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Deadline looms for installation of railroad safety technology

Railroads operating passenger trains or transporting hazardous cargo in Connecticut have until the end of 2018 to complete installations of Positive Train Control. This crash-prevention technology automatically applies brakes to avoid high-speed derailments or collisions with other trains. Congress had already extended the original 2015 deadline to complete the safety upgrades, and, according to the Government Accountability Office, two-thirds of 29 commuter railroads appear likely to miss the extended deadline.

In the view of the National Transportation Safety Board, the automatic braking technology could have prevented two recent Amtrak accidents. In one wreck, two railroad employees died and about 100 people suffered injuries when a passenger train struck a parked freight train. In the other crash, three people died because an Amtrak train derailed after entering a curve going twice as fast as the speed limit.

During a Senate oversight panel discussion about the fatal accidents and approaching deadline for safety compliance, Senators expressed their frustration with the delays. They recommended that regulators should crack down on railroads that miss the deadline or fail to meet acceptable milestones for PTC installation.

When railroad employees get hurt or killed on the job, their benefits come from the Federal Employers Liability Act instead of workers compensation insurance that applies to most other employees. Unlike workers compensation, an injured railroad worker must show that an employer's negligence caused personal injury and financial damages. An attorney familiar with FELA claims may be able to help manage the process of filing a claim. An attorney, instead of an injured worker, might have a greater capacity to document misdeeds that led to the accident and prepare a thorough claim for benefits. The representation of an attorney may allow an injured person to overcome efforts to deny the payment of damages resulting from medical bills and lost income.

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