A coal train derailment in western Alabama that drew almost no news coverage from even local television stations left two Norfolk Southern employees injured badly enough to require hospital treatment. The railroad accident occurred in the rural Wilcox County community of Alberta at a grade crossing near the intersection of County Road 29 and Highway 5. 



The damage to the tracks and roadway was substantial. Cleanup and repairs, according to WBRC Fox 6, continued for more than four days after two locomotives and 14 railcars derailed. The brief report also mentioned in passing that “the people who were injured in the derailment are recovering from injuries.”

The apparent lack of urgency and seriousness with which this train accident has been treated would shock me had I not spent almost 30 years helping railroad workers hurt on the job to hold rail companies accountable for creating and maintaining unsafe working conditions. Corporations always downplay risks, safety violations and employee injuries or deaths. Worse, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Amtrak and other railroads often try every legal (and sometimes questionable) strategy available to them to convince judges, arbiters or jury members that workers caused their own injuries or fatalities.

While it is certainly true that the wreck in Alabama could have been worse, it is even more true that the injuries suffered by the engineer and conductor or brakeman crewing the derailed train should not be treated as inconsequential. The nature and extent of their injuries were not revealed, but my FELA attorney colleagues and I know from decades of experience that even something as seemingly minor as a dislocated shoulder or torn knee ligament can lead to lifelong pain and physical limitations that make working aboard trains or along tracks to earn a living impossible.