Norfolk, VA Railroad Worker Accident Lawyer Report – Investigators Probe Fiery Oklahoma Train Crash that Killed Three Workers

By John Cooper, Norfolk Railroad Accident Injury Lawyer

When things go wrong on the railroad they can go badly wrong. Take, for instance, the recent head-on collision between two freight trains that left three workers dead in Oklahoma.

Fox News reports human error was the likely cause of this fiery train crash in late June 2012, although federal investigators are still gathering evidence and haven’t yet determined a cause.

The crash between the Union Pacific trains just east of Goodwell, approximately 300 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, killed three railroad employees.

“The ‘very badly burned’ remains of the victims have been sent to the medical examiner’s office in Oklahoma City,” Fox reported.

The only other rail worker on the trains managed to jump free before the collision and the subsequent fireball and escaped with only cuts and bruises.

The National Transportation Safety Board said there was no evidence signals malfunctioned, and one of the trains should have pulled onto a side track as it passed through the flat Panhandle landscape. The track’s speed rating was also being examined.

As an experienced Norfolk, VA railroad accident/FELA attorney, I am disturbed by the circumstances of this terrible crash. Clearly somebody was to blame, leading to the distinct prospect of wrongful death cases being brought against Union Pacific.

These cases, by their nature, are often big money cases. In a recent article on the Virginia railroad accident/FELA lawyer site, I explained how railroad companies fight lawsuits tooth and nail and a large proportion of these cases go all the way to the courtroom.

In the case of the Oklahoma crash, the United Transportation Union identified the dead as conductor Brian L. Stone, 50, of Dalhart, Texas; and engineers Dan Hall and John Hall.
My thoughts are with their families. See our frequently asked questions about railroad worker accidents.

The Norfolk and Virginia Beach based personal injury law firm, Cooper Hurley, handles automobile, truck, and motorcycle injuries as well as wrongful death, railroad injury cases and medical malpractice.  John Cooper and Jim Hurley have over 40 years of combined experience in handling auto injury accident claims.  Attorney John Cooper has been named to Virginia “Super Lawyers” since 2010. 

Cooper Hurley represents people hurt in accidents in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News and throughout VA, and always put the best interests of our clients first. The firm is recognized by other lawyers as “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell, a national attorney rating service, for our top level of legal skill and highest ethical standards. If you need help or advice about a serious injury, please call us at 866-455-6657 or contact us through this website.

Railroad Crossing Accidents Are More Common Than People Think – A Virginia Railroad Injury Lawyer’s Advice

By John Cooper, Virginia Railroad Crossing Accident Injury Lawyer

Sadly trains hit motorists in cars and trucks all the time in Virginia and West Virginia.  The risk of being hit by a train if you are in a car is particularly scary when you think about the consequences.

A train weighs millions of pounds and when it hits your car weighing 3,000 pounds or a truck weighing 8,000 pounds the train is going to win.

The car or truck occupants often will be killed or severely injured in these wrecks.  There is some risk to the train crew of engineers and conductors in that sometimes a derailment can occur either because of the impact or because of the sudden braking in the emergency to try to avoid the collision.  The transportation crew of the railroad is often thrown around and injured but the psychological harm to them is often the worst knowing that they were just involved in a train wreck which killed somebody.

The railroad and often the local police will try to blame any grade crossing accident on the motorist.  Certainly it’s in the railroad’s interest to say that the railroad was not at fault and shouldn’t have to compensate the family of the victim.  They normally get out to the scene immediately with claims agents and attorneys and try to convince the police of the same thing.  If the motorist has been killed then they are not there to be able to tell their side of the story as to what happened.

But often it’s not the fault of the actual train crew.  The train crew does have a responsibility to blow their whistles at the whistle posts and to operate the train at the legal and safe speeds.  However these are not necessarily the main reasons that collisions happen.

In my experience of more than 20 years of working in the railroad accident field, I have seen certain patterns of what railroads do wrong that cause these grade crossing accidents.  One thing the railroad has a responsibility to do is to cut down vegetation and sight obstructions which prevent the motorist from being able to see the train as they approach the crossing.

It’s so common that large stands of trees or overgrown vegetation make it so that the passing car has no real chance of seeing the train until it’s too late.  This is especially true for the fast moving Amtrak trains running on CSX’s railroad lines in Virginia.  The Amtrak trains are going at 75 miles an hour.  They move so quickly that if there is only a limited amount of space after they come around the tree line that the motorist doesn’t have much of a chance.

The other thing that the railroads often do wrong is to not have the proper signage at the crossing.  For example many crossings are not equipped with stop signs even though they should have them.  There is no obligation for the motorist to stop at a train track unless he knows that the train is coming.  Sometimes stop signs are supposed to be there but are allowed to fall down and not get put back up as they should be.

The railroad has an obligation to keep the crossing safe.  However sometimes it seems like they would just as soon pay when they have to for people injured at crossings rather than take the time and spend the money to fix the many public and private crossings throughout the Virginias.

The Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Hampton based railroad injury/FELA law firm, Cooper Hurley, handles railroad worker’s injuries and injuries on rail crossings in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, as well as automobile, truck, and motorcycle injuries and slip and fall cases, wrongful death and medical malpractice.  John Cooper and Jim Hurley have over 40 years of combined experience in handling catastrophic injury claims.  Attorney John Cooper has been named to Virginia “Super Lawyers” since 2010.
Cooper Hurley represents families who have lost a loved one through another party’s fault in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News and throughout VA, and north eastern North Carolina. We always put the best interests of our clients first. The firm is recognized by other lawyers as “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell, a national attorney rating service, for our top level of legal skill and highest ethical standards. If you need help or advice about a serious injury, please call us at 866-455-6657 or contact us through this website.

Railroad Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Cases – A West Virginia Railroad Worker Injury Lawyer’s Advice

By John Cooper, West Virginia Railroad Injury Lawyer

One of the most serious types of FELA injury and wrongful death cases that we work on on behalf of railroad workers and their families in Virginia (VA), West Virginia (WV) and North Carolina (NC), are cases involving lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that only comes for exposure to asbestos.  Railroad workers especially prior to the 1990s were regularly exposed to asbestos in various crafts including car men and others in the mechanical department as well as engineers and conductors on trains.

See this video about the dangers of asbestos.

These crafts had the unfortunate circumstance of being exposed daily to this highly toxic substance without the railroad doing anything to tell the workers about what they were facing as far as future health problems.

There are lots of memos going back for decades showing that the railroad like other industries knew very well that asbestos exposure led to cancer.  Nonetheless the railroads did very little to get rid of asbestos in the railroad work environment.

In addition to asbestos there are other substances like diesel fumes which can lead to lung cancer in railroad workers.  The diesel fume exposure continues to the present.  Engineers and conductors are exposed to this carcinogenic substance daily even though the railroads have known for again decades that diesel fumes cause cancer.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by asbestos or diesel fumes on the railroad please get in touch with me so I can tell what your legal options are to pursue a FELA claim against the railroad for the harm caused to you and your family.

See this article about asbestos on our Virginia Beach Injury Lawyers site.

The Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Hampton based railroad injury/FELA law firm, Cooper Hurley, handles railroad worker’s injuries and injuries on rail crossings in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, as well as automobile, truck, and motorcycle injuries and slip and fall cases, wrongful death and medical malpractice.  John Cooper and Jim Hurley have over 40 years of combined experience in handling catastrophic injury claims.  Attorney John Cooper has been named to Virginia “Super Lawyers” since 2010.
Cooper Hurley represents families who have lost a loved one through another party’s fault in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News and throughout VA, and north eastern North Carolina. We always put the best interests of our clients first. The firm is recognized by other lawyers as “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell, a national attorney rating service, for our top level of legal skill and highest ethical standards. If you need help or advice about a serious injury, please call us at 866-455-6657 or contact us through this website.

A Railroad Worker Hurt on the Job Shouldn’t Settle a Claim With a Railroad Claims Agent – A North Carolina Railroad Injury Attorney’s Advice

By John Cooper, North Carolina Railroad Injury Lawyer

The railroad claims agent has a job to do and that is to get away with paying you as little as they possibly can if you’re hurt on the job in order to make themselves look good and to save the company money.

The railroad’s claims agent may act like they care about your health but they are typically just probing you for information they can use against you to say that you weren’t really hurt on the railroad or that some other way is not really the railroad’s fault or responsibility.  The railroad claims agents go to meetings and national programs of other railroads and their lawyers to learn how to most effectively limit the amount that they have to pay out.

If you go to an attorney who specializes in railroad worker injury cases under the FELA then the claims agent has effectively lost.

Once they get a letter from the lawyer representing you they are no longer allowed legally to contact you anymore.  At that point they lose the ability to direct you to company doctors of their choice or otherwise invade your privacy by finding out what they want to know that may help them limit their exposure.

At a minimum you should call an experienced specialized North Carolina railroad worker injury attorney if you’ve been hurt on the job so that you can learn what your rights are.  One important thing about how personal injury lawyers like myself handle these cases is that you don’t owe us any money up front for taking on your case.  Rather we only get paid when you get paid as a percentage of what’s collected from the railroad at the end of the case.  So you don’t have to worry about coming up with any retainers or any other money to hire the best attorney that you can find to help you with your railroad worker action case.

The Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Hampton based railroad injury/FELA law firm, Cooper Hurley, handles railroad worker’s injuries and injuries on rail crossings as well as automobile, truck, and motorcycle injuries and slip and fall cases, wrongful death and medical malpractice.  John Cooper and Jim Hurley have over 40 years of combined experience in handling catastrophic injury claims.  Attorney John Cooper has been named to Virginia “Super Lawyers” since 2010.
Cooper Hurley represents families who have lost a loved one through another party’s fault in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News and throughout VA, and north eastern North Carolina. We always put the best interests of our clients first. The firm is recognized by other lawyers as “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell, a national attorney rating service, for our top level of legal skill and highest ethical standards. If you need help or advice about a serious injury, please call us at 866-455-6657 or contact us through this website.

Virginia FELA Lawyer Report – Why Railroads Fight Accident Cases Tooth and Nail

By John Cooper, Chesapeake, VA Railroad Accident Injury Lawyer

There are a lot of reasons why railroad accidents on the job end up going further in litigation sometimes even to trial at a higher rate than your typical automobile accident injury case.

005One of the main reasons is that the railroads fight these cases tooth and nail.  The railroads have nearly unlimited resources and don’t even rely on insurance until you’re talking about reinsurance at the level of $40 million so the railroads have their own in‑house litigation departments and teams of field claims agents in every location where they do business.

It’s as if the railroad had all of Allstate or State Farm working for them as in‑house adjustors.  So even though the car insurance companies are often very stingy and unfair these days causing more cases to go into suit, the railroads are even worse.

The railroad claims agents will often drag things out and try to wear the railroad worker and their family down through dragging the matter into court.  Because they have all of the lawyers they need and enough money to pay them all the railroads can simply fight, fight, fight until the bitter end and only settle the case fairly on the eve of trial.  As an experienced Virginia FELA lawyer battling the railroads on behalf of injured railroad workers I know how they play.

Additionally it is amazing how often the railroads seem to hide information even from their own lawyers.

I was handling a deposition of some railroad supervisors just the other day and low and behold they come up with other photographs of the accident scene that they hadn’t bothered to send me before.

I had been asking for these photographs for a long time through the regular court process.  This is a fairly common way of doing business.  They claim that it’s not intentional but I think it is a culture of the fighting to protect the corporation’s bottom line at the expense of the railroad workers who give their bodies and their lives to keep the trains running.

The Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Hampton based railroad injury/FELA law firm, Cooper Hurley, handles railroad worker’s injuries and injuries on rail crossings as well as automobile, truck, and motorcycle injuries and slip and fall cases, wrongful death and medical malpractice.  John Cooper and Jim Hurley have over 40 years of combined experience in handling catastrophic injury claims.  Attorney John Cooper has been named to Virginia “Super Lawyers” since 2010.
Cooper Hurley represents families who have lost a loved one through another party’s fault in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News and throughout VA, and north eastern North Carolina. We always put the best interests of our clients first. The firm is recognized by other lawyers as “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell, a national attorney rating service, for our top level of legal skill and highest ethical standards. If you need help or advice about a serious injury, please call us at 866-455-6657 or contact us through this website.

What Makes Railroad Injury Cases Often $1 Million Plus Payouts – A VA and North Carolina Injury Lawyer’s Advice

By John Cooper, Norfolk Railroad Accident Injury Lawyer

There are several reasons why FELA cases on behalf of injured railroad workers are often resolved by settlement or a jury verdict with extremely high amounts of money.

One of the reasons that railroad workers often recover lots in compensation when they get hurt on the job is that the railroad worker occupations are extremely dangerous.  Often the injury to an engineer, conductor, brakeman, trackman, carman or signalman can be catastrophic.

It is not unusual for men to be killed working on the railroad or to have a limb such as an arm or a leg cut off leaving them as amputees.  Obviously when an extreme injury like having your leg cut off occurs the amount of compensation necessary to try to address the harms and losses has to be a very high amount of money.  The weight of railroad equipment in the hundreds of thousands of pounds means that if you get hit by a car or a locomotive, there’s going to be some major physical injury.

The other reason that personal injury cases involving injured railroad workers often result in high verdicts and settlements has to do with lost wages.  Because the railroad work is so dangerous and physically demanding, railroad workers earn a good living for their long hours.  Often railroad workers, whether a maintenance away crew or an on-the-road transportation crew have to be away from their families for days or longer at a time.  They earn good money, better than most blue collar jobs, as part of their union pay package.

So if you injure a worker and cause him to lose his job on the railroad you have caused a serious economic harm to him and his family.  For example if a railroad engineer is earning $90,000.00 a year and he gets hurt in a way that causes him to need a back surgery and he can no longer lift the up to a 100 pounds necessary to do his job then he is going to lose the value of his earnings for the rest of his work life.

This can add up to some very big figures.  If the railroad worker was 50 at the time he got hurt, you’re talking about 15 years to age 65 at $90,000.00 a year plus benefits.

That’s over $1,300,000.00 in economic losses before you even talk about the pain and suffering, inconvenience and other losses associated with having a man knocked out of his career.

Because of the high economic losses and the likelihood of serious physical injury in railroad worker accidents these cases are often high stakes.  That is an important reason to hire an experienced and specialized Virginia and North Carolina FELA law personal injury attorney who has been handling railroad injury cases for many years to make sure that these large cases come out correctly.

The Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Hampton based railroad injury/FELA law firm, Cooper Hurley, handles railroad worker’s injuries and injuries on rail crossings as well as automobile, truck, and motorcycle injuries and slip and fall cases, wrongful death and medical malpractice.  John Cooper and Jim Hurley have over 40 years of combined experience in handling catastrophic injury claims.  Attorney John Cooper has been named to Virginia “Super Lawyers” since 2010.
Cooper Hurley represents families who have lost a loved one through another party’s fault in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News and throughout VA, and north eastern North Carolina. We always put the best interests of our clients first. The firm is recognized by other lawyers as “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell, a national attorney rating service, for our top level of legal skill and highest ethical standards. If you need help or advice about a serious injury, please call us at 866-455-6657 or contact us through this website.