Two Norfolk Southern train crew members went to the hospital with injuries following a derailment in western New York on the afternoon of February 15, 2018. The crash happened near the railroad crossing at East Main Road outside of the village of Attica in Wyoming County.
Authorities say the engineer and conductor are expected to survive, but news reports do not include details on the types or severity of the injuries the railroad employees suffered. It is also unclear why the train that was carrying automobiles derailed. Recent storms in the area may have washed out the tracks, but no official announcement of a cause will be made until a complete investigation is conducted.
If investigators learn that the tracks were damaged and that the train crew was not alerted in time to avoid the derailment danger, the injured engineer and conductor could have strong grounds for filing claims for the payment of medical bills and other damages under the Federal Employers Liability Act. FELA makes freight railroads that operate across state lines responsible for compensating employees who get hurt or killed on the job when their harm results from negligence.
A factsheet published by the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen explains that showing negligence by a railroad company or its managers and supervisors requires proving that
- The railroad has been guilty of a lack of due care under the circumstance, or
- Has failed to do what a reasonable and prudent person would ordinarily have done under the circumstances, or
- Has done what a person under the existing circumstance would not have done.
In relation to this derailment outside of Attica, NY, the injured employees could potentially prove negligence by presenting evidence that Norfolk Southern officials learned of the washout but did not act quickly to divert traffic and repair the tracks.
As FELA attorneys based in Virginia and just a few miles from Norfolk Southern’s headquarters, my law firm colleagues and I have helped many victims of railroad accidents. We take a special interest in derailment cases because they so often result from avoidable breakdowns in communication and from failure to perform necessary maintenance.
We wish the two Norfolk Southern train crew members quick and full recoveries. We also call on all major railroad corporations, including CSX and Amtrak, to improve track condition detection and warning systems. Preventing derailments must be a top priority for any rail company that is committed to worker safety.