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Should We Question Our Train Conductors?

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If you have been injured because of operator error our White Plains operator error accident lawyers can represent you and assert your rights. People should fear negligent operators of mass transit systems. Public transportation systems are vital to our way of life. We need to be confident that our public transit operators are safe. Unfortunately, public confidence in Metro-North’s ability to keep customers safe is a growing concern. The Metro-North derailment on Sunday Dec. 1, 2013 was caused by operator error. MTA union officials comment that the conductor, William Rockefeller, is to blame for the fatal derailment. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo states the cause of the crash, “will be operator error, it appears.” Cuomo then raises the question, “is there any way to correct operational error?” Yes there is, with a technology called “positive train control.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) said the Hudson Line train was going 82 mph on a 30 mph curve before it derailed, killing four passengers and leaving dozens more injured. The NTSB has not released an official comment as to the cause of the crash due to the ongoing investigation. NTSB officials ruled out alcohol as a possibility causing the crash. The accident occurred after tumultuous year of safety errors and train accidents.

MTA plans to implement new safety devices to avoid future accidents. Critics claim that the accident could have been avoided if positive train control or PTC was installed on its system. PTC is collision avoidance system and reduces operator error by automatically avoiding causes of derailment. MTA and other railroads seek to delay all PTC systems until at least 2018. The railroads are in violation of Federal Law and regulations. Congress passed a 2008 law requiring PTC technology on about 60,000 miles of the 160,000 mile U.S. rail network. The law was passed weeks after 25 people died in a Los Angeles commuter train crash. All major 40 railroads are required to install the systems.

According to a NTSB report, lack of a positive-train-control system was a contributing factor in a May 2011 train collision in Hoboken, New Jersey, that left 30 injured. PTC technology works by communicating with thousands of towers along railroad tracks and in locomotives providing pin-point locations and speed data for trains and railroad conductors. Railroads seek to delay the installation of the technology, which is required on corridors that transport hazardous waste and materials or passengers. PTC systems already exist. PTC systems would be money well spent, but MTA officials are not willing to front the millions of dollars needed strictly for train safety. Technologies like PTC or safety changes are already being put in effect, claims one MTA spokeswoman.

Governor Cuomo ordered the MTA to put all employees through a safety review after the Dec. 1, 2013 crash. In September, 2013 the MTA created a six-member panel to study safety culture and any potential links among the incidents. It’s already moving forward with a confidential reporting system, where employees report safety violations to officials. Metro North is known for its lax safety culture. PTC is a proven and effective technology in identifying safety issues and lowering injury and accident exposure. It’s a start for safety, but how can you fix structural problems like outdated rail lines and sharp curves? We are stuck with our outdated systems, for now operators must avoid dangers on the track and keep commuters safe.

In the future, PTC can be used to help trains slow down for curves, avoid head on collisions, avoid derailments, and provide operators with more crucial information about track conditions and rail traffic. The human error factor can never be eradicated. We need systems like PTC to protect our commuters. If you have been injured due to operator error on a train, subway, bus, taxi, car service, tour bus, double-decker bus, or limo, ferry or any other transportation service provider, contact our White Plains operator error accident lawyers for a free consultation.

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Train Safety on Metro North is at an all time low. The train accident and derailments are avoidable. Our New York commuter train and subway accident attorneys have represented thousands of people who sustain serious personal injuries in all types of accidents. Metro North must be held accountable for the Derailment Crash that killed four and injured 60 or more on December 1, 2013. Wrongful death suits are proper after the tragic death of a loved one. Our White Plains commuter train and subway accident attorneys have extensive experience in analyzing the facts and law specific to each commuter train and subway accident.

The early morning train crash left four killed and at least 60 or more injured when a speeding Metro North train derailed on the Hudson Line at 7:20 AM in the Bronx just North of Spuyten Duyvil station. The train crashed as it was speeding at 82 m.p.h. after it left Poughkeepsie at 6:45 AM traveling to Grand Central along the Hudson River. Metro North has a history of Commuter Trains traveling in excess speed and derailing. The derailed train was traveling 82 m.p.h in a 30 m.p.h. zone around a curve forcing the railcars off the tracks killing four and injuring dozens more. The accident was avoidable, existing technology and safety standards employing automatic brakes using GPS, Cameras and radio devices. Federal regulations set for December, 2015 require sophisticated automatic braking systems and safety monitoring devices. The railroad industry has balked at the cost of the new regulations totaling millions, and are currently lobbying to push back the compliance date to December, 2018. Conductor William Rockerfeller “zoned out” as the train barrelled down a dangerous curve at 52 m.p.h. over the speed limit. Data from the on board black box recording system indicate brakes were applied late and the train had no hope of making it around the narrow bend. The crash occurred in an area known for accidents and dangerous track conditions. The conductor should have obeyed the speed limits and beared caution to the area’s devious name, Spuyten Duyvil, Dutch for the Spitting Devil. It is the region where the Harlem River meets the Hudson River, known for harsh winds, unpredictable water currents and poor visibility. The crash occurred on a sharp curve just north of the Henry Hudson Bridge along the riverbank.

First responders arrived on the scene to sift through the torn wreckage using hydraulic equipment and search dogs. The NTSB (National Transit Safety Board) is investigating Metro North for other accidents and disasters on its three lines – the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines. Safety records reveal horrible results for Metro North. The lax safety at Metro North led to the death of four innocent commuters. Other commuters sustained multiple injuries, and potentially PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Our New York personal injury lawyers have experience handling accident cases and represent personal injury and wrongful death victims.

Recent Data shows that MTA Metro North safety is substandard and negligent. Recent disasters prove Metro North’s awful track record. On September 25, 2013, a feeder cable in Mount Vernon, N.Y., failed, knocking out power for 12 days to the New Haven line, which carries 132,000 commuters daily. On July 18, 2013, ten freight train cars hauling garbage derailed on the Hudson Line right across from the December 1, 2013 crash site, suspending service. This July accident occurred in the same Spuyten Duyvil segment of track. On May 28, 2013 track foreman Robert Luden was struck and killed by a passenger train in West Haven, Conn. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation revealed human error caused the accident. On May 17, 2013, an eastbound train derailed in Bridgeport, Conn., after it was struck head-on by a westbound train. The accident injured 73 passengers, two engineers and a conductor.

According to a Federal Railroad Administration database accidents this year are on the rise and injuries from accidents are up dramatically this year. Metro North train accidents peaked at 40 in 2006, but fell to 15 in 2010 and only six in 2012. Through August, the railroad had six train accidents, matching last year’s total. Train accident injuries on Metro North are far higher this year than any of the past 10. Through August, a total of 123 people were hurt in train accidents. The highest annual number in the past decade was seven in 2007. Train accidents on Metro North caused by human factors such as negligence are on the rise. Metro North train mishaps caused by motive power or equipment are also persistent. Sunday December 1st 2013 is a day of sorrow for the victims of Metro North crash and of disasters in recent years.

Trains traveling at extremely high speeds are dangerous to those on board and the public at large. If the trains are full of passengers it increases their momentum. When this momentum is added to the already high speed that Metro North’s trains travel on the outdated rail lines, they are harder to stop and pose a threat to commuters and communities. Fatal train accidents continue to occur, even though NTSB and other agencies investigations reveal MTA and Metro North wrongdoing. Adequate warnings like curve warning signs and bridge warnings, flashing lights and even painting the rails signs bright colors such as orange or yellow would decrease the amount of accidents and improve safety. Questions still linger how the train full of passengers was able to speed off the rails without any safety mechanism to prevent the crash.

If you were injured in a commuter train or subway accident in New York City (Five Boroughs), Westchester (including White Plains, Yonkers, Ossining, Mt. Vernon, Pleasantville, Port Chester, New Rochelle, Scarsdale, Mamaroneck, or Rye), Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess Counties, contact our office today for a free consultation. Our New York train accident lawyers express our sincerest sympathies for all of the personal injury victims and the families of those who were hurt or killed on Dec. 1, 2013.

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Over this holiday weekend, a deadly Metro North Railroad accident occurred on a stretch of railroad track which was well known to be dangerous. So far five people senselessly lost their lives in this tragic fatality and many more were injured when the train derailed in the Bronx.

Our New York City wrongful death attorneys firmly believe that punitive damages are appropriate because the actions of the train operator were likely criminally negligent homicide and at a minimum were willfully indifferent to a serious risk of harm.

The initial TSA reports indicated that the online recording system demonstrates that the train was traveling at over 80 miles per hour when approaching a curve, where the posted speed limit was only 30 miles per hour. That is almost triple, the legal speed limit for this stretch of track. The online recording devices also demonstrate that the train’s brakes were not utilized which means that the train entered a curve at an unreasonably high rate of speed, which virtually guaranteed a derailment. This hazard was no surprise, since this was not the first time a train has gone off the tracks at this particular spot. New York State Senator Chuck Schumer has also spoken out and unequivocally denounced the high rate of speed and the operator’s actions. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that our Westchester accident lawyers have seen a fatality result from the reckless behavior of an operator.

Whenever there is a train collision or derailment, it is almost always the result of either operator negligence, switchman negligence or negligence in the maintenance of the train. This is because the train operators are usually in exclusive control of the train and collisions and derailments do not usually occur unless someone did something wrong or failed to do something that they were supposed to do. While punitive damages are generally not allowed in simple negligence cases, our Westchester accident attorneys believe that the facts of this accident demonstrate more than just negligence. We believe that it demonstrates gross negligence and recklessness that justifies an award of punitive damages and prosecution of the train operator.

In general New York law allows an award of punitive damages where the defendant’s action was so reckless or wantonly negligent as to be the equivalent of a conscious disregard of the rights of others. The New York Courts often utilize the criminal standards to determine or analyze whether a punitive award is appropriate. Under New York Penal Law 125.10, a person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide when, with criminal negligence, he causes the death of another person. Under New York Penal Law 15.05, a person acts with criminal negligence when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his actions will cause the death of another person. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. Given the prior accidents at this location and the self evident fact that a train traveling at almost triple the speed limit creates a substantial risk of a fatality, this train accident was certainly the result of gross and criminal negligence.

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