Jim McEldrew’s Annual Railroad Worker Holiday Party Scheduled

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Jim McEldrew has scheduled his annual holiday party for Philadelphia’s railroad workers.  This year, it will be Friday, December 8, 2017 starting at 6:30 PM at Chez Colette (located inside the Sofitel Hotel).  Chez Colette is located at 120 S. 17th St. in Center City, Philadelphia.

We look forward to another great turnout of SEPTA workers and others in the railroad industry.  Although we are sad that it could not be held at Pennsylvania 6 again (since they closed), we are looking forward to celebrating the holiday season at a new venue with old and new friends.

Past and present clients are, of course, welcome and should be receiving the below postcard invitation in the mail.  If we don’t have your address but you work for a railroad in the area, you are also free to join us – just make sure that you are RSVP so that we know you are coming.

In order to let the restaurant know how many people to expect, please RSVP by Tuesday, November 28, 2017 to Jessica Dinsdorf at McEldrew Young.  She can be reached at (215) 545-8800 (ask for Jessica) or email to jdinsdorf@mceldrewyoung.com .

The details from the invite are below.  We look forward to seeing you in early December!

SEPTA NHSL Crash at 69th Street: Dozens Injured

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Dozens of SEPTA passengers and the conductor were injured last night when a Norristown High Speed Line train crashed into a parked train car at 69th Street Station in Upper Darby after midnight. Four were reportedly critically injured but SEPTA said none of the injuries appeared life threatening. The injured were taken to eight area hospitals following mobilization for a mass casualty incident.

SEPTA is investigating the cause of the accident. According to one report published by CBS Philly, the train conductor overshot the train platform at both Gulph Mills and Bryn Mawr prior to hitting the train at 69th Street as passengers were preparing to depart. The conductor was among the injured and was taken to the hospital, according to Upper Darby Mayor Thomas Micozzie. Philadelphia Inquirer reported this morning that the conductor was released from the hospital.

A SEPTA spokeswoman told NBC 10 that the Norristown High Speed Line is equipped with Automatic Train Control. ATC provides a train operator with an in-cab warning if they violate the speed limit and takes over within a few seconds if they fail to slow the train.  Positive Train Control, a more advanced version of the technology that was installed on Amtrak lines following the 2015 Philadelphia derailment, was not in use.

69th Street Terminal hasn’t had a great safety record this year. This train station was also the location of a crash in the rail yard in February where two out-of-service Market-Frankford line train collided after dropping off passengers at the station. One of the trains derailed in that accident and four were injured.

If you or a family member were injured on the train, please call 1-800-590-4116 for a free consultation with Jim McEldrew or another McEldrew Young railroad attorney.

December Deadline for Hoboken Train Crash Victims

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McEldrew Young is currently representing several injured victims of the New Jersey Transit train crash in Hoboken, New Jersey. For individuals who were injured on train 1614 or the Hoboken Station platform and have not secured legal representation, we urge you to do so soon.  There is an upcoming deadline under New Jersey law concerning the filing of a Notice of Tort Claim that you must not miss to pursue an injury claim.

In order to bring a successful claim against NJ Transit under New Jersey law, a claimant must satisfy certain requirements:

  • file a Notice of Tort Claim against the entity within ninety (90) days of the accident; and
  • demonstrate that he or she sustained a permanent or substantial injury; or
  • demonstrate that the crash was caused by NJ Transit’s “willful misconduct.”

For individuals injured in the railroad accident, filing a notice of claim within 90 days is one of the requirements of a successful claim for compensation. If you or your family members does not do so, a Court may deny the claim and dismiss the lawsuit. Therefore, anyone injured in the Hoboken NJ Transit crash has until December 28, 2016 to file a notice of claim.

Filing a notice of claim does not commit a person to suing NJ Transit, but it does preserve their right to do so.  After filing the requisite notice, individuals will likely face a rigorous defense from NJ Transit. The law is designed to minimize claims for compensation against this government agency.

New Jersey law specifically requires a claimant to demonstrate either (a) that they suffered a permanent injury, permanent disfigurement, or dismemberment; or (b) that NJ Transit acted willfully in causing the accident. This is a higher standard than seen in the ordinary personal injury case, which adheres to the traditional negligence standard. Examples of injuries severe enough to recover damages under the law include: large muscle tears, substantial visible scarring, loss of bodily functions, severe head trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, in some cases, courts have found injuries such as herniated discs, concussions, and medial meniscal tears without loss of function, although debilitating and painful, failed to meet the requisite “permanency” requirement.

The other option is to demonstrate willful misconduct. The goal of our investigation will be to reveal the crash was caused by some willful misconduct on the part of NJ Transit and/or the conductor operating train 1614 that day.

Jim is an expert on railroad incidents, and has been featured on Fox News as their expert on the Hoboken crash. McEldrew Young is well versed in the federal regulations, the safety guidelines governing the railroad industry, and the mechanics of the particular train involved in this accident.

To fully protect you and your family, it is recommended that you contact an experienced attorney who is capable of properly documenting the injuries, navigating the complex legal framework, and ensuring that your family is fully protected at every stage of the process. If you would like to speak to a railroad attorney, Jim can be reached at (800) 223-3352.

One Year Anniversary of Amtrak Derailment

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Today is the one year anniversary of the derailment of Amtrak Train 188 at the Frankford Curve in Philadelphia. Sarah Feinberg, the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, called it the “most deadly rail accident we’ve had in a very long time.”

We thought we would take a look at some of the changes that have been made since the accident and some of the news that is expected in the next week or so:

Positive Train Control

PTC is an automatic train braking system that slows or stops a train to prevent an accident. Although Congress had set a deadline for implementation, it had not been completed by the time of the accident. Amtrak has since installed it on all railroad track that it owns in the Northeast Corridor but much of the track outside of the Northeast is owned by private freight companies and has still not yet had the system installed. The deadline was pushed by Congress from 2015 to 2018.

Claims Limit Raised

At the time of the accident, Congress had limited the total amount of money that Amtrak could pay out as a result of a crash to $200 million. The maximum damage cap, set in 1997, was exceeded in the 2008 Chatsworth collision of a Union Pacific freight train and a Metrolink commuter train in California. As a result of the Philadelphia crash, Congress increased the damage cap to $295 million as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act).

The Lawsuit

Amtrak has settled 19 injury claims as a result of the accident, each for an amount less than $50,000. There are at least another 100 lawsuits against the railroad seeking compensation. Amtrak has said that it would not contest claims for compensatory damages from injuries.

Changes to Scoop and Run Expected

Philadelphia is expected to revise its mass casualty plan next week to ensure that future disasters go more smoothly. Parked police cars restricted the access to the area for ambulances. Police officers were transporting victims to local area hospitals in their patrol cars. This “scoop and carry” policy where officers transport victims to local hospitals in their cars rather than wait for ambulances is credited with reducing the homicide rate in the city.

Investigation Report Next Week

The National Transportation Safety Board will meet on Tuesday to determine the probable cause of the Amtrak crash. The NTSB has already released 2,200 pages of interviews, reports and other documents from its investigation.

Transportation Funding Bill Set to Increase Damage Cap for Train Crashes and NHTSA Fines for Auto Companies

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More money will be available to victims of the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia during May as Congress is set to increase the damage cap for train crashes by nearly 50% to $295 million, according to a compromise reached by members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives on the transportation bill today.

The $200 million per crash cap on damages to all victims involved in a single railroad accident was adopted by Congress in 1997 as Congress overhauled the operation of Amtrak. The damage cap was previously hit in litigation surrounding the 2008 train collision in Chatsworth, California. Although some attempted to lift the cap then, there was ultimately not enough support to do so.

Following the Philadelphia accident, there were renewed calls for the cap to be lifted. Over the summer, the Senate agreed to the measure when it passed its version of the transportation bill. Yet, the proposal was in doubt because of concerns that the House would not adopt it. The House did not touch the $200 million limit when it passed its version of the spending transportation bill.

The compromise bill will also provide about $200 million in funding for railroads to implement positive train control. Jim McEldrew, the head of our personal injury lawyers and a former President of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys, has previously called for Congress to force railroad companies to adopt PTC, as it is known.

As we noted previously, the transportation bill does not touch the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, which passed the Senate unanimously earlier this year. Although we had previously speculated that the auto whistleblower law could be wrapped up in with the transportation bill, Congress ultimately decided not to do so. We hope that the House will instead take on this issue next year as part of its investigation into auto safety measures.

Insert: Got the above section wrong. The FAST Act did adopt the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act.

Notable among the auto safety initiatives which were included was an increase in the maximum per incident fine for delayed recalls that could be imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The fine cap will be increased from $35 million to $105 million by the bill. The NHTSA has been handing out record fines over the past few years as it struggles to enforce the laws promoting recalls and accident reporting by auto manufacturers.

The legislation will now be voted on by both chambers of Congress and then signed by President Obama. Approval is expected by all three parties.

Photo Credit.

Jim McEldrew Discussing Amtrak Derailment on Fox News

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Gretchen Carlson of Fox News interviewed Jim McEldrew this afternoon on her television show.  Jim has been representing injured individuals in railroad litigation for more than thirty years and formerly served as the President of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys.  They discussed the implications of the foreign object and the potential for the railroad engineer to be confused as to his geographical position on the tracks.

Earlier today, Jim was also interviewed on Knowledge@Wharton, a daily call-in business interview program hosted by Dan Loney on SiriusXM channel 111.  On the air with Dr. Allan Zarembski, a Research Professor and Director of Railroad Engineering and Safety Program at the University of Delaware, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, they discussed the Amtrak derailment, Congressional funding and railroad safety.

 

Jim McEldrew on Positive Train Control in the Philadelphia Inquirer

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McEldrew Young Partner and Railroad Attorney James J. McEldrew, III had his commentary on Positive Train Control published on the Philadelphia Inquirer website today.  The article discusses the need for the automated system mandated by Congress in 2008 to be implemented by Amtrak and other railroads to prevent accidents like the one last night.  It’s titled “U.S. railroad’s must adopt ‘train control’ now.”

Updates on the Amtrak Train Derailment

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We’ve been closely following the coverage of the Amtrak derailment since the news broke that there was a railroad accident in Philadelphia.  Our hearts go out to the crew, passengers and their families right now.  We’ve represented hundreds of railroad workers over the course of our legal careers and have spoken to a number of our contacts in this area about what is happening.  Here’s what we know:

Thursday (May 21) updates:

The NTSB has now posted information about its investigation online.  This page will be updated with additional information as the investigation proceeds.  You can find it at: http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/Pages/2015_philadelphia_pa.aspx

 


 

 

Monday (May 18) updates:

Four passengers filed lawsuits against Amtrak in Federal Court today.  They are the first by non-employee passengers since the May 12th crash.

On Saturday, the Federal Railroad Administration instructed Amtrak to take additional safety measures.  Among them is the installment of Automatic Train Control (a limited version of Positive Train Control that informs speeding engineers and then automatically applies the brakes if they do not).  ATC was installed on the southbound tracks but not the northbound tracks.  The FRA also told Amtrak to improve signage concerning speed limits and study the safety of all curves on the NEC.


 

Friday updates:

The first lawsuit has been filed by an Amtrak employee that was riding the train while off-duty.


 

Thursday updates:

The media is now reporting eight casualties.  At least 47 are still in the hospital and eight are in critical condition.

All passengers and crew have now been accounted for, according to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.


 

Wednesday evening updates:

The names of the victims and those still missing are slowly becoming public.  There are no appropriate words.

The train was reportedly going 106 miles per hour into the 50 mph section of the curve.  The NTSB has said that Positive Train Control could have slowed the train if it had been installed on that section of the track.  It hasn’t been implemented on the Northeast Corridor even though the deadline imposed by Congress is at the end of the year.

There’s an intense debate going on about whether Amtrak needs to add seat belts to its trains.

The House Appropriations Committee voted to cut Amtrak’s budget from $1.4 billion to $1.13 billion today.

 


 

Wednesday morning update:

There’s now six reported dead and at least 146 injuries from the Amtrak accident.  A Department of Transportation representative says that the engine and all seven cars derailed.  The train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew.  Authorities have not yet accounted for everyone on board.  The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that additional fatalities may be discovered when rescue workers lift one of the derailed passenger cars currently on its side.

The area of the track is known as Frankford Junction.  It is a large curve after an almost 2 mile straight away from 30th Street Station on the start of the journey toward New York City.  There are speed restrictions for trains on the curve with a 70 mph limit on trains moving through Philadelphia County.  There were early reports that the train may have collided with a freight train moving in the opposite direction but Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said last night that there was no indication another train was involved.

Temple Hospital received a total of 54 patients, eight of whom were in critical condition.

Mayor Nutter is scheduled to provide another update at 11 AM EST.

The NTSB is on the scene.  We’ve heard that they are looking at issues related to the operation of the train but that maintenance of the track is also on their radar.  They have the event recorder and took it out of state to analyze it. The Federal Railroad Administration is also sending at least eight investigators.  The FBI has found no indication of terrorism.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that this is the deadliest crash on the Northeast Corridor, America’s busiest railroad line, since 1987 when an Amtrak collision with a freight train killed 16 near Baltimore.

Railroad traffic between New York City and Philadelphia is still shut down.

The House Appropriations Committee is meeting today to discuss the transportation bill which includes funding to Amtrak.  The bill would reportedly cut funding from $1.4 billion to $1.13 billion.

 


From last night:

Our hearts go out to all of the victims of the Amtrak train derailment here in Philadelphia tonight. For passenger information, call the Amtrak Hotline at 1-800-523-9101. We’ve been following the coverage for the past three hours and here is what we know:

At around 9:30 pm on May 12th, an Amtrak train derailed near the intersection of Frankford Ave. and Wheatsheaf Lane northeast of Center City, Philadelphia in Port Richmond. Train 188 was headed from Washington D.C. to New York City and had just completed a stop at 30th Street Station.

The engine and six cars derailed.

There are 5 reported fatalities, six critical injuries transported to local hospitals and an estimated 50 or so other injured passengers.

It was declared a level 3 mass casualty emergency. Philadelphia Mayor Nutter called it unlike anything he had ever seen in his life. The response involved 120 fire professionals, 200 police officers and many others including SEPTA, Homeland Security, etc.

NTSB is headed to the scene to investigate. They are supposed to be there early in the morning.

There’s about 25 patients at Frankford Hospital mainly from the first three cars of the train. They have numerous injuries including concussions, broken bones, etc.

Webster Elementary School in Port Richmond was used as a staging and assessment area for less critical passengers. Some of these individuals gave statements to police about what happened prior to going to medical facilities for treatment.

There have been 18 train accidents in Pennsylvania this year. 11 involved train derailments but this is the first that has led to a fatality.

In 1943, there was an Amtrak derailment near the location of tonight’s accident over Labor Day weekend that killed 79 and injured 117 others.

Rail service to New York City is currently suspended.

We’ll update more in the morning.


About Jim McEldrew and McEldrew Young:

Jim McEldrew is a former President of the Rail Labor Attorneys and a former President of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association.  He has represented hundreds of injured railroad workers in litigation under the FELA.  To reach Jim, call 1-800-590-4116.

 

 

Photo Credit.

Is it Time for a Broader Debate About Transportation Safety?

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The Department of Transportation has a number of issues to tackle now, including spending on the nation’s highway infrastructure and strengthening the safety of motor vehicles, which we discussed in one of our blog posts last week. It seems likely that railroad safety will be added to that list following the two high profile train accidents to make the national news over the past month.

The first incident, on February 3rd outside of New York City, involved a Metro-North passenger train which derailed after striking an SUV on the tracks.

The second incident involved the derailment of a train pulling more than 100 oil tank cars during a snowstorm in West Virginia on Monday, February 16. As the crude oil exploded, it sent a massive fireball into the sky which was captured and played on the national news media.

Following these two accidents, there have been calls for improvement to both the safety of rail crossings and the transportation of crude oil by train.

Senators Schumer and Blumenthal have already announced that they will propose a bill to increase federal funding to improve the safety of railroad crossings. The Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015 will strengthen funding for improved education, engineering and enforcement at railroad crossings.

More than 200 people were killed nationwide at the nearly 2,100 grade crossing accidents last year. According to Operation Lifesaver, a person or vehicle is hit by a train roughly every three hours.

Additional regulation of trains carrying oil is likely to be on the way as well. The U.S. Department of Transportation developed a proposal for tougher regulation of the industry over the summer. The plan went to the White House for final review this month. It would require tougher shells on cars carrying oil and advanced braking systems.

However, it is not clear that the measures proposed would have prevented the West Virginia derailment. The government will probably take a fresh look at the regulations in light of the results of the present investigation. If the measures are determined inadequate, there will likely be additional rules put in place.

With the safety of motor vehicles and truck driving also hot issues, this could be the right time for comprehensive legislation to attempt to address the nation’s transportation problems. Perhaps it is time for a “Dodd-Frank” type bill before things get worse in the transportation industry.

Congress will consider a number of bills over the next year to improve motor vehicle safety and delayed recalls by manufacturers. There may also be support for changes to the regulation of truck drivers following the high profile crash between a Walmart truck and the limo carrying Tracy Morgan this summer. Given all of the transportation safety issues, a comprehensive bill might be best. This would probably also help the chances of passage for whistleblower rewards in the auto industry.

We will continue to follow these issues here as solutions are proposed. Railroad injuries are a major aspect of our trial attorneys’ practice. Jim McEldrew has represented clients in railroad litigation, including lawsuits under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) by railroad workers, for years. He also has extensive experience litigating serious injuries due to accidents involving cars and trucks.

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