Train Accidents: Not to Be Taken Lightly

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Train accidents can injure and kill people in addition to slowing travel and commerce. They become potentially more dangerous if they set off chemical explosions. Residents of Lynchburg, VA, learned about this firsthand in April 2014 when a freight train derailment destroyed three oil tankers, spewed black smoke into the sky and poured thousands of gallons of crude oil into the James River. The accident did not cause any fatalities or injuries. However, the city manager declared an emergency and temporarily evacuated an area of downtown. The oil spill also prompted officials downriver in Richmond, VA, to prepare to seek an alternative source for its water supply.

Such accidents trigger investigations from the National Safety Transportation Board, an independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accidents. The Federal Railroad Administration also plays a role when it comes to trains carrying hazardous materials, and deeps detailed statistics on train accidents.

Trains move freight containing goods and merchandise across the country. Other trains provide long-distance transportation for people who do not want to drive or fly, offering them opportunities to enjoy the scenery. Regardless of the purpose, no one wants to be exposed to hazardous materials, such as what people in Lynchburg experienced. It remains to be determined whether residents of people living near the derailment location will face short- or long-term health problems.

You can protect yourself from accidents such as a railroad accident by becoming more informed. Find out whether any trains passing through your community are carrying any hazardous materials and what kind of safety measures the railroads follow. Closely follow news reports of any train accidents. The NTSB publishes reports of its investigations, and you can read them online at www.ntsb.gov.

Seek medical attention if you think you and your family were exposed to toxic fumes after a train accident. If you believe that you were exposed and sustained health problems, consider consulting a personal-injury attorney in New York who can best deal with entities involved to support and settle your case.