On March 4th, 2023, another Norfolk Southern train derailed in Springfield, Ohio, sending 20 cars off the rails. Considering that this is the second train derailment from the same railroad company in such a small time frame, questions are being raised about what issues Norfolk Southern employees were aware of prior to these incidents. While no one was injured in the second train derailment, the first derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, has caused widespread illness in the nearby community and an unknown amount of damage to the environment.
Those who were affected by the first train derailment may be able to use this as evidence that Norfolk Southern has a pattern of negligence, lending credibility to a personal injury claim. In order to maximize your chances of receiving a fair settlement, you should consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer. They will be able to offer you guidance on strategy, manage administrative duties, and protect your right to seek compensation for your damages.
Consequences of the First Norfolk Southern Train Derailment
Unlike the second train accident, the first Norfolk Southern train derailment released toxins into the environment. To dispose of highly flammable chemicals like vinyl chloride, Norfolk Southern conduct a controlled burn as a preventative measure to avoid an explosion. However, burning chemicals does not eliminate all risks. When chemicals like vinyl chloride are burned, they can produce toxic byproducts, such as carbon monoxide and phosgene.
Also, hazardous chemicals and their byproducts may interact, causing additional environmental damage and health hazards. While testing of soil, air, and water has not shown dangerous levels of chemical contamination, East Palestine residents are reporting a number of concerning symptoms associated with chemical exposure. This includes:
- Breathing issues
East Palestine Residents Face Exposure to Multiple Toxins
The long-term effects of exposure in East Palestine are unknown. Some residents have expressed fear over the potential presence of dioxins as a result of the controlled burning of vinyl chloride. Dioxins, which are a type of pollutant, are known carcinogens. There are also concerns that the chemicals that killed over 3,000 fish in local waters may have been absorbed into the soil, allowing the toxins to lie in wait. Other contaminants include:
- Butyl acrylate
- Ethylhexyl acrylate
- Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether
The EPA, which has been spearheading the management of this crisis with support from state agencies, has ordered Norfolk Southern to clean up any contamination that results from this derailment. However, individual residents of East Palestine and other affected communities have also suffered costs to their physical health and finances and may continue to for some time. Some families are considering seeking compensation for their damages through the personal injury claims process.
How the Train Derailment Might Impact Personal Injury Claims
The cause of the second derailment is unknown at this time. The first derailment has been attributed to an overheated aluminum protective housing cover based on the NTSB’s report, although they initially suspected an overheated wheel bearing. In the event that the cause of the second Norfolk Southern derailment is also a faulty part or other issue related to the management of the train, plaintiffs may be able to use this to their advantage when it comes to establishing liability for damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
One defective aluminum protective housing cover could indicate a manufacturing defect, in which case Norfolk Southern would likely share liability with the manufacturer. However, multiple defective parts may indicate that Norfolk Southern employees were not as diligent in their maintenance inspections as they should have been, or that a decision was made to use cheaply made products to protect profits, in which case Norfolk Southern could be found at fault.
The second train derailment adds evidence to the claim that Norfolk Southern should have been aware that there was a risk their train would derail. In personal injury claims, a party can potentially be considered liable if there is evidence that they knew or should have known that their product or service could be harmful, and failed to alert consumers or take mitigating action. In effect, the second train derailment establishes a pattern of negligent behavior on the part of Norfolk Southern.
Recovering Damages Caused by the East Palestine Disaster in a Train Derailment Lawsuit
Residents of East Palestine have accumulated significant damages in the aftermath of the Norfolk Southern train derailment. Numerous families were forced to evacuate their homes, causing them to miss work, and school, and incur unexpected expenses for accommodations and transportation. Additionally, after residents returned following the EPA’s reassurances that East Palestine was safe, many residents became ill.
As plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits, they can seek compensation for their economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages compensate for monetary costs that result from an injury, while non-economic costs provide financial relief for emotional and intangible losses.
Examples of Damages in an East Palestine, Ohio Train Derailment Lawsuit:
- Medical bills
- Lab tests
- Hospital stays
- Job-related losses
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Missed promotions
- Hotel stays
- Environmental cleanup for private property
Since the long-term health effects of chemical exposure are still unknown, plaintiffs should consider future medical expenses and other damages they are likely to incur when evaluating their damages. A personal injury attorney will be able to analyze medical records, consult experts, and consider your lifestyle and career to determine the appropriate damages to claim and what your settlement should be worth.
Proving Liability in a Personal Injury Claim
Plaintiffs will need to argue that Norfolk Southern had a duty of care to the residents of East Palestine to not contaminate their town and make them ill by allowing a train to derail and release hazardous chemicals. Further, in failing to ensure that their trains were properly equipped with functioning parts to prevent a derailment and subsequent injuries, Norfolk Southern has violated this duty to act with reasonable caution.
The plaintiffs will then need to be able to convince fact-finders that Norfolk Southern’s failure to maintain their trains properly has led to their injuries. Finally, plaintiffs are responsible for demonstrating how their damages can be attributed to their injuries, and what those damages are worth in terms of compensation.
Those who have sustained damages as a result of Norfolk Southern train derailments may be entitled to recover compensation for their damages in civil court. This can be a complex process that takes years to settle, which is why it is in your best interest to hire a personal injury lawyer to manage your claim. A personal injury attorney will be able to form a strategy, collect evidence, communicate with other involved parties, and negotiate to maximize your compensation.