Four Norfolk Southern freight train crew members suffered injuries that required hospital treatment when their trains collided and derailed on the night of March 18, 2018. The crash happened in Georgetown, Kentucky (KY), which is located about 14 miles north of Lexington.
Scott County sheriff’s deputies were the first to respond to the crash scene shortly after 11 pm. They found that two locomotives had collided head-on. The impact derailed 13 rail cars and sparked a fire. One of the tankers sprung a leak, and this prompted a brief evacuation of nearby residents.
The fire was quickly extinguished, and the leaking liquid was determined to be vegetable oil. Other tankers containing more hazardous chemicals remained intact, so the evacuation was cancelled after a few hours.
The injured Norfolk Southern engineers and conductors were aboard both trains. Three were treated and released, while one remained hospitalized through the following day. The railroad corporation did not release information on the nature or severity of its employees’ injuries.
As Virginia-based FELA attorneys who have helped many Norfolk Southern employees who got hurt on the job, my law firm colleagues and I know that incidents like this one in Georgetown, KY, happen far too frequently. While actual head-on collisions are not common, crashes between locomotives and rail car do occur at an average of more than once each month. Those largely preventable on-the-job accidents inflict serious injuries on railroad workers.
During 2017, the Federal Railroad Administration recorded 21 collisions and crashes among all Class I railroad corporations. That group includes large railroads that operate across state lines, like Amtrak, CSX and Norfolk Southern, In all, 4,129 railroad company employees suffered injuries on the job during 2017, and another 115 contractors for Class I railroads got hurt on the job.
When railroad employees suffer injuries at work, they can apply to their company to have medical bills and disability costs paid. If the employer refuses or fails to offer adequate funds, workers can file a lawsuit under the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act. FELA often gets portrayed as a workers’ compensation law railroad employees, but the reality is more complicated.
A useful and easy-to-read summary of what FELA is and the rights it gives injured train company employees appears in this free report prepared by railroad injury attorneys. One of the most important things to understand is that succeeding with a FELA lawsuit requires the injured worker to prove that the company was negligent in failing to provide a safe workplace. As we note elsewhere on our website, railroads are automatically considered negligent when they do not comply with any worker safety law. Additionally, a rail corporation becomes negligent when it fails to provide "reasonably safe and suitable tools, and well as adequate assistance."
Allowing two trains to approach each other from opposite directions ad at speed indicates a number of errors occurred. Working with an experienced FELA attorney will help the Norfolk Southern employees who got hurt in the head-on collision in Kentucky learn what negligent behaviors set the stage for the crash.