Railroad Expert Witnesses

Railroad operations adhere to a strict set of federal regulations to maintain safety. When a train derailment occurs, an investigation ensues to determine the cause, be it human factors, a mechanical defect, or an outside source. These types of railway accidents can result in various types of lawsuits, which may require consultation with a railroad expert witness. These experts may consult on railroad warning systems, railway signals, signal and train control, and overall railway safety.

In October 2015, federal railroad investigators reported that engineer William Rockefeller fell asleep at the controls in 2013 resulting in a derailment that killed four passengers on the Manhattan-bound Metro-North train.  The train took a curve at Spuyten Duyvil going 82 mph along a section marked for 30 mph. The engineer was found to be suffering from an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea and had just experienced a drastic change in his work schedule.

Anthony Bottalico says members of his union raised the question whether the railroad’s backup safety system could prevent such an incident. As general chairman of the Association of Commuter Rail Employees Union, Bottalico called for a system that would automatically put on the brakes when an engineer is unresponsive.

Railroads are required to report a vast array of incidents, however not all meet the criteria warranting a Federal Railroad Administration Railroads investigation… FRA generally investigates accidents meeting the following criteria:

• A collision, derailment, or passenger train incident resulting in at least one fatality or serious injury to railroad passengers or crew members;

• All railroad employee fatalities

• Certain highway-rail grade crossing collisions resulting in:

A death of one or more persons in a commercial motor vehicle or school bus; or serious injuries sustained by several persons transported by such vehicles;

The remaining criteria may be found at the Federal Railroad Administration Accident Investigation Fact Sheet.




About Karen Olson

Information Professional with twenty years experience in legal, public record, and business research. Fifteen years law firm experience.

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