Contact: Kerri Axelrod, Jen Fuson
202.965.3500, ext. 8369
Proposed Rule Trumps More Stringent Railroad Safety Laws, Puts Consumers at Risk
Washington, DC—In a proposed rule requiring railroads to report more information about train accidents and injuries the agency responsible for promoting safe rail transportation has once again undercut consumer health and safety by granting negligent railroad companies immunity from liability.
In comments submitted today, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) called on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to remove language preempting the rights of consumers to hold negligent railroads accountable under state law. Recognizing the harsh and unfair results that would occur if the Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA) was interpreted to preempt state law claims, Congress enacted the “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007” (the 9/11 Act). In the 9/11 Act Congress establishes the right of states to implement stricter railroad safety laws to better protect the public.
“Here they go again—adding in language to help railroad companies escape accountability even when they knowingly injure innocent Americans by failing to maintain or upgrade railroad tracks,” said AAJ President Les Weisbrod. “Federal regulations only set a minimum safety standard and cannot effectively ensure the public is protected from dangers arising from railroad accidents.”
AAJ also called on the agency to make additional changes to the accident and incident reporting process to include incidents involving drug and alcohol abuse with railroad contractors and subcontractors, to require railroads to report grievous injuries not just fatalities at highway-rail grade crossings and to allow electronic reporting as an alternative to telephone reporting.
“While we appreciate the FRA’s attempt to improve the accident and incident reporting requirements because such information is vital to protect passengers and prevent future accidents, the proposed rule does not go far enough to provide the FRA with sufficient information to address problem areas and accurately depict the state of rail safety” added Weisbrod.