Articles Posted in Railroad Accidents & FELA

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Police continue to investigate a Meade County crash involving a train and a vehicle. The accident occurred at the intersection of Old Ekron Road and Shumate Road. One person was injured as a result of the accident, although it is unknown whether that individual was in the vehicle or train.

The Federal Highway Administration reports that a train accident occurs every 2 hours in the United States. Such accidents tend to have higher incidences of injuries and fatalities due to the speed and massive weight of trains.

Crashes involving trains can occur for a variety of reasons including insufficient rail maintenance, negligent or reckless train operators, drivers trying to sneak past an oncoming train and inadequate warnings at train railroad crossings.

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A lost driver was struck by a train yesterday in eastern Louisville. According to police, the lost driver was turning around on the train tracks near Taylorsville Road and Stone Lakes Drive when a Norfolk-Southern freight train collided with the car.

The driver was transported by Metro EMS to University Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No one in the train was injured.

While it is unknown at this time why the driver opted to turn around on the train tracks despite the proximity of the train, it is possible the lights and safety gates on the tracks were deficient or defective. Many collisions involving trains and vehicles occur due, at least in part, to inadequate signs and warnings at railroad crossings. The FRA and National Transportation Safety Board typically launch investigations into only a very small number of these accidents.

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A 69-year-old Kentucky man was recently killed after being involved in a collision with a train. Terry Clark of Corydon was operating a semi-tractor trailer near Spottsville, Kentucky and proceeded over railroad tracks as a train was approaching. The train collided with the tractor trailer, the force of which caused Clark to be ejected from the vehicle.

While it is unknown at this time what caused Clark to drive over the railroad tracks despite the proximity of the train, it is possible the lights and safety gates were inadequate. Many such fatal train accidents involving vehicles occur in small cities and towns whose railroad crossings lack adequate signs and warnings. The FRA and National Transportation Safety Board typically launch investigations into only a very small number of these accidents.
According to The National Transportation Safety Board, 60% of all railroad crossing deaths happen at unprotected crossings and roughly 80% of public crossings are deficient in terms of adequate lights and safety gates. The fatal crash is being investigated by Kentucky State Police. The owner of the train and/or the train tracks could potentially have civil liability in claim brought for the wrongful death of Clark if it is revealed that the lights and/or safety gates were inadequate or non-functioning.

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A 62-year-old Grayson County man was killed after his SUV was struck by a train. According to police, a southbound train struck Carl Roof’s Chevrolet Tahoe on the driver’s side as the vehicle was crossing railroad tracks on Hughes Mill Road in Big Clifty, Kentucky. The impact forced the SUV off the tracks and caused the vehicle to overturn. Roof was pronounced dead at the scene. A child passenger in the SUV was flown to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville with non-life threatening injuries.

Many such fatal train accidents involving vehicles occur in small cities and towns whose railroad crossings lack adequate signs and warnings. The FRA and National Transportation Safety Board typically launch investigations into only a very small number of these accidents.

According to The National Transportation Safety Board, 60% of all railroad crossing deaths happen at unprotected crossings and roughly 80% of public crossings are deficient in terms of adequate lights and safety gates. The fatal crash is being investigated by Kentucky State Police. The owner of the train and/or the train tracks may have civil liability in the death of Mr. Roof and injuries caused to the juvenile passenger.

We use our blog as a forum to educate the public using real life events. However, we are very sensitive to the fact that these real life events have resulted in a tragedy that will inflict great pain and sorrow on those involved and those close to the victim(s). As such, we understand that they may not approve, and we will immediately remove a post if a victim or their loved ones makes that request.

Yesterday, two train cars derailed from the train tracks. The two cars were carrying ethanol gas. Police and fire crews responded to the scene. It was determined that none of the gas was leaking, and therefore no immediate threat was declared to the surrounding area. The train cars were put back on the tracks for transportation, and the area was cleared after about five hours. The two cars that derailed were carrying 60,000 pounds of the ethanol gas, and there were an additional eight train cars carrying another 400,000 pounds of the gas.

In a recent decision, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled on the applicability of the “discovery rule” in cases brought under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). The Appellant in this case, Larry Zapp, brought suit against his former employer, railroad giant CSX, in 2008 after he was diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome. CSX moved for summary judgment based on the fact that Mr. Zapp had retired eight (8) years earlier in 2000, and his symptoms began shortly after his retirement. The defense cited the three (3) year statute of limitation in which to bring a FELA case. Under FELA, “no action shall be maintained…unless commenced within three years from the day the cause of action accrued.” 45 U.S.C. § 56 (2006).

Summary judgment was granted by the Jefferson County Circuit Court and the matter was appealed. The Appellate Court found that while it was true that the injury had manifested itself eight years earlier (and therefore suit was filed many years after the three year SOL had expired) that the second, and perhaps most important, element of any calculation of a statute of limitation under FELA had not been taken into account by the trial court – that being when Mr. Zapp knew the cause of his injury. In Lipsteuer v. CSX Transp., Inc. 37 S.W.3d 732, 737 (Ky. 2000) a legal precedent was established that when analyzing SOL’s under FELA that the cause of the injury must be known through the exercise of “reasonable diligence.”
The Appellate Court ruled that when Mr. Zapp should have known the cause of his injury was a matter for the finder of fact (jury) to decide, therefore summary judgment was not proper at the trial level.