on at least 25 US passenger train systems by the end of 2015, but it has now been delayed until 2018.

We hope that PTC will be installed on major commuter rail systems as soon as possible so that serious train accidents and derailments can be prevented. Our railroad attorneys have worked on major train accident cases involving large financial settlements and verdicts, and we would like to see fewer of these tragedies happen.

 

 

New York Work Train Sideswipes Passenger Train, Injuring 29

A long Island Railroad work train sideswiped a New York passenger train on the evening of Oct. 8, injuring 30. 

While there were no life threatening injuries reported, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano did stated that some of the injuries included broken bones and concussions.

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The passenger train involved in the railroad crash was the train that leaves at 8:22 from Penn Station in New York. The rail accident happened after 9 PM. The crash caused the first three cars of the passenger train to derail.

Mangano said the crash happened near a switch, but is was unclear if a switch malfunction led to the crash and derailment.

Our View

Our railroad injury personal injury attorneys based in Virginia are relieved that there were apparently no life threatening injuries in this train crash. However, there were serious personal  injuries reported and we hope all of the injured passengers recover.

As personal injury lawyers who have won record-setting verdicts in train derailment cases, there are far too many train accidents across America that occur due to lapses in safety. Earlier this month, a serious commuter train crash occurred at a busy station in New Jersey, killing one and injuring more than 100.

Human errors usually have something to do with the cause of serious railroad accidents and train collisions. Nonetheless, the railroads are seeking to downsize train crews on commuter railroad  crews to a single engineer or operator but the leaves no fail safe if that person is distracted, falls asleep, or otherwise fails to act appropriately with regard to safety.
A slightly less effective fail safe is positive train control that will automatically stop a train under certain circumstances but the railroads of course have to delayed implementation and tried to water down implementation to less than 100% of the railroad or commuter lines in the nation. The public need not wonder whether positive train control would have made a difference in many of the major railroad and commuter line accidents and tragedies that happened in the last several years.

In both of the train crashes, it appears that safety issues led to serious accidents.  One important safety feature that could prevent some collisions and derailments is Postive Train Control or PTC. This system is based on GPS technology and would automatically stop a train if a collision were imminent. Railroads lobbied Congress to push back the date to install PTC on all commuter trains until 2018. That’s too bad, because it is possible that these two serious train crashes may have been avoided with better safety techology in place.

 

 

 

 

Flashing Lights Never Installed At PA at Deadly RR Crossing

A Halifax PA railroad crossing where a woman was killed in a train accident on Labor Day is only marked by faded crossbuck signs. 

The community is asking if there should have been flashing lights and additional warnings installed at the deadly railroad crossing.

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The woman, Trisha Hoffman, 29, died instantly on Sept. 5 when her car was hit near Route 147.

Back in 1978, engineers testified about the proposed railroad crossing and said that the crossing should have flashing lights and other safety measures. Also, in the 1980s, a civil engineer with the railroad company recommended flashing lights at the crossing to counteract a wooded area that blocked the drivers’ view of approaching trains.

However, the PA government rejected the $60,000 flashing lights as too expensive. Instead, the government was supposed to clear the trees and brush 1000 feet north and south of the crossing.

The trees and brush were cleared but they grew back in the 1980s. Now the trees and brush hug the tracks and severely limit driver visibility.

Our View

Our railroad crossing accident attorneys in Virginia see too many railroad crossing accidents that end in death or serious personal injury. One of the most common reasons for deadly railroad crossing accidents is that the crossing is not maintained properly.

It is very important for proper sight lines to be maintained so that drivers can see approaching trains. This PA railroad crossing sounds as if there is far too much brush and trees hugging the tracks and this reduce visibility to the point that the woman could not see the train barreling towards her.

The article does not mention the railroad that uses that track, but it is the railroad’s responsibility in most cases to keep the brush and trees clear of the tracks. The woman’s loved ones should consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in railroad accident wrongful death cases.This woman had a long life in front of her, and her family should receive compensation for their pain and suffering and also for decades of lost wages that she would have earned if she had lived a normal life span.

 

 

 

CT Congresswoman Reintroduces Rail Safety Enforcement Act

Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is leading an effort on Capitol Hill to reintroduce the Rail Safety Enforcement Act, which would mandate that railroads establish and implement a Fatigue Management Plan. It also would provide railroad workers with a defined start time, or at least 10 hours notice before reporting to the job. 

DeLauro made the announcement at the West Haven CT train station on Wednesday. This was the location where a Metro-North Railroad train struck a track supervisor and killed him in May 2013.

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At the announcement, a former railroad conductor commented that the biggest safety issue in the railroad industry is ‘fatigue, fatigue and fatigue.’ Francis Ariola is now the legislative director of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation union’s Transportation Division. He noted that union members are plagued with constant fatigue because they have extremely unpredictable work schedules.

Ariola noted that many workers are on call 24/7 and get as little as 90 minutes notice when they have to report for work.

The fate of the Rail Safety Enforcement Act is uncertain at this time, given that it is a presidential election year.

Our View

Our Virginia railroad injury attorneys know that railroads often disregard the need for adequate rest and sound sleep for train engineers. Serious injuries and deaths often result. For example, a National Transportation Safety Board report recently found that crew member fatigue played a major role in the collision of two trains. 

Our railroad accident attorneys truly hope that the Rail Safety Enforcement Act is passed into law soon so that train engineers will be able to get the much needed rest they need to prevent many train accidents. Some train accidents lead to major accidents that leave crash victims devastated and injured for life, such as this $60 million personal injury verdict we worked in in 2000. Any law that can reduce the chances of such a terrible accident is worth it.

 

 

FRA Announces $25 Million Funding for Rail Safety Improvements

The Federal Railroad Administration has started to take applications from local governments, states and railroads for $25 million in grants to fund their railroad safety efforts.

Applicants can ask for funds for safety upgrades to railroad crossings, tracks, tunnels, yards, bridges, etc. The grants have been made available under the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

According to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, as the population of the US grows, rail is playing a bigger role in moving people and freight around the US. “To do that safely, we must invest in our rail infrastructure,” he said last week.

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FRA stated that it would accept railroad safety funding applications until June 14.

Our railroad accident attorneys are pleased that FRA is making these funds available to upgrade railroad safety in America. Our railroad accident lawyers have represented many clients who have suffered serious injuries, or their loved ones have even died, in various types of railroad accidents.

Whenever we see the federal government improving railroad crossings it certainly is a positive, especially for railroad crossing safety. However, when a railroad that owns the tracks that run over those highway crossings is sued because of injury or death, that’s the moment that the railroad claims that they have very little or no responsibility whatsoever. What most consumers may find surprising is that the railroads often receive money from state or federal government for lights or gates at crossings and do everything they can to avoid paying for them.
Even in the face of prior injuries or deaths at the crossing, the railroads who operate on the tracks argue that it should not be their responsibility to pay for gates or lights because the public has built a highway across their Railroad right-of-way. Their position, often overlooked by the public, is that it is local, state or federal government that should improve the safety of motorists traveling across the railroad crossing.
This type of multiple party responsibility is exactly what makes civil injury or death litigation at railroad crossings complex. Indeed, most states have variable or different jury instructions in these types of cases that dictate the railroad’s responsibility at a railroad crossing collision.

Many people do not know that the railroad company that uses that crossing is responsible for maintaining the safety of the crossing. The safety gates must work and flashing lights must be operational, and all vegetation and grass needs to be regularly cut away from the tracks to not obscure driver vision.

A good railroad accident attorney with experience in the state in which the accident occurred can be invaluable in recovering damages in a lawsuit. For example, our railroad accident lawyers bring in retired railroad workers to investigate railroad crossing accidents. Using their expert testimony, we have been able to prove in some cases that appropriate precautions were not taken at some railroad crossings.

FRA Seeks Comments on Train Horn Rules

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is inviting comments about its controversial train horn rules that are 11 years old. Current rules mandate that locomotives blast their horn when approaching a railroad crossing for safety purposes.

Several members of Congress from Colorado, including several representatives in the House and both US senators, applauded the FRA’s move and urged residents of the state as well as local government officials to provide comments to the railroad agency.

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Many politicians say that train horn noise is a serious issue for communities across Colorado and many other states. They say that they are advocating for flexibility in train horn rules to help some communities create more quiet zones that can increase economic development.

Current FRA rules that were set up 2005 allow communities to apply for permission from the federal government to create a quiet zone where the train horn rules can be relaxed IF the community puts up flashing lights and barrier gates.

Local government officials complain that it is too expensive for them to satisfy FRA’s requirement to set up quiet zones in this way.

Current rules state that train engineers must sound their horn for at least 15 seconds in advance of reaching a train crossing.

Our railroad accident attorneys in Virginia understand the concerns that some residents have regarding train horn noise. The problem is that safety gates are not a 100% solution. We have seen many train/car accidents over the years where the safety gates malfunction and stay up as the train is approaching.

We also have seen railroad crossings in some cases that were not properly maintained, with too much vegetation obstructing the view of the driver at the crossing. Our railroad accident lawyers have handled cases with sizable settlements where serious accidents have occurred at railroad crossings.

So, it is important for concerns over train horn noise to be considered in light of the fact that train horns sounding at crossings save lives.

Also, we think that the outcry over train horn noise only reinforces that positive train control systems must be implemented sooner rather than later, but the Federal Railroad Administration keeps allowing railroads to lobby for delays on implementation of PTC systems for the nation’s railroads. These are the systems that automatically can slow and stop a train if it detects a vehicle on a railroad crossing, or that the train crossing lights and gates are activated.