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Another Tragedy in the DC Metro

As the news reports of the horrific incident on Monday, January 12th near the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station continue to trickle out, it is important for the victims and their families to focus on grieving and healing.

However, as the victims’ thoughts start to turn to investigation and possible legal action arising from Monday’s incident, it is important to remember some of the lessons learned from the June 2009 Red Line Metro crash, that claimed the lives of 9 people and that injured a score more. These lessons include:

1.  Metro has legal immunity protecting it from a number of legal claims.

One thing that the victims and their families must know is that Metro, as a quasi-governmental agency, enjoys immunity from a number of legal claims. What this means is that Metro is protected by law from claims that a victim could make against a typical defendant. Navigating the complex web of legal immunity can be tricky, and should be handled by experienced counsel.

2.  Metro vigorously defends itself.

Metro has a well-deserved reputation for vigorously defending itself for any and all legal claims brought against it. While this tragedy may seem like a “no-brainer” in terms of Metro being responsible, it is almost certain that Metro will hire excellent counsel, and will mount a vigorous defense against any claims arising from this January 12th incident.

3.  Preliminary reports point to an equipment failure involving electrical arcing.

While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not released a definitive report of what occurred, preliminary indications are that this incident occurred as a result of an electrical “arcing” incident on the third rail of the Metro track south of the L’Enfant Plaza station. Since this incident involves electrical equipment, just as the June 2009 Red Line crash did, Metro may well assert claims that it is the manufacturers of the equipment that are to blame. This could make what seems like a very straightforward case against Metro become very complicated.

4.  DC’s emergency response must be examined.

Further complicating these potential claims are the actions of DC’s first responders, including the fire and rescue operations. Preliminary reports indicate that DC firefighters arrived on the scene in a timely fashion, but did not enter the tunnels for a substantial amount of time. If Metro attempts to shift fault to DC for an inadequate emergency response, this would raise a host of additional legal issues, as bringing a claim against DC requires several additional steps, including filing a legal notice of one’s intention to file a claim.

These are just a few of the many complex legal issues facing the victims and their families, and emphasizes the need to consult with experienced counsel about potential claims.

The Lietz Law Firm successfully represented clients in connection with the June 2009 Metrorail crash. We would be happy to discuss the various legal issues with you.

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015. Filed under Mass Transportation Accidents, Wrongful Death.

Trucking Regulators to Require Electronic Logs on Commercial Trucks

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently proposed a new rule that would require most commercial trucks and buses to be equipped with electronic devices that record the duration of time the vehicles are driven.

The federal government sets limits on how many hours commercial bus and truck drivers may be behind the wheel at one stretch or in one day. But the paper logbooks kept by some drivers are very easy to alter by drivers and by their employers, either of whom may be tempted to put profits and quick delivery ahead of safety and the law. Electronic logs are much harder to forge.

The FMCSA estimates that the measure will save 20 lives and prevent 434 injuries each year by reducing crashes caused by tired drivers. Two years ago, Congress directed the Obama administration to create regulations requiring electronic logs, and this rule proposal is a step toward meeting that goal.

Electronic logs are already used by most large trucking companies. Paper logbooks are mainly used by smaller operators and independent owner-drivers, who have long opposed the impending mandate. The American Trucking Association welcomed the proposal as a way to “level the playing field,” while the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said it would review the proposal.

Pressure to deliver on time and to make money tempts many drivers to stay behind the wheel when they should not, whether because of fatigue, weather or other factors. This regulation, already in effect in many other countries, is a necessary next step in minimizing the dangers posed by commercial trucks on the road.

Posted on Monday, May 5th, 2014. Filed under Catastrophic Injury, Tractor Trailers, Wrongful Death.

Five Injured as New York City Bus Crashes Into Minivan, Building

Five people were injured when a New York City bus collided with a vehicle, careened onto a sidewalk and crashed into a building.

The accident occurred on the morning of April 4, 2014 on Broadway near West 155th Street in Washington Heights. According to Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesman Kevin Ortiz, witnesses stated that a minivan cut in front of a bus, and the bus T-boned the van. Both vehicles then went onto the sidewalk, and the bus crashed into a pizzeria.

An unidentified woman and her husband, who were walking on the sidewalk, were injured, as were the bus driver and the two occupants of the minivan. None of the injuries were life-threatening. Four of the injured were taken to local hospitals, and one was treated at the scene. The bus was out of service at the time and was not carrying any passengers.

Residents who lived above the pizzeria reported hearing a sound like an explosion and a feeling like an earthquake. One worried that the building was about to collapse. The city’s Department of Buildings sent inspectors to the building to assess its structural integrity. The results of their inspection are expected to take a few days.

Police were reviewing video of the accident captured on surveillance cameras in order to see who was at fault in the accident.

Posted on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014. Filed under Mass Transportation Accidents.

NHTSA proposes side impact test for child car seats

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently proposed upgrades to the safety standards governing child restraint systems. The proposal includes a first-ever side impact test for child car seats sold in the United States.

The proposed test simulates a “T-bone” crash, in which a small passenger vehicle traveling at 15 mph is impacted from the side by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph. Car seats would have to prove effective in preventing contact between an intruding vehicle door and a child’s head, as well as in reducing the impact forces transmitted to a child’s chest and head.

The NHTSA estimated that the proposal, if adopted, would save five children’s lives and prevent 64 injuries each year.

The test would use a newly-developed crash test dummy representing a three-year-old child in addition to the existing 12-month-old dummy.

The agency proposed a deadline of three years for car seat manufacturers to make any changes necessary to meet the proposed requirements following the publication of the final rule. The proposed rule is open to public comment for 90 days.

Remember, the safest place in a car is in the middle of the back seat. If you or your child is injured in an auto accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away.

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014. Filed under Catastrophic Injury, Wrongful Death.

California worker dies in industrial accident at Volvo plant

A worker died after being crushed by a falling piece of equipment at a Volvo plant in California.

The accident occurred in San Leandro at a Volvo Construction Equipment and Services facility at about 9:30 a.m. on February 13, according to fire department spokeswoman Aisha Knowles.

The 48-year-old field service technician was working under a tractor that had been raised onto support stands when the vehicle slipped and fell onto him. The man, whose name has not yet been released, was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

Peter Melton, spokesman for the California Department of Occupation Safety and Health, said the company had not previously been cited for any safety violations.

The company released a statement saying that work at the facility stopped immediately while the accident was investigated and that the company’s condolences and prayers were with the worker’s family.

The man is the third worker to die in an industrial accident in the San Francisco Bay Area in less than a week. On February 7, two workers were killed in San Francisco’s GGI Granite Company when a granite slab fell on them.

In industrial accidents like these, a number of important questions must be investigated. Was the equipment properly maintained? Was each worker involved in the accident properly trained in all relevant safety procedures? Were all safety procedures properly followed? Despite the expertise and diligence of government inspectors, sometimes it takes the work of a dedicated personal injury attorney to uncover all the facts.

Posted on Monday, March 17th, 2014. Filed under Catastrophic Injury, Industrial Fires, Wrongful Death.