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LOS ANGELES, CA, July 09, 2009 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Plaintiff and defense lawyers must wait 45 days from the date of the accident if they wish to contact any of the victims involved in the DC Metro train collision which occurred on June 23, 2009, according to legislation signed into law last October called, The Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act of 2008.
The law applies to any rail passenger disaster "resulting in a major loss of life occurring in the provision of interstate intercity rail passenger transportation or interstate or intrastate high-speed rail transportation, regardless of its cause or suspected cause."
While lawyers cannot directly contact the victims during the ban, passengers and their families can seek legal representation on their own.
Lawyers are already signing up clients and filing lawsuits in the DC tragedy as reported in the media. It is predicted that lawsuits will be filed on behalf of most of the victims in this disaster and that the cases will eventually be consolidated under one judge and handled through multi-district litigation with just a handful of lawyers appointed to the plaintiffs' steering committee (PSC).
That is what occurred in the last commuter train disaster in the United States, which took place in Southern California on Metrolink's rail line on September 12, 2008 in Chatsworth, California and also in Metrolink's 2005 Glendale, California disaster, according to Paul J. Hedlund, a train disaster attorney whose firm is serving on both of the PSC's stemming from those disasters.
Train accident plaintiff lawyers are not the only ones affected by this rule. Defense attorneys representing the rail company or anyone acting on behalf of the rail carrier cannot contact victims or their family members with settlement offers on behalf of the rail passenger carrier within the first 45 days.
The federal law, The Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act of 2008, states that:
"No unsolicited communication concerning a potential action or settlement offer for personal injury or wrongful death may be made by an attorney (including any associate, agent, employee, or other representative of an attorney) or any potential party to the litigation, including the railroad carrier or rail passenger carrier, to an individual (other than an employee of the rail passenger carrier) injured in the accident, or to a relative of an individual involved in the accident, before the 45th day following the date of the accident."
The Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act of 2008 was passed as part of the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2008 on October 16, 2008, which was expedited through Congress after the September 12, 2008 catastrophic Metrolink Chatsworth, California rail disaster because of the urgent need to pass other laws in the bill, including implementing positive train control systems. Crew from both the Metrolink passenger train and the Union Pacific train in that disaster were text messaging before the crash in which 25 people died and 135 were injured.
The new law also limits employee work hours, increases the number of federal rail safety inspectors and support staff, bans cell phone use, and increases funding, among other things.
According to the law, employees of the rail passenger carrier who were injured in the crash are exempt from being contacted.
The language of the new 45-day ban in the Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act of 2008 is based on laws relating to transportation disaster assistance provided through the guidance of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and is very similar to the same rule in the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996.
Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008
Paul J. Hedlund is a senior partner at the national mass disaster law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, of Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. For two decades the firm has represented railroad and train accident victims across the U.S., including the 1987 Chase, Maryland, Amtrak Colonial / Conrail Freight Train Collision and the 1996 Silver Spring, Maryland, Amtrak Capitol Limited / MARC (Maryland Rail Commuter) Train Collision. Mr. Hedlund is also a mechanical engineer and testified about passenger car crashworthiness and the dangers of pushing passenger trains at the state hearing conducted by the California State Assembly, looking into the causes of the 2005 Metrolink train tragedy.
Contact: Robin McCall, Director of Media Relations
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman
(800) 827-0087 or (310) 207-3233
Email: [email protected]
Washington, D.C. Office
1250 24th Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20037
Los Angeles Office
12100 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 950
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman
National Mass Disaster Plaintiffs Law Firm
Representing victims of wrongful death and personal injury
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