Over the past year, there have been several devastating railroad accidents including train cars that were derailed in New Augusta, Mississippi and an explosion in Casselton, North Dakota. Over the past five years, the number of railcars carrying crude oil has increased almost fifty times. According to a Times article in February 2014, in 2013 approximately 400,000 cars were enlisted to transport oil from the oil fields in North Dakota. This is an enormous increase given that there were only 9,500 in 2008.
An example of how deadly these accidents can be is the Lac-Megantic derailment that occurred on July 6, 2013. Much like the transports mentioned above, this train carrying Bakken shale crude oil and derailed causing a fire and explosion of the tank cars. As a result of the explosion, 42 people were confirmed dead and 5 were presumed missing or dead.
The disturbing aspect of these railroad accidents is that many occur as the trains pass through city centers and urban areas increasing the number of people inflicted and potential damage. While the causes of derailments and explosions vary, it is believed that the cause is mainly due to lack of regulation. Most of the oil that is transported is carried in tank cars that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has stated is substandard. There has been a push for the industry to adopt fortified tank cars that will prevent these spills and accidents.
Many believe that this has caused more crude oil to be spilled from cars in 2013 than in the previous 37 years combined. It is anticipated that increased regulation is on the horizon with the Transportation Secretary announcing increased fines for oil companies that mislabeled the hazard of crude oil on its trains. The main causes of railroad accidents include:
- Unattended train
- Defective Signals
- Crossing obstructed by objects
- Faulty Equipment and Tank Cars
- Excessive cargo weight
The lack of regulation in combination with hazardous materials can lead to disastrous accidents. If you or a loved one were injured during a railroad derailment or explosion, please contact our law firm. We have experienced personal injury attorneys that can assist you with your case.
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