Oil and gas drilled from the various fields throughout Texas is highly flammable material which poses very real hazards not just to those employed in the industry, but to all of us living in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Although pipelines and tanker trucks are frequently utilized to transport oil and gas from the field, to refineries, and ultimately to the end user, many times oil is shipped using North Texas’ well-established commercial rail network.
It is well known among industry experts and personal injury attorneys such as me that the current process of transporting oil by trains is an extremely risky proposition.
Oil Train Accidents Are at an All-Time High
In 2013 alone, there were more than 160 crude-oil train accidents spilling more than 1.2 million gallons of oil in the US alone according to the Association of American Railroads, Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration. Less than a decade ago, there were fewer than 15 such wrecks.
These figures have increased dramatically over the past few decades since the sheer number of carloads of crude oil being shipped by rain throughout the United States has increased dramatically. Today, more than 10 percent of all oil produced in the US is transported by train.
Defective Tank Cars
Perhaps the biggest contributor to the high number of catastrophic oil train wrecks today is the use of the DOT-111 tank car which is used to transport the oil. This car was originally designed in the 1960’s and there have been numerous safety concerns about the tank car since the 90’s.
A number of the valves and fittings on the DOT-111 are poorly shielded and may easily bust if an accident occurs. The head shields are prone to being punctured by couplers, and the relatively thin shell of the tank can be easily ruptured. Additional defects mean that there is a considerable risk of the DOT-111 tank car derailing in the event of a collision, in which case the 30,000 gallons of oil it carried will almost certainly be spilled.
In April 2014 a Senate hearing into the safety of the DOT-111 design was told by the Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, Deborah Hersman, that the DOT-111 tank car's design flaws “create an unacceptable public risk,” while Senator Charles Schumer described the DOT-111 as “a ticking time bomb.”
Regardless, it is estimated that more than 78,000 of these dangerous tank cars are still used to transport oil and other flammable liquids throughout the US on a daily basis.
Oil Train Accidents Cause Injuries and Death
Although there are a large number of significant oil train crashes throughout North America each year, there are a special few which have earned national attention in the media due to the sheer scale of the spill and the injuries and deaths which have occurred.
Perhaps the most notorious of these was the Lac-Mégantic wreck which occurred in Quebec in July 2013. 1.6 million gallons of crude oil were spilled and 47 people lost their lives in the tragedy.
The following accident represent the most devastating oil railroad wrecks to have occurred within the United States over the past few years:
- In April 2014, a derailment in Lynchburg, VA spilled 50,000 gallons of oil, some of which caught fire and burned.
- In December 2013, a crash in Casselton, ND spilled 476,000 gallons and forced 1,400 residents to be evacuated from their homes.
- In November 2013, a derailment resulted in 750,000 gallons of crude oil being spilled in Aliceville, AL.
- In June 2009, 13 tank cars carrying ethanol exploded in Cherry Valley, IL, killing one person and causing $79 million in property damage.
Know Your Legal Rights
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an oil train accident in Texas – even if you were an employee of the railroad – it is important that you consult with a Board Certified personal injury attorney who can inform you of your legal rights and help you establish a plan for making a successful recovery against the at-fault party.
For more information or to schedule your free, no obligation consultation today, please call the Anderson Law Firm toll free throughout the US at 800-354-6275 or locally at our Fort Worth, TX office at 817-294-1900.
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