A rail car derailment early in the morning of February 24, 2015, sent a Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad Co. employee to the hospital with serious leg injuries. The train accident occurred around 2:30 am at a grade crossing through the intersection of Republic Road and Freeman Avenue in the northeastern section of Chesapeake, Virginia (VA).



The short line railway is owned jointly by Norfolk Southern and CSX. According to the Norfolk & Portsmouth website, its trains service factories, warehouses, ports and shipyards that need to transport goods locally. It also states on its homepage that part of N&P mission is to be the “safest … terminal switching railroad in the United States.”

It is too early to know why the rail car went off the tracks. Extreme cold that caused steel rails to contract and separate may have played a role. Other possibilities include poorly distributing weight in the car, errors by one or more crew members, and mechanical problems with the car itself. Regardless of why the rail car fell onto the Norfolk & Portsmouth employee, the fact that he suffered a serious on-the-job injuries remains.

Having helped railroad accident victims for three decades, I know that engineers, conductors, brakemen and all other people who work on trains and in rail yards face risks for injuries and death at all times. A moving train represents a significant danger simply because it is so heavy and difficult to stop even at low speeds. Companies cannot shirk their duties to keep tracks and rolling stock in proper repair; ensure crew members have the best up-to-the-minute information about site and weather conditions; and make sure everyone with responsibilities for controlling a train are well trained, healthy and outfitted with appropriate safety and communications gear.

If the investigation into the Chesapeake freight train derailment identifies equipment, policies and procedures that need repair or improvement, my Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues urge Norfolk & Portsmouth, as well as its larger parent railroad corporations, to make those upgrades and corrections as soon as possible. Fulfilling the stated mission of being the safest requires nothing less.