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Railroad Injury Blog

Connecticut Post Article Points Out Problems With FRA

Friday, May 24, 2013

Yesterday, the Connecticut Post published an article that indicated that a recent audit of the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) was critical of its implementation of the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA). The article stated that “A recent audit by the Office of Inspector General of the FRA response to the the mandate found substantial delays in implementing the required priorities, including those related to safety and track inspection.” The RSIA was passed by Congress in 2008. It directs the FRA to implement new safety rules and regulations concerning track inspection, hours of service and positive train control (PTC).

A link to the Connecticut Post article is here.

A link to the RSIA is here.

By Matt Darby

Rail Inspected Two Days Prior To Metro-North Crash

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Connecticut Post reported yesterday that the stretch of rail involved in last Friday’s Metro-North train collision had been inspected two days prior. This information was obtained from Robert Kulat, a spokesman for the Federal Rail Administration (FRA). The article goes on to indicate that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation is focused on two sections of rail found at the scene of the collision that appear to have broken apart at the joint assembly that holds them together.

Yesterday’s article can be found here.

By Matt Darby

Conrail Injury Report

Friday, May 17, 2013

This is the second installment of the the blog of a couple of weeks ago regarding the importantance of properly completing injury reports.

The Conrail injury report is called an Employee Personal Injury Report, Form RMSA-1. It is important this report be completed accurately and completely. While it should be completed as soon as possible after the incident, it should not be completed when the injured persons is under duress, in severe pain or while heavily medicated. Any information regarding the cause of the injury should be included.

The important sections of the form are:

  • Do you desire medical attention at this time: If you have any pain or discomfort or have any reason to believe you may be injured, you should seek medical attention immediately. Failure to do so may lead to a question by the railroad as to whether the incident was the cause of your injury.
  • Describe what happened - give specific, detailed information: In this section, it is important to list any defective equipment, unsafe conditions or other factors that may have caused your injury. Do not include any extra information that is not relevant to the cause of your injury.

It is important that you obtain and retain a copy of your completed report. You should refer to the report if you are questioned at a later time about the injury:

Here is an image of a Form RMSA-1: conrail report.

By Matt Darby

FRA Issues Switching Operations Safety Advisory

Thursday, May 09, 2013

On May 3, 2013, the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) issued a safety advisory concerning the safety hazards associated with flat switching operations. Flat switching is performed by one of two methods – kicking or shoving. A car is kicked when it is uncoupled from the switching locomotive while it is motion allowing the car to roll freely and couple upon impact with the cars of the new train. When a car is shoved, it is not uncoupled from the switiching locomotive until it is secured to the new train. The FRA press release regarding the new safety advisory indicated that since 2009, six railroad employees have died as a result of switching operations. The press release went on to state that “During kicking operations, employees are at greater risk if the rail car doesn’t couple securely with other rail cars already resting on the destination track.”

A link the FRA press release and the safety advisory can be found here.

By Matt Darby

CSX Injury / Illness Report

Friday, May 03, 2013

Over the next several weeks, I am going to focus on the importance of properly completing an injury report. Failure to properly complete a Railroad’s injury report can seriously damage a potantial FELA claim. I will start with the CSX Transportion, Inc.’s injury/ illness report.

The CSXT injury report is called a PI-1A. It is important that the PI-1A be completed accurately and completely. While it should be completed as soon as possible after the incident, it should not be completed when the injured persons is under duress, in severe pain or while heavily medicated. Any information regarding the cause of the injury should be included.

The important sections of the form are:

  • 25. Describe the incident: In this section, it is important to list any defective equipment, unsafe conditions or other factors that may have caused or contributed to your injury. Do not include any extra information that is not relevant to the cause of your injury.
  • 29. Was anyone at fault?: In this section, it is important that you check “YES” if there was any defective equipment, unsafe condition or other factor that may have caused or contributed to your injury. For example, if the injury was caused by a defective switch, the person at fault would be those responsible for inspecting and maintaining the switch.
  • 30. Did defective tool or equipment cause incident?: In this section, it is important that you check “YES” if there was any defect in any tool or equipment that caused or contributed to your injury.
  • 31. Did the employee have a safe place in which to work?: In this section, it is important that you check “NO” if there was any aspect of your work environment that caused or contributed to your injury.
  • 32. Was the workplace adequately lighted?: In this section, it is important that you check “NO” if lack of adequate lighting caused or contributed to your injury.

It is important that you obtain and retain a copy of your completed report. You should refer to the report if you are questioned at a later time about the injury.

Here is a link to an image of a CSXT PI-1A: PI-1A

By Matt Darby

Whole Body Vibration

Friday, April 19, 2013

Studies have linked injuries suffered by locomotive engineers and those who routinely ride within locomotive cabs to whole-body vibration exposure. A study in 2002 determined that long term vibration exposure posed a health and safety risk to engineers in the form of accelerated spinal degeneration, disk herniation and sciatica. Other studies have linked neck and shoulder injuries to long term exposure to the vibration produced by locomotives.

The Railroads have been aware of the health issues associated with vibration and poorly designed and maintained locomotive cab seats since 1972. In that year, a study entitled “Human Factors Survey of Locomotive Cabs” was released on behalf of the Federal Rail Administration (“FRA”). That study indicated that the seats being used in a number of locomotives cabs were insufficient and that major design changes were required to provide comfort and reduce fatigue. Concerning cab vibration, the report indicated “The conditions of vibration, to which the engineer is exposed, should be measured as a first step in surveying the environmental conditions in the cab.”

In 1995, the FRA issued a report entitled “Human Factors Guidelines for the Evaluation of the Locomotive Cab” that set-forth a laundry list of recommendations that would improve the design of locomotive cab seats. With regard to the issue of vibration, the report indicated as follows with regard to vibration “Muscles are used to overcome vibration effects on the body. This can produce fatigue and overuse syndromes, depending on the effort required and length of exposure.” Despite being aware of this information, the Railroads continued to use poorly designed and maintained seats in their locomotive cabs. The Railroads also failed to make any effort to test their locomotives for cab vibration. These failures have put their employees at an increased risk for the development of serious neck, back and shoulder injuries.

By Matt Darby

BSGFD Railroad App

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby has developed a new Railroad App. It contains information regarding FELA and FRSA claims as well as information about the firm. It also contains links for easy contact with Matt. It can be dowloaded here or here.

By Matt Darby

The Safety Appliance Act (SAA)

Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Railroad Safety Appliance Act (“SSA”) was passed by Congress on March 2, 1893 in response to the large number of injuries and deaths attributed an unregulated railroad industry. Prior to the enactment of the SSA, most rail cars were not equipped with mechanisms to make them safe and many of the practices and procedures used by train service employees were unsafe. The initial Safety Appliance Act required the use of power brakes on all trains engaged in interstate commerce. It also required that all railcars be equipped with automatic couplers, draw bars and handholds. In 1903, Congress passed the second Safety Appliance Act that extended the requirements of the first Act beyond railcars to any equipment engaged in interstate commerce. The third passage of the Act occurred in 1910 requiring that all vehicles be equipped with hand brakes, sill steps, and where appropriate, running boards, ladders and roof handholds. The third enactment also required that the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) designate the number, dimensions, locations, and manner of application of the various safety appliances identified in the Act. The Act can be found here.

Like the Locomotive Inspection Act (see here) the SAA places an absolute duty on a railroad to comply with safety standards set-forth in the Act. Under the SSA, it is unlawful for a railroad to operate a railcar on its rail lines unless it complies with the requirements of the Act. A railroad's violation of the Act results in strict liability. What that means is that there is no consideration regarding whether the Railroad was negligent with respect to whether it caused a Railroader’s injuries. Negligence was recently discussed in this blog here. The issue of negligence is not relevant to the claim that the Railroad violated the SAA, since the SAA imposes an absolute duty on the Railroad for injuries cause in whole or part by violations of the Act. In addition to the absolute duty placed on the Railroad, there is no consideration whether the injured Railroader was negligent or whether his or her negligence played any part in causing his or her injuries. In other words, if a jury determines the Railroad violated the LIA, it cannot consider whether the injured Railroader was contributorily negligent. (See here.)

By Matt Darby

Railroaders, COPD And The Danger Of Diesel Exhaust

Friday, March 29, 2013

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a pulmonary disease that makes it hard to breathe. It is progressive meaning that it gets worse over time. It can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness, and other symptoms. COPD denotes two main conditions, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In emphysema, the walls between many of the air sacs in the lungs become damaged, and as a result, the air sacs lose their shape and become floppy. In chronic bronchitis, the lining of the airways is constantly irritated and inflamed. This results in thick mucus in the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Most people who have been diagnosed with COPD have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

COPD is a major cause of disability. It’s also the third leading cause of death in the United States. The symptoms of COPD often worsen over time and can limit one’s ability to do routine activities. Severe cases of COPD may prevent a person from performing even basic activities.

While cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, exposure to other lung irritants may cause or contribute to COPD. One of those known irritants is diesel exhaust fumes. The railroads converted from using steam locomotives to diesel powered locomotives after World War II. By 1959, 95% of locomotives were powered by diesel fuel. Today a vast majority of the locomotives being operated by US Railroads are powered by diesel. Health magazine recently indicated that railroading was one of the 10 worst jobs for your lungs.

In 2006, a study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that indicated that Railroaders exposed to diesel exhaust are at an increased risk for developing COPD. The study’s findings were summarized as follows: “In this case-control study of railroad workers, work in jobs with exposure to diesel exhaust was associated with increased mortality from COPD. These elevations persist after controlling for smoking and increased with increasing years of work in exposed jobs.” The study determined that the risk was highest for those railroaders who worked on operating trains – engineers and conductors. The study can be found here.

By Matt Darby

Repetitive Trauma Injuries

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Many veteran railroad employees suffer from injuries caused by the repetitive nature of their jobs. These injuries are sometimes referred to as cumulative trauma injuries, repetitive trauma injuries, occupational injuries or “wear out” injuries. Whatever the term, these injuries can be just as significant to the injured employee as single event traumas.

Over the years, most railroads have ignored evidence both within the railroad industry and outside the industry about the injurious effects of performing one physical task over and over again. Ergonomics is a field of medical science that determines whether a particular job task, given the repetition of the task, the posture of the employee in performing the task, and force associated with the task, creates a risk of injury over time. Despite knowledge of the ergonomic risk factors (repetition, force and awkward posture) associated with jobs within the railroad industry, railroads in general have done little or nothing to reduce the risks or warn employees about the development of injuries created by the risks.

These injuries can involve almost any area of the body, including the knees, arms, hands, shoulders, back and neck.

Earlier Blog Posts regarding this topic can be found here & here & here.

By Matt Darby

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