Articles Posted in Train Accidents

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court decided a case that gave the court occasion to discuss the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (the “Act”). The Act is an agreement among nations that limits the liability of foreign governments. The Act generally gives foreign sovereign countries immunity unless the alleged conduct falls within one of the Act’s several exceptions.

In the case, OBB Personenverkehr AG (OBB) v. Sachs, the plaintiff was a California woman who purchased a Eurorail pass over the internet through a U.S.-based travel retailer. In Austria, the plaintiff was attempting to board a train when she fell through a gap between the rail car and the boarding platform. After she fell, a train ran over her legs, requiring the amputation of both her legs. The woman filed suit against OBB, which is wholly owned by the Austrian government.

At trial, OBB sought to dismiss the case against it based on the Act, which generally grants foreign governments immunity from lawsuits. The plaintiff, however, claimed that her case met an exception to the Act’s grant of immunity, specifically that her case “is based upon a commercial activity carried on in the United States by [a] foreign state.”

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A Texas hospital failed to supervise a man known to have mental health problems, resulting in the man’s death, according to a lawsuit filed by the man’s family. Martinez, et al v. Oak Bend Medical Group, et al, No. 14-DCV-212068, 2nd am. pet. (Tex. Dist. Ct., Ft. Bend Co., March 3, 2014). The lack of supervision allowed the man, who had already left the hospital unnoticed once, to leave the hospital and walk to nearby train tracks, where he was struck and killed by a train. The lawsuit assert causes of action for negligence against the hospital and the rail company, as well as claims under the state’s wrongful death and survival statutes.

According to the plaintiff’s second amended petition, police found the decedent, Arturo Martinez, unconscious outside of his father’s house in Richmond, Texas on December 2, 2013. They took Martinez, who had a history of mental illness, to Oak Bend Medical Center for treatment. Hospital staff allegedly knew about Martinez’s mental health issues. The following day, Martinez left the hospital unnoticed, having removed his own IV and catheter. Emergency personnel found him later the same day and brought him back to the hospital. The petition claims that Oak Bend was supposed to assign staff and security personnel to supervise Martinez.

Despite the presence of security personnel, Martinez managed to leave the hospital unobserved again on December 6. He left the building and walked onto nearby train tracks. An oncoming train, which allegedly failed to yield or give any warning of its approach, struck Martinez. He was brought back to Oak Bend with blunt force trauma injuries. The hospital performed surgery, allegedly without first obtaining the family’s permission, but Martinez died later that day.

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the derailment of a freight train, which occurred in Ellicott City, Maryland on the night of Monday, August 20, 2012. Two teenagers who were sitting near the tracks died as a result of the derailment. The accident left train cars and coal strewn over a wide area. A preliminary report from the NTSB describes the basic timeline of the derailment, but the actual cause may not be known for some time.

According to the NTSB’s preliminary report, an eastbound freight train, operated by CSX Transportation and traveling on the CSX Old Main Line Subdivision through Ellicott City, derailed at about 11:56 p.m. on August 20. The train consisted of two locomotives and eighty freight cars carrying coal, traveling at the maximum approved speed of twenty-five miles per hour. The twenty-one lead cars derailed. Six of those cars fell about fifteen feet from the railroad bridge into a public parking area on the north side of the track. The other fifteen cars overturned and spilled their cargo. Witnesses said the coal on the ground was up to a foot deep.

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A man who was dragged 10 feet by a moving subway train today was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center for evaluation. The Baltimore train incident occurred at the Charles Center station in Baltimore at around midday.

According to Baltimore City fire department spokesperson Kevin Cartwright, the man’s arm got caught in the door of a moving train. He was eventually able to get unstuck and fell on the station platform.

Paramedics and rescue workers treated him at the scene. While the man showed “no obvious injuries,” he was placed in a neck brace and is still being monitored.

Maryland’s Board of Public Works has given the green light to a $1.5 million Baltimore County wrongful death settlement over the fatal train accident that killed two teenagers last year. Kyle Patrick Wankmiller and Jarrett Connor Peterson were walking along tracks that are usually used by trains headed southbound in Lutherville on July 5 when a northbound train hit the two 17-year-olds. The Maryland Transit Administration had switched the direction of traffic on the tracks.

Following the deadly Maryland train collision, the MTA said the two teens had their backs to the trains when they were hit from behind. A spokesperson says the two boys thought the train was using the other track as it approached them. The public is not allowed to be on the tracks unless they are at designated crossing areas.

The train’s operator reportedly did not notice that the train had hit the two boys and did not stop. The operator of a second train that later passed through also failed to see the teenagers. It wasn’t until a third train came through that a fare inspector saw their severely injured bodies.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reportedly recommended as far back as 2002 that motorists not talk on cell phones while driving—unless in an emergency situation. The federal agency also recommended that drivers not use hands-held, as well as hands-free phones and even went so far as to note that establishing laws banning only handheld cell phones might not be enough to minimize the risks of using a phone while operating a motor vehicle.

The reason for this recommendation was that the NHTSA had in its possession hundreds of pages of research documenting the dangers associated with cell phone use while driving. Yet the recommendation and the research were never made available to the public. One reason for this was concern that Congress and other public officials would see the proposal as a form of lobbying.

The information finally became public after Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety, two public interest groups, managed to access the information via the Freedom of Information Act.

The question now being asked is how many lives could have been saved if people knew then what they know now about the risks involved with cell phone use while driving? When the NHTSA first made its proposal several years ago, there were more than 170 million people using cell phones in the country—now, there are more than 270 million cell phone subscribers. And now, more than ever, cell phone use while driving has become a bad driving habit that millions of motorist are finding hard to break.

Yet as more motor vehicle accidents are reported involving motorists that caused auto crashes because they were talking on a phone or text messaging, the consequences of cell phone use while driving can no longer be ignored. Even train operators have been found negligent for engaging in these bad habits and causing catastrophic train collisions.

While Maryland doesn’t have a ban on any kind of cell phone use for adult drivers—only for minor drivers—all drivers will be prohibited from text messaging beginning October 2009. The Maryland Highway Safety Foundation says it had been pushing for a hand-held cell phone ban, but with the latest revelations about the NHTSA’s suppressed findings, they may recommend a total ban on the use of all cell phones while driving.

U.S. Withheld Data on Driving Distractions, WBOC 16, July 22, 2009
Suppressed federal study having ripple effect in Md., Baltimore Sun, July 2009
The Truth About Cars and Cellphones, NY TImes, July 22, 2009
Related Web Resources:

Center for Auto Safety

Public Citizen


Maryland Highway Safety Foundation

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Investigators are working hard to determine the cause of Monday’s deadly DC Metro train accident that officials are calling the worst in Metrolink’s history. The death toll has risen to 9 fatalities—although Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty says emergency officials don’t believe any more bodies will be found in the wreckage from the Red Line collision. More than 70 people were sent to hospitals for their injuries following the rush hour train crash.

According to officials, Train 112, the train that hit another train close to the Fort Totten Station, contained six of the oldest rail cars in the fleet. The train cars belonged to the Series 1000 models from the 1970’s. Several years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration replace these cars because their ability to withstand a train crash was uncertain. The transit agency, however, refused to retire the trains or strengthen their frames (which could have decreased the risk that they would collapse during a collision) because of cost concerns. Also, the trains were going to be retired in 2014.

The 290 1000 series cars comprise over 25% of Metro’s 1,126-car fleet. During Monday’s train crash, part of train 112’s lead car ended up on the roof of Train 214’s trailing car. The impact of the crash crushed 2/3rds of Train 112’s lead car.

Train 112 was operating automatically at the time of Monday’s train collision and evidence indicates that train operator Jeanice McMillan, who was among the fatalities, activated the emergency break before the train accident happened. McMillan, 42, had only three months’ experience as a train operator prior to Monday’s devastating wreck. National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman says that investigators are examining whether McMillan was tired, having health issues, or was talking on a cell phone or text messaging when the DC train accident happened.

Based on the current information and evidence that is available, experts say that the train crash may have occurred because of operator error, a faltering computer system, brake failure, or a combination of these factors. The Washington Post is reporting that Train 112 may have been two months past due for brake maintenance.

Unfortunately, because train 112 is an older train, it does not have a “black box.” The train that was struck is a newer train that was carrying a data recording device. Hersman says that the NTSB is examining a number of other issues, including system maintenance, personnel training, and the train tracks’ condition. Search, recovery, and investigation efforts are seriously affecting travel from the Maryland suburbs to downtown Washington DC.

Toll rises to 9 in D.C. rail crash, The Baltimore Sun, June 24, 2009
Train Operator Apparently Hit Brakes Before Crash, Washington Post, June 24, 2009
Related Web Resources:

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

National Transportation Safety Board

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This week, the Maryland Senate approved by a 43 to 4 vote a bill banning drivers from text messaging whenever they are operating their motor vehicles. If the bill becomes law, it would make reading, composing, sending, or receiving text messages a misdemeanor crime punishable by a $500 fine. Maryland would also join a growing list of states and jurisdictions, including Virginia and Washington DC, that are banning text messaging—whether on a cell phone, PDA, or IPod Touch or another device—while operating a motor vehicle.

Sending short messages via cell phone or other electronic devices is a bad habit that has grown more popular in recent years—especially among younger, more inexperienced drivers. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one of its studies last year found that about 50% of young drivers, ages 18 – 24, text message while driving. The study found that among drivers ages 45 and older, less than 5% engaged in text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.

Text messaging is a type of distracted driving, and like all other forms of distracted driving, including talking on a handheld cellular phone, applying making, or reading the newspaper, can lead to deadly auto accidents. ABC News says that a 2006 study showed that 65% of near-motor vehicle collisions and 80% of auto crashes occur because of distracted driving.

For example, one Maryland child lost her right forearm in a catastrophic bus accident that occurred while the bus driver was texting on his cell phone. 30 people were injured in this Maryland motor vehicle accident. In another traffic accident, a 26-year-old woman died last year in a truck accident when she was struck by a tractor-trailer while the truck driver had been texting.

These kinds of catastrophic motor vehicle collisions could have been avoided if the drivers had not been engaged in distracted driving.

Md. Is Latest State to Target Text Messaging by Drivers, Washington Post, March 18, 2009
Texting While Driving Could Spell Trouble, ABC News, May 8, 2007
Driving and Dialing Bus Drivers May Case Accidents, ABC News, Feb 7, 2007
Related Web Resources:

Examination of Maryland Senate Bill 98 (PDF)

Cell Phone Driving Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association

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An 11-month girl was injured after she was struck by a van that collided with an MTA light rail train on Thursday in Downtown Baltimore, Maryland. She was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital’s pediatric center.

The driver of the van was a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman. He also was taken to a local hospital but did not sustain any serious injuries. Several light rail passengers are reporting injuries from the accident.

The motor vehicle collision occurred early in the morning. The van reportedly ran a red light and was struck by the MTA light rail train. The force of the collision caused the van to spin onto the sidewalk and strike the stroller with the toddler in it.

If you believe that someone you love was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should contact our Maryland personal injury law firm right away. Our motor vehicle accident attorneys also handle cases involving injuries to minors.

Running a Red Light

Running a red light is a commonly occurring traffic violation that can lead to serious injuries for other drivers and pedestrians and cause serious property damage to motor vehicles involved in any related collisions.

According to the NHTSA, there were over 3,500 traffic accidents in Maryland involving red light violations in 1995—resulting in 34 fatalities and 4,256 injuries. Maryland is one of a handful of U.S. states that use red-light cameras in a few areas—including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties—in an effort to prevent people from running red lights.

Types of Accidents from Running a Red Light, include:
• Colliding with cars coming from the left or ride side of the driver’s path that now have green light authorization to move forward.

• Striking a pedestrian.

Rail commute delayed, several injured in downtown collision, Baltimore Sun, March 20, 2008
Red Light Violations in Maryland, NHTSA

Related Web Resources:

D.C. Red-Light Cameras Fail to Reduce Accidents, Washington Post, October 4, 2005
Red Light Running, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

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The National Transportation Safety Board is calling for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to implement proper safeguards to protect workers on train tracks.

Among its recommendations, the safety board suggested that Metro implement pre-work briefings, conduct surprise inspections, and immediately install new technology that automatically warns track employees when trains are approaching and lets train operators know that there are workers in the area.

The safety board’s assessment follows two deadly train accidents that claimed the lives of three train track workers. In two separate incidents in 2006, three Metro employees died after being hit by Metrorail trains. During both accidents, the Operations Control Center only announced one time to train operators that workers were on the tracks.

One of the fatal accidents involved Jong Won Lee, a senior mechanic, who died after he was hit by a Red Line train in May 2006. In the other accident, on November 30, 2006, train operator Lynne Harris did not ask for permission to leave her last stop, failed to slow down, and may have been using her cell phone while operating the train. Track inspectors did not properly watch out for the train. Track workers Leslie Cherry and Matthew Brooks died from their injuries.

It wasn’t until after the November 2006 accident that Metro mandated that announcements be made every 20 minutes to informi train operators that workers were on the tracks.

Metro believes that implementing protection policies and making sure that they are followed will create a strong safety culture for train workers. Between 2001 and 2006, about 1.5 train worker fatalities have occurred involving Metro trains.

If someone you is a train employee who was injured while working on the train tracks, you should speak with a Maryland or Washington D.C. personal injury lawyer who is experienced in dealing with train accident injuries and is familiar with FELA, the Federal Employees Liability Act, which allows train workers to seek injury compensation.

Being struck by a train is often fatal. And the injuries that can be sustained if the injury victim survives can be catastrophic. Traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, neck and back injuries, massive internal injuries, and broken bones can result.

Safety Procedures Not Followed, NTSB Says, Washington Post, January 24, 2008
NTSB: Metro’s culture deadly,, January 24, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

National Transportation Safety Board

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