West Virginia Train Derailment, Explosions and Crude Oil Spills

Train FireThe oil boom is a great thing for the United States and Canada, but the danger to railroad workers and residents is increasing. That is because the odds that a railroad worker or a resident living near a railroad track will be the victim of a FELA railroad accident are also increasing. Just this week, a train carrying crude oil derailed in a West Virginia neighborhood and exploded several times. These incidents are often due to someone’s negligence, so those who have been injured must hire train accident lawyers to file a claim against the guilty parties.

A Joint Venture

Last year, serious train derailments in the U.S. and Canada led officials from both countries to suggest that regulators develop new laws to prevent further mishaps. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB stated that people’s lives are endangered because safety regulations are behind the times. The NTSB’s Chairman Deborah Hersman also stated that people who live close to railroad tracks deserve to be protected.

In July of 2014, 47 people died when a train derailed and burst into flames in the town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec. This accident also destroyed the town’s center. Safety agencies from Canada and the United States issued a joint statement recommending that regulators create a new set of rules to govern the transportation of crude oil.

Why Railroad Accidents Occur

According to officials with the NTSB, the amount of crude oil shipped by rail has increased by 400 percent in the past 10 years. In that time, companies began to drill at an ever-increasing rate in Canada, Montana and the Bakken Shale region of North Dakota.

As of today, Canadian officials have not stated the specific reason for the train derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic. After examining the documents, they did discover that the train’s extremely flammable cargo was mischaracterized as something less dangerous. According to investigators, someone classified the oil as a “Packing Group III” product when it was actually a more perilous “Class 3, Packing Group II” product. This explains how the fuel could ignite so rapidly after the derailment occurred.

Changes in Procedures

The Canadians made changes in their procedures after the Lac-Megantic incident. Among them was the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration’s plans to begin conducting surprise inspections and performing tests on crude oil that arrives by train.

Although an effort is being made to improve the situation, officials with the NTSB are concerned that dangerous crude oil shipments will continue to be misidentified as safer than they are. This will allow these companies to skirt the new safety regulations. Therefore, the NTSB suggests that hazardous safety agencies and the railroads plan to ship petroleum on tracks that do not travel through populated locations.

The Latest Train Derailment

The need for increased security regulations for trains carrying crude oil became clear this week in West Virginia. The latest train derailment contaminated the area’s water supply and forced approximately 1,000 residents to evacuate their homes. It also caused the Kanawha River to catch fire. Fortunately, only one person was injured in this catastrophe, but one family’s home was irreparably damaged. It was also stated that this shipment was being transported in the newer CPC 1232 tanker cars which are supposed to be safer than the older DOT-111 cars..

Unites States and Canadian officials are doing what they can to improve this matter, but they do not always have everyone’s cooperation. Investigators have not yet said whether or not the Lac-Megantic tragedy was due to intentional mislabeling, but officials worry that this type of behavior could occur as new regulations go into effect. If so, more train derailments are possible, and FELA attorneys will be ready to serve workers and residents who are hurt in the future.

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Houston Metro Bus Driver Responsible for Fiery Crash

firetrucks-150x146It was noon on Thursday, February 12 in northeast Houston at the intersection of Crosstimbers and Hirsch. The No. 52 Metro bus was heading eastbound on Crosstimbers preparing to make a left turn, when it collided with a westbound van. The van hit the right side of the bus, sending it careening 30 to 40 feet into a nearby field. The van burst into flames and the drivers of both vehicles, as well as the bus’s 14 passengers, were taken to three area hospitals by the six ambulances that rushed to the scene. Houston truck accident attorney services will certainly need to be obtained to protect the legal rights of victims of this accident.

In spite of the relocation of the bus into the field and the fiery demise of the van, the accident yielded no serious injuries. However, a number of the victims received medical attention for minor issues. A subsequent investigation found the bus driver to be at fault for the crash, since she failed to yield the right of way to the van. It remains to be seen if the Metro bus driver will be allowed to return to work or if her job will be terminated. Speeding, using a mobile phone while operating a vehicle and driving recklessly can all lead to employment termination for Houston Metro bus drivers, as can the findings of an investigation after a Metro driver has been ruled to be at fault.

Crashes such as this recent collision often bring to mind questions about what role a Houston auto accident lawyer could play in assisting the victims and their families. After all, those who were helpless drivers or passengers frequently suffer both physically and emotionally after a wreck such as this. Texas truck accident lawyers are adept at advocating for those who have suffered needlessly due to the fault of others.

It is a virtual certainty that the driver of the van, as well as some of the people who were riding the No. 52 bus that day, will be seeking legal guidance as a result of this incident. That is because vehicular accidents forever change the lives of those who experience them. In Texas, crashes are the leading cause of serious injury. Ramifications can range from minor aches to chronic pain, lost wages and capacity, inability to enjoy favorite activities or, in the worst case scenario, the death of a loved one. No matter what the after-effects may be, victims are entitled to reimbursement for their losses.

After the trauma of a collision such as the one that happened on February 12 in northeast Houston, victims can be overwhelmed by an onslaught of factors. First and foremost, they may well be dealing with serious injuries that cause physical pain and limit their ability to resume their normal lives. To compound those very real difficulties, posttraumatic stress disorder is a strong possibility. It is not uncommon for people to have flashbacks, nightmares and fear of driving or being a passenger in a vehicle. Add to that the medical bills and lost wages that pile up, and this cascade of consequences can be devastating.

That is where a legal advocate can be of invaluable support. From marshalling resources to making phone calls, from sorting through the maze of medical charges to offering moral support, a Houston auto accident lawyer can work alongside the victim as an invaluable partner throughout the recovery process. Most important of all, Texas truck accident lawyers can navigate the complicated Texas judicial system, ensuring that justice is done. If necessary, their support can extend throughout any appeals process that occurs until victims receive the compensation they deserve.

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Fatal Accident at DuPont Caused by Flawed Safety Culture

texas-refineryIn only five years, DuPont experienced three separate fatal industrial accidents. The last one occurred on November 15, 2014 in La Porte, Texas, and it was the most destructive of the three. In the latest incident, a chemical leak at the plant caused four workers including two brothers to lose their lives. This is an example of a time when a call to a Houston industrial accident attorney is warranted.

The Events of November 15, 2014 in La Porte

Methyl mercaptan began to leak from an operations building at around 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Workers needed approximately two hours to contain the leak of nearly 23,000 pounds of poisonous gas. About 12 hours later, DuPont confirmed that four people from the crop protection unit perished in the incident, including 48-year-old Gilbert Tisnado and his brother 39-year-old Robert Tisnado. The crew’s supervisor Wade Baker and a female employee were also killed.

The CSB’s Investigation

Whenever there is a Houston wrongful death in an industrial accident, an inquiry must be initiated to learn the causes of the tragedy. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board or CSB is one agency that performs this type of work. During the CSB’s investigation, the seven-member team came to some enlightening conclusions. The board’s chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso stated that DuPont’s building had flaws that allowed this Houston chemical plant accident to happen, but he also stated that DuPont has a problem in its safety culture.

Managing director of the CSB Daniel Horowitz stated that leaks of methyl mercaptan are extremely rare. As a matter of fact, the DuPont leak is the first time his agency has ever been faced with a fatality that was due to this type of leakage. He pointed out that methyl mercaptan is such a dangerous chemical that it requires the most stringent regulatory measures, and that it is highly unusual for a methyl mercaptan leak to cause the death of so many people. For this reason, he is searching for the answers to several questions that will help him prevent this type of catastrophe from occurring in the future.

The DuPont Building’s Issues

The first problem the agency found is the fact that the ventilation system was broken. This caused the dangerous chemical methyl mercaptan to build up unbeknownst to workers and administrators. This was a perilous situation because liquid methyl mercaptan turns into a deadly gas when it is allowed to mix with oxygen.

In addition, the ventilation fans were inoperable. The vent system contains several links that lead to the methyl mercaptan supply line. Because of the building’s faulty design, liquid methyl mercaptan accumulated within the vents. This made it necessary for workers to drain the liquid by hand, and that is when they were exposed to the chemicals.

Exposure to this gas can cause serious symptoms to develop in humans, but the effects are even more harmful when methyl mercaptan leaks in an enclosed area that is poorly ventilated. However, the ventilation system could have been functional, and it would not necessarily have kept workers safe from danger according to Moure-Eraso.

Common Problems that Cause Chemical Plant Accidents

Moure-Eraso stressed that chemical plant accidents have many things in common, including permissive guidelines governing the industry and ineffective regulations. In addition, they tend to have flaws in how the plant was designed and dysfunctional safety procedures. These common causes have been noted in cases that any experienced Houston work injury attorney would be aware of.

DuPont’s Response

In a statement released February 5, executives with DuPont expressed their commitment to providing a safe workplace for their employees. In the statement, executives claimed that they work on an ongoing basis to improve safety measures ever since they first implemented safety rules in 1811 when their company first began operating. They are conducting discussions with members of the CSB to learn where the problems lie and how they can fix them.

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The Latest in a Tragic Pattern of Metro-North Railroad Accidents

train-yardIn New York’s Westchester County, a recent railroad accident ended in flames when a Metro-North commuter train hit a sport-utility vehicle during the evening rush hour. Six people, including the driver of the car, were killed on impact and 15 more were treated for injuries at a local hospital. While investigations are still ongoing, experts say human error is the likeliest cause of the deadly collision. According to witness statements, Ellen Brody, the mother of three who was behind the wheel of the ill-fated vehicle, was caught in between closed crossing gates when she drove forward into the path of the oncoming train. Without clear answers as to why she did not reverse back to safety or whether any fatalities could have been prevented with safeguards, contacting a railroad accident attorney may be the only recourse for victims and their families.

Devastating videos of the fire that followed the Metro-North commuter train collision – purportedly caused by the explosion of the car’s fuel tank and damage from the electrified third rail on the tracks – have gained this crash national attention, but it is hardly an isolated incident. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, hundreds of train accidents take place every year, many causing deaths and debilitating injuries. In 2013 alone, nationwide statistics show 2,087 train collisions, 251 fatalities and 929 injuries.

The tragic event in Westchester joins a series of mishaps that have raised questions about railroad safety in the New York metropolitan area and beyond. In the last two years, Metro-North, the country’s second largest commuter rail line, has been plagued by service interruptions, work-related injuries, power failures and multiple derailments. In December of 2013, a derailment in the Spuyten Duyvil section of the Bronx – the railroad’s deadliest in decades – killed four passengers and injured more than 70 others. Inquiries into the cause of the crash found undiagnosed sleep apnea was the reason why the train’s engineer fell asleep behind the controls, leaving the train to round a dangerous curve at almost triple the posted speed limit and causing its derailment.

Regulators from the National Transportation Board cited for the lack of detailed employee screening as the main cause of the Bronx derailment, adding it to the list of four other Metro-North accidents believed to be caused by lapses in company procedures and outdated safety equipment. Back in May of the same year, another Metro-North derailment near Fairfield, Connecticut, injured more than 60 passengers. Just a couple of weeks later, a Metro-North foreman was struck by a train when a track he was working on was opened by an inexperienced controller.

Since the fatal accident in the Bronx, Metro-North has made some changes, including appointing a new president who vowed to make safety a priority. While the company’s problems are regional, they have sparked broader concerns about national railroad safety standards and prompted a review of current guidelines. The good news is that taking the train remains a reliable and generally safe way to get around. Thousands of people in Texas, New York and elsewhere ride trains to work and back without a hitch, but as with any form of transportation, accidents can happen. Being prepared for the unexpected is always the smartest way to travel.

In the rare case that you or someone in your family is injured in a train accident, retaining the right legal counsel can make all the difference. While passengers can contact any Houston personal injury attorney with experience in railroad law, railroad workers should look specifically for a FELA claim lawyer. If you are a railroad employee who was hurt on the job, filing for FELA benefits is the first step to getting compensated for your injuries.

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Dangerous Roads and Increased Accidents in the Eagle Ford Shale Region

Truck-on-sideThe Eagle Ford Shale region, which is located south of San Antonio, Texas from the Mexican border to an area located southeast of San Antonio, has experienced a much greater number of serious and fatal accidents than had been the case previously. Oil exploration has increased in the area at a tremendous rate over the past several years. Roads and local infrastructure was not designed for the amount of activity the region has experienced causing a substantial number of tragic vehicle accidents. One of the most significant increases occurred in 2012 as fatal traffic accidents increased 40 percent in this 23-county area. Many victims affected by the increase in accidents have sought the assistance of a San Antonio truck accident lawyer to protect their rights against oil companies with deep pockets and teams of attorneys who are ready to protect them from having to take financial responsibility.

Although an increase in oil production does help the economy in many communities in South Central Texas, the roads in these areas are deteriorating at an alarming rate, and they have become much more congested with many of the added vehicles being 18 wheelers and similar size trucks. For example, once quiet roads that a couple of hundred vehicles traveled on a daily basis have turned into mini-thoroughfares with thousands of vehicles, some weighing nearly 100,000 pounds. In addition, counties in sparsely populated areas such as Dimmit, Karnes and La Salle have experienced a 1,000 percent increase in the number of crashes that involved a commercial truck or vehicle over the past several years.

Some other issues affecting traffic in these areas is the lack of a road shoulder on many of these roads. This has helped increase the number of tragic traffic accidents taking place and the amount of time it takes for emergency personnel to respond.

Another important development is that many counties located near the Eagle Ford shale region are not enjoying the financial benefits that counties in the immediate area are. As a result, they are not able to maintain their own roads to the level that is necessary to accommodate the sheer number and weight of vehicles that are now traveling on them. Although counties in the Eagle Ford area have started focusing more on making repairs to these dangerous roads, some of them simply do not have the funds available to do so.

About one of every five oil and gas drilling sites in the United States are in the Eagle Ford area, and it has quickly become one of the most significant gas and oil development areas in the world. Hundreds of thousands of oil patch and local jobs are supported in the Eagle Ford Shale region as approximately half a million gallons of oil are produced here every day. Unfortunately, this incredible amount of oil and gas productivity means that a large number of heavy trucks and other vehicles need to be on the roads every day to support this activity.

Another thing that every truck accident attorney in Texas is well aware of is that commercial truck drivers tend to bend the rules when it comes to how much rest is required prior to hitting the road. In most situations, drivers are expected to have been off duty for at least 10 hours prior to getting back on the road. However, 18 wheeler accident lawyers also know that an exception exists for drivers working in oil fields as they are allowed to be on site waiting to depart for an extended period of time before hitting the road. All of these contributing factors are making south Texas a dangerous area to travel.

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