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Parents Underestimate Drowning Risks for Children

As temperatures warm up and beach season begins, children everywhere will be clamoring to splash and frolic in the water – but how many kids have the skills needed to stay safe in the ocean or at the local pool? Open water is the most prevalent setting for drownings in the U.S. — one of the leading causes of accidental death for those under the age of 19.

Besides the ocean, lakes, rivers, creeks and even man-made canals and garden ponds pose serious risks for young children. Every year in America, some 1,000 children die in drowning accidents.

Facts about open water drownings

National statistics about fatal open water drownings in the U.S. emphasize the importance of water safety awareness to prevent these heart wrenching accidents.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide:

  • More children and teenagers drown in open water accidents than in swimming pools
  • Nearly 50 percent of all open water drownings occurred in children ages 15-19
  • In terms of ethnicity, American Indian and Alaskan native children are at highest drowning risk
  • Every week, 150 American families experience a frightening drowning scare
  • Swimming pool drownings account for 38 percent of childhood drowning fatalities
  • Boys are 4 times more likely than girls to die in an open water drowning accident
  • 76 percent of deadly open water drownings occur when children are swimming in natural water; the rest are attributed to accidental falls, and boating accidents
  • Lakes, ponds and rivers are the most common setting for fatal open water drownings in kids age 0-19

Hidden dangers of open water

Families who are planning to enjoy some open water recreation with the kids should be aware of these hidden dangers that increase drowning risks:

  • Strong currents / undertow
  • Sudden drop-offs
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Murky water and limited visibility
  • Cooler water temperatures that can lead to panic and drowning
  • Sudden changes in the weather
  • Distances that are difficult to judge

Open water is much different than a swimming pool. The environment and swimming conditions are unpredictable which is why constant supervision is critical. Have a designated “water watcher” to keep an eye on kids and ensure that inexperienced and non-swimmers are always wearing personal flotation devices when around open water. Safety officials also recommend that at least one person in the family have basic CPR skills in the event of a drowning incident.

Legal help after a drowning accident

Whether it happens in a river, a community pool or at the beach, drowning accidents (and near drownings) can lead to permanent brain damage and cognitive impairment. In situations where negligence is involved, the injured and their family may be entitled to legal compensation.

In the wake of any type of drowning accident, contact the law firm of Edelman, Krasin & Jaye to learn more about your options for legal recourse. Our talented NY personal injury lawyers offer more than 60 years of combined experience and have convenient office locations in Long Island and the Bronx.  The case evaluation is free and there are no fees unless we win money damages on your behalf.

Additional Water Safety Resources:

  1., Hidden Hazards
  2., The Sad Truth About Drowning
  3. WHO, Drowning Facts

What Is the New York Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?

Statue of justice

Lawsuits represent a balance of rights. Society recognizes the rights of those injured by someone else’s negligence to recover from those who caused the injury. But it also puts limitations on that right – statutes of limitations restrict how long after an injury a victim has to file a lawsuit. This means individuals who have suffered a personal injury need to be aware of the time constraints and speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible in order to prevent waiving any rights.

Purpose of a statute of limitations in personal injury cases

Statutes of limitations have been around for thousands of years, having been a staple in the laws of Classical civilizations. Today, they are contained in laws enacted by state legislatures.

There are several reasons these time limitations have been adopted, including:

  • Ensuring cases are filed while there are still witnesses who remembered what happened and before the evidence has deteriorated
  • Promoting lawsuits that seek justice rather than ages-old vengeance
  • Encouraging plaintiffs to pursue wrongs quickly
  • Providing a sense of finality with the passage of time

On the other hand, the time limits are restrictive. Injury victims cannot take a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether their injury warrants a lawsuit. Instead, it is important to be proactive or the window for recovery may close.

What is the personal injury statute of limitations in New York?

Statutes of limitations vary based on the type of legal claim. In New York, most personal injury claims are subject to a 3-year limitations period.

Be aware that personal injury claims are rarely straightforward; issues can often overlap. Below is a summary of some of the additional time limits that often affect our personal injury clients on Long Island and in Nassau County:

  • Slip and fall – 3 years from date of accident
  • Medical malpractice – 2.5 years from commission of malpractice or from the end of continuous treatment by the provider
  • Assault and battery – 1 year from the act (for a civil claim; the limitations period is longer for a criminal charge)
  • Emotional distress – 1 year from the date of an intentional act or 3 years from the date of a negligent act
  • Wrongful death – 2 years from death

Special exceptions to the personal injury statute of limitations

There are special cases that can affect when the statute of limitations begins to run. A few notable situations include when:

  1. The victim is a minor
  2. The wrongdoing was not immediately discoverable by reasonable means
  3. Fraud or concealment by the at-fault party prevented discovery of the wrongdoing or the filing of the claim

In these cases, the injured party may be entitled to additional time to file a claim – but do not plan on this. Instead, speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as you realize you may potentially have a claim to be sure the statute of limitations is protected.

NY personal injury lawyer

Personal injuries are, unfortunately, an everyday occurrence in heavily-populated New York. For those injured due to someone else’s negligence, it is imperative to take swift action to avoid the running of the statute of limitations.

The attorneys at Edelman, Krasin and Jaye are dedicated to helping New Yorkers recover. Call today to speak with a speak with a personal injury lawyer in Nassau County. Call toll-free at 800-469-7429.

More about “New York personal injury statute of limitations”:

  1. Daily News, New York’s statute of limitations hurts victims beyond medical mishaps,
  2. NY Courts, Statute of Limitations,

3 Strategies for Winning a Personal Injury Case

Statue of justicePersonal injury cases are filed by people who have been injured due to another party’s negligent action or inaction. “Negligent” means that the person or entity (such as a business, organization, etc.) knew or should have known that conditions were unsafe enough to harm someone, had sufficient time to rectify the situation, and failed to do so.

Personal injury can occur for many reasons. An injury can result from a landlord failing to repair dangerous property, such as a broken sidewalk, for example. An injury may be caused by a car accident in which a driver doesn’t obey traffic laws, or a company making and selling an unsafe product.

How can you prepare to win a personal injury claim? While winning always depends on the strength of your case and how the court will view it, here are some good strategies.

1. Gather Evidence of Unsafe Conditions

A court needs evidence when judging a case. While you might have been harmed by negligence, you may not win a case unless there are hard facts and evidence that shows the court unsafe conditions.

Evidence can consist of pictures of the conditions surrounding a personal injury. Was a sidewalk broken and difficult to walk on, for example? Take pictures of it. Were you in a vehicle accident caused by the other driver? Get a copy of the police report, if there is one. Take pictures from every angle, and from both near and far away.

Did a kitchen appliance explode? Take pictures of it without cleaning it up first.

2. Gather Evidence of Personal Injury

You also need facts and evidence regarding your injury. If you have been injured, take pictures of the injury as soon as you can. Bruises can fade and cuts heal rapidly. You may need evidence of the damage done by the unsafe condition.

It’s also a good idea to see a doctor for your injuries. You doctor’s appointment provides a record that you were injured. The doctor’s diagnosis, medical treatment, any physical therapy, and prescription medications all serve as records of your injury, its consequences, and its costs.

3. See if There Are Eyewitnesses

If there are eyewitnesses to a personal injury, you are entitled to gather their names and contact information. Their testimony can be very important later on. Hard evidence of a car crash, for example, may be inconclusive. But a witness saying that the car that hit you didn’t stop at the stop sign, for example, can be very persuasive.

Personal Injury Lawyers in New York City and Long Island

If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligent actions of another party, attorneys at Edelman, Krasin & Jaye can help. We can assist you in any personal injury situation. Our initial consultation is free. We are happy to discuss the circumstances surrounding your case and possible next steps. Call 1-800-469-7429 for a free consultation with an experienced New York City and Long Island personal injury lawyer today.

More information on how to win a personal injury lawsuit:

  1. Abel, William. “Five Ways to Win Your Personal Injury Lawsuit.” October 7, 2013. ABC Action News, WFTS, Tampa Bay, Florida.
  2. How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim. Wikihow.

What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

A court gavel on 100 bills If you or a loved one has been harmed by a person or entity such as a landlord, neighbor, or business that you purchased a product or service from, a personal injury lawsuit can be filed to obtain monetary compensation for the damages — physical, emotional, and financial — that you have sustained. Personal injury is the division of law that deals with harm done to someone from the negligence of another.

Personal Injury Caused by Negligence

Negligence refers to a careless act or series of acts that caused something to become unsafe. A landlord, for example, has a duty to maintain and repair his or her property so it is safe for tenants and passersby. A neighbor must make sure their property is safe for all visitors. A business must make sure that products and services provided are safe.

If these things and many more are unsafe, have been so for long enough that a “reasonable person” would have realized the lack of safety, and the situation has not been rectified, all these entities can be judged negligent.

Say that your landlord allowed a burned-out lightbulb in a flight of stairs to remain so for several days. The area was too dark to see properly. If you fell and broke your ankle as a result of not being able to see properly, the landlord could be judged negligent. He is liable for your injuries and any time lost from work.

How Are Personal Injury Damages Compensated?

Because personal injury cases have multiple injuries, ranging from broken ankles to complete paralysis, and stem from multiple causes, including exploding equipment, medical errors, and poor employee oversight, specific monetary damages can vary greatly.

We can, however, give you an idea of the type of damages that are compensated by courts. Courts award damages to victims for physical damage, financial loss, and mental distress.

If you were injured by a negligent entity, you may bring a suit to be compensated for:

  • The cost of medical treatment, including surgeries and medication
  • The cost of any physical therapy
  • Pain and suffering from the injuries
  • Lost wages due to time lost because of your injuries and/or need for medical care
  • Retraining if performing the activities of your previous job is no longer possible
  • The loss of property (such as a car)
  • The loss of enjoyment (if your injuries cause you to not be able to pursue an activity you previously enjoyed, such as a sport or hobby)
  • The loss of consortium (such as loss of companionship or sexual life with a partner, for example)

If negligence is judged by the court to have been particularly egregious, it is possible for the court to award punitive damages as well.

New York City and Long Island Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury because of the negligent actions of another, Edelman, Krasin & Jaye’s seasoned attorneys can help. Our initial consultation is conducted with no cost to you.

Call 1-800-469-7429 for a free consultation with an experienced New York City and Long Island personal injury lawyer today.

Additional resources on personal injury compensation:

  1. American Bar Association, Division for Public Education. Personal Injury Claims.
  2. New York State Unified Court System. Statute of Limitations.

Thousands Injured at Amusement Parks Across the Country

amusement park carnival fair ferris wheelIt’s summer, a time when many people visit amusement parks, state fairs, and carnivals. The only problem is, amusement parks sometimes aren’t safe. In late July, for example, a ride at the Ohio State Fair broke part, killing one person and injuring seven more.

U.S. Government: Almost 31,000 Injuries a Year Caused by Amusement Park Attractions

An estimated 31,000 injuries last year were caused by amusement park attractions, according to the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). The U.S. CPSC estimates that amusement park rides have caused 22 deaths since 2010, excluding water parks and water slides.
The government’s analysis of data is disputed by an industry group, the International Association of Amusement Parks (IAAP). They estimate that 335 million people visit amusement parks annually, and in 2015, just 1,508 injuries occurred.

However, some of the discrepancy in data is caused by tabulations of different types of amusement parks. The IAAP’s data come from fixed sites with amusement-park rides. It does not collect them on traveling sites such as carnivals or state fairs.
Regulation and inspection of rides is not uniform through the country either. As CNN notes, CPSC is in charge of regulating mobile amusement parks. But there is not a national body that regulates fixed-site parks. Regulation is left to states and municipalities, and is uneven around the country. Not all states regulate amusement park rides.

Liability Issues Involved in Amusement Park Injuries and Deaths

The lack of uniform regulations and inspections complicates the issue of liability for any accident. Generally, an entity that owns and operates a malfunctioning piece of equipment is liable for any damages it causes, provided that the entity knew or should have known that its maintenance, operation, or the condition under which it operated was dangerous to the public.

It is possible that states and localities might be liable as well, if they have regulations and inspection standards on the books and they were not followed.

New York state courts use a comparative negligence rule in determining liability as well. If the court finds that an injured or deceased party contributed to the accident or to the improper functioning of the equipment, any award will be reduced by the percentage the court finds they were contributory.

If someone falls out of a roller coaster, for example, and the court finds that the person was not using the safety restraints, compensation may be reduced.

Parents are urged to make sure their children follow all safety regulations and wear all safety gear, and to do so themselves.

Amusement Park Accident? Call an Experienced Attorney

Edelman, Krasin & Jaye are seasoned product liability and personal injury attorneys representing residents of all 5 boroughs of NYC and Long Island. We can help you with injuries and fatalities from accidents, no matter what the circumstances are.

Our initial consultation is free. We will discuss your case and potential next steps. Call for a free case review with an experienced lawyer today.

Additional amusement park injury lawsuit resources:

  1. Knight, Victoria. “Amusement Parks Linked to Thousands of Injuries in 2016, Safety Commission Estimates.” CNN, July 28, 2017.
  2. Thompson, Meghan C, et al. “US Pediatric Injuries Involving Amusement Rides, 1990-2010.” Clinical Pediatrics 52(5): 433-440. May 1, 2013.

How Teen Deaths Can Be Prevented on the Roads and Beyond

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1.2 million adolescents across the globe died during 2015, primarily from causes they were preventable or treatable. That is 3,000 deaths each day worldwide.

The total population of adolescents aged 10 to 19 in the world is roughly 1.2 billion, or 1 out of every 6 people.

Traffic accidents: 3,000 deaths per day worldwide

teens driving while textingFor the teen age group, traffic accidents rank high on the causes of fatalities. Globally, more than 115,000 adolescents died from road traffic accidents alone during 2015. Road traffic injuries were the leading cause of death in 2015.

In the U.S., 2,333 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were killed in vehicle accidents during the same year. That equates to 6 teenagers in that age cohort dying every single day.

In 2014, 221,313 teenagers had to be taken to emergency departments for vehicle crash injuries.

How to prevent teen traffic accidents

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends programs that provide information on safe driving. It also recommends that levels of blood alcohol be made lower for drivers in the teen years. They suggest that new drivers receive graduated licenses.

In addition, of course, existing laws on drinking and driving need to be strictly enforced, as does the legal drinking age. The CDC recommends a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving.

Finally, teenagers need to wear a seat belt. Of the people between 16 and 19 years or age who died in passenger vehicle accidents during 2014, roughly 53% were not wearing their seat belt. However, seat belts have been shown to reduce both deaths and serious injuries by approximately 50%.

Drowning: 57,000 deaths yearly worldwide

Drowning is another primary cause of teenager deaths. The WHO estimates that 57,000 adolescents drown each year. Two-thirds of them are male.

In the U.S., the National Safety Council (NSC) reports that nearly 3,400 people drowned in 2013.

How to prevent drowning deaths

To reduce drowning deaths, preventive measures and attention to safety need to be practiced. Drowning deaths are preventable.

The first preventive measure is swimming lessons.

The second is close watching of a pool by a responsible adult who is experienced swimmer. Adolescents should never swim unattended.

Why? Well, even people who can swim can drown. The NSC quotes the American Red Cross as indicating that even of people who can swim, over half cannot float or tread water for a minute without a device used for flotation, cannot jump into water and come up to the surface, cannot swim 25 yards without halting, and cannot get out of a pool without a ladder. The failure of swimmers to utilize any of these safety measures could result in drowning.

Do you need a personal injury attorney on Long Island?

Young people are our most precious resource. It is especially tragic when a teenager dies in a preventable accident.

Edelman, Krasin & Jaye are seasoned attorneys who will fight for justice if you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident.

Our initial consultation is free; we will discuss your case and what the next steps could be. Call today for a free consultation with an experienced New York City and Long Island personal injury lawyer today.

Additional “preventable teenager deaths” resources:

  1. National Safety Council. Stay Safe In and Out of the Water.
  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Teen Drivers: Get the Facts.
  3. World Health Organization. Adolescents: Health Risks and Solutions.

To Enjoy July Fourth, Put Fireworks Safety First

fireworksSummer is well underway as families around the country get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July in traditional explosive fashion. A fireworks injury is a sure way to put a damper on the festivities.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks are behind 230 emergency room visits each day in the month surrounding Independence Day.

To prevent accidents:

  • Supervise young children – they should never play with or light fireworks. Even sparklers are dangerous, burning at about 2,000 degrees.
  • Do not buy fireworks in brown paper packaging – they may be professional grade and more dangerous for consumers.
  • Steer clear of fireworks even after they have been lit – duds can ignite spontaneously and already-used fireworks can start a fire.
  • Only buy or use fireworks if they are legal in your area.

Caution can prevent most firework injuries

Most of the nearly 9,000 annual fireworks injuries occur at home and could be avoided.

Some of the most common –and preventable – causes include:

  • Misuse
  • Making homemade fireworks
  • Letting small children play with sparklers, accounting for nearly 20% of the related emergencies

About a quarter of the injuries, however, were the result of malfunction.

Large public fireworks displays are less likely to cause injury but when they do occur, the injuries can be serious and include burns, head injuries, lacerated or amputated fingers, and blinding eye damage. While professional fireworks displays are often subjected to more careful preparation and safety checks than backyard displays, a malfunctioning professional grade firework brings in large crowds of onlookers who are potentially in the line of fire.

Firework injury victims have legal rights

Whether a fireworks injury is caused by misuse or manufacturing defects, a victim may be entitled to hold the person or company behind it responsible.

When the accident is caused by someone’s mistake, they may be liable under a theory of negligence. This means that the person or company was under a duty to do or refrain from doing a certain thing, and that by failing at the duty, they caused the injuries. For example, fireworks companies have a duty to comply with local laws that dictate what type of equipment must be used to stand fireworks to prevent a tip-over. If the company uses a different type of stand and it tips over, causing injury, the victim would have a strong argument for negligence.

If a fireworks injury is caused by a malfunction, the victim may be entitled to recover from the manufacturer or distributor under product liability laws. There may be multiple potential defendants involved in this type of case because many fireworks are manufactured in China, making it more difficult to bring the manufacturer in as a party.

If you have been the victim of a firework injury, you may be entitled to compensation for losses including past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and any loss of body function caused by the accident.

To learn more, speak with a personal injury attorney at Edelman, Krasin & Jaye. To schedule a free consultation in Long Island or the greater NYC area, call 1-800-469-7429.

Amusement Parks: Safe Summer Fun or Hidden Danger?

roller coasterSummer brings amusement park season, a time many look forward to for the adrenaline rush of thrill rides. While the adrenaline may be a given, the safety of that ride you board may not come with the same guarantee.

The New York Daily News recently reported that regulation of amusement park ride safety is patchy at best, with some states failing to regulate the rides at all. Lack of oversight could leave some park-goers vulnerable to potential accidents and serious injuries.

Reporting of accidental injury is left up to the individual parks, which cumulatively report more than 1,000 injuries each year. When a severe injury or death occurs, the incident makes local headlines, but the attention is often fleeting. Personal injury lawsuits filed against amusement park operators typically resolve in confidential settlements, leaving the public in the dark about the details of many of these incidents.

Amusement parks feature faster, more dangerous rides

Around 335 million people visit the more than 400 amusement parks across the country each year. To attract a larger percentage of those visitors, parks are regularly striving to create new rides that faster, taller and involve higher g-force than ever before.

For example, in 1997, the fastest ride in the U.S. was the Superman: Escape from Krypton ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain. The ride got up to 100 miles per hour in some parts. In 2013, Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates made it up to 149 miles per hour. The Superman ride at Six Flags was also the tallest ride in 1997 at 415 feet. In 2010, the Kingda Ka ride at Six Flags Great Adventure reached 456 feet.

Roller coaster deaths reported

Even with the many changes within the amusement park industry, regulation of the new rides is sparse. The Consumer Product Safety Commission lost its ability to oversee park rides in 2001, when Congress passed what has become known as the “roller coaster loophole.” Despite the new law, the commission reported 51 deaths from amusement park rides between 1987 and 2000, which equated to approximately four deaths each year.

When most people think of amusement park fatalities, the roller coaster probably tops the list as what is considered the most dangerous ride. According to the Huffington Post, roller coasters made up more than 27 percent of all ride-related fatalities, the most of any other type of ride. However, Ferris wheels and gondolas also caused a measurable number of fatal accidents – more than 20 percent. Water rides were also responsible for a significant number of fatalities, with more than 15 percent of all deaths involving these rides.

For those who are injured or lose loved ones to amusement park rides, the results can be catastrophic. Major medical expenses and lost wages can take a serious financial toll while physical injuries can turn your world upside down. Enlisting a qualified personal injury lawyer is essential to ensuring your rights are fully protected in the wake of an amusement park ride accident.

Legal representation you can count on

Edelman, Krasin & Jaye represent victims in all types of personal injury claims throughout New York, including those caused by amusement park rides. Our veteran attorneys have procured millions in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients over the years — put our skill and resources to work for you!

To arrange a free assessment of your case, contact Edelman, Krasin & Jaye at 1-800-469-7429.

  1. New York Daily News, The Safety of Summer Thrills: Amusement Park Risks Nearly Impossible to Know Because of Terrifying Patchwork of State Laws or Almost No Regulation,
  2. Amusement Safety Organization, Injury Totals for 2015,
  3. Health Research Funding, 8 Incredible Roller Coaster Death Statistics,
  4. Huffington Post, The Deadliest Amusement Park Rides,

Protect Your Loved Ones from Nursing Home Neglect

Helping Grandmother WalkBy 2050, it is expected that a full 20 percent of the U.S. population will be comprised of individuals ages 65 and older, many of whom will require some extra assistance for daily living activities. After a lifetime of hard work and service to their communities, seniors deserve the best of care. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy for families to find the right assisted living facility in New York to protect their loved ones from neglect or abuse.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, one recent study discovered that an appalling 7.6 to 10 percent of study participants were victims of elder abuse during the year prior to the study. As shocking as these statistics are, they may be even lower than the actual figure. Some researchers suggest that just one in every 14 cases of elder neglect and abuse is ever reported to the authorities, and The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study indicated that only one in 24 cases of elder abuse was reported.

Given the prevalence of nursing home abuse and neglect, Edelman, Krasin & Jaye strongly encourages families to thoroughly research assisted living options in New York before moving their loved ones into a facility. One great resource for families is A Place for Mom.

Do your due diligence

Reputable organizations such as A Place for Mom have made it free and easy for families to research assisted living facilities in order to minimize the risk of harm to their loved ones. Using the website is simple; enter the city or zip code to begin your search. Narrow down your options by language, religion, care services, or preferred diet. For example, you can choose to only search memory care locations or to search for assisted living in New York that includes brain fitness activities and diabetic care.

Perhaps most importantly, however, you can use the background information on the facilities to cross off undesirable options from your short list. A Place for Mom features “Do Not Refer” lists for each state so you can steer clear of potentially harmful choices for your aging loved ones. You’ll also have access to quarterly reports of nursing home inspections, in addition to plenty of other online resources to ensure your loved one receives compassionate and proper care.

Your options after discovering elder neglect

It’s still important to remain vigilant for the potential signs of elder neglect or abuse.

Examples of negligent care include:

  • Failed to administer medications properly
  • Failed to monitor for signs of medical problems
  • Failed to ensure proper nutrition and hydration
  • Failed to prevent and/or treat pressure ulcers
  • Failed to maintain your loved one’s proper hygiene
  • Inflicted physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse

It’s critical to act right away to protect your loved one from further abuse and to ensure those responsible for these heinous acts are brought to justice.

The personal injury lawyers at Edelman, Krasin & Jaye have a longstanding history of working tirelessly on behalf of victims and their families. Call us at 1-800-469-7429 to schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation. We’ll help you assess your legal options.

Are US Railways Safe?

railroad crossing intersectionThis May, a Pennsylvania Amtrak train going 106 mph careened off the tracks, killing eight people and injuring 200. It’s easy for commuters to feel the pit of fear in their stomachs every time another passenger train accident occurs. Transportation experts maintain that the railroads are perfectly safe, while news outlets emphasize the need for change. Americans traveling by rail reasonably want to know: “ARE America’s railways safe to travel?” However, the truth is difficult to sort out from the statistics, as these crashes involve so many moving parts.

Train accident statistics

According to CS Monitor, only five people died in Amtrak accidents from 2005 to 2014. There are only 0.5 deaths per billion miles traveled on Amtrak and commuter rail lines put together. When you compare that to the six deaths per billion miles for car and truck travel, railroads are looking generally safe.

To put things into perspective, Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman told NBC News they’ve carried 300 million passengers since the 1987 crash in Maryland that killed 16 people without a single incident until the most recent crash that killed eight.

Washington Post data expert Christopher Ingraham reports that Amtrak has experienced fewer accidents in recent years, from 2000 to 2014:

  • Total accident rate per million passenger miles: Dropped from 4.1 to 1.7
  • Derailments: Dropped from 80 to 28
  • Track problem related accidents: Dropped by two-thirds
  • Human error related accidents: Dropped by over half
  • Equipment problem related accidents: Negligible rise
  • Fatalities are rare, typically in the single digits each year.

“Taken together, these numbers suggest that Amtrak is making progress on track repair and on better training its operators and putting better safety standards in place.”

Although reported injuries are technically “on the rise,” Ingraham implies that these statistics should be taken with a grain of salt. Increasing ridership and trains running at fuller capacity contributes to higher accident statistics. Furthermore, the statistics of FDA injuries “includes all injuries that befall a passenger on a train… things like heart attacks, or to a person falling on a train after losing balance.”

Train accident lawyers say some stretches of US railway are safer than others

“Many of the statistics cited are national and do not reflect the dangers commuters face in their own backyards,” remind Long Island railroad accident attorneys Edelman, Krasin & Jaye. “The New York City metro has 10 of the most dangerous railroad crossings in America, including six on Long Island alone.”

There are many factors that increase the risk factor, including the prevalence of high speed commuter trains passing through dense population areas at speeds up to 80 miles per hour, as well as the fact that there are still 2,677 at grade crossings controlled only by primitive lights, gates and bells in New York.

“It can cost $40 million to update a dangerous stretch of track, so it’s likely we’ll be filing many more Long Island train accident lawsuits in the years to come,” the New York attorneys add.

US vs. European rail lines: a comparative safety analysis

One could also argue that comparing train accidents to motor vehicle crashes is like comparing apples to oranges. A better portrait of US railway safety can be gathered by comparing American and European train systems. The American Enterprise Institute completed such a comparison in 2012.

Author Kevin A. Hassett writes, “Based on data spanning the period 2004-12, for example, to expect one transit-related injury, a passenger would need to ride the French railroad for 4.9 million miles or the German railroad for 4.1 million miles. Yet he would need to ride America’s railroads for only 84,300 miles, on average, to sustain one injury.”

He adds, “Even the worst rail systems in Europe are superior to the Amtrak-dominated American railroad system” – with the one exception being Lithuania, which is “comparatively dangerous.” He recommends ending federal subsidies to Amtrak, allowing the company to liquidate, and letting private enterprises step in to buy and fix up individual stations and routes.

Eliminating variables that lead to train accidents

A large scale shakedown of the railroad industry may be in the distant future, but for now, the discussion is centering on ways to eliminate the variables leading to these freak train accidents:

  • SPEED: The NY Times points out that the latest accident marks the second time in two years in which “a passenger train traveling well above its speed limit has derailed, leaving a trail of death and injuries.” The derailed train was going 106 mph around a 50 mph curve for reasons unknown. “And for the second time, existing technology that might have prevented the accident was missing,” the newspaper stated. Though Amtrak has installed positive train control technology on parts of its rail network, it was not available on that heavily-trafficked stretch of Pennsylvania track. Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board told reporters the accident would not have occurred, had the system been installed on that section of rail. “The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated that railroads design a PTC system that would automatically slow or stop a train,” says Philadelphia railroad attorney James J. McEldrew III, adding: “Now it’s time to fulfill the federal mandate before another tragedy strikes and more lives are lost.”
  • CROSSINGS: The Federal Railroad Administration says at-grade railroad crossings are involved in about 270 fatalities each year. These crossings have red-and-white gates that come down on either side of the road to warn drivers of oncoming trains. Thomas Johnson, president of the National Association of Railroad Safety Consultants and Investigators told The Scientific American a better alternative is a grade separation crossing, where the train or the cars go over the other on an overpass. At the very least, an additional set of gate arms, known as a “squad gate,” can make it more difficult for cars to drive around and get stuck on the tracks. Fatalities at crossings have decreased by 54 percent as the systems are slowly updated. “We have thousands of crossings, so you’re not going to fix them overnight,” Johnson says. There is much work to be done in trimming brush and trees, repairing broken lights, and eliminating buildings that obstruct a motorist’s view of oncoming trains. “It’s a teeter-totter effect between how much convenience you want and how much safety,” he explains.
  • HUMAN ERROR: David Clarke, a railroad expert at the University of Tennessee, warns, “We’re depending heavily on the human engineer to correctly obey and interpret the signals that he sees and also speed limits and other operating requirements.” Human error is a big problem in places like New Jersey, where 58 percent of the 611 train derailments over the past 20 years involved mistakes made by train operators. This type of accident occurs at twice the national rate, “occurring an average of more than once a month.” Some say that is all the more reason to prioritize technology that automatically controls speed and other variables on the trains.