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Caught red-handed: Railroad companies destroy evidence

| Aug 7, 2017 | Fela Injury Claims |

For obvious reasons, a train crash may seem like a difficult event to cover up. Nevertheless, railroad companies have been caught red-handed multiple times trying to destroy or hide evidence related to train crashes and employee injuries, in order to defeat claims filed against them. It’s a sad reality but one that those who work in the railroad industry (or anyone unfortunate enough to suffer an injury resulting from a train crash) must be prepared to face.

Anyone injured by a railroad’s negligence needs to be aware of this serious problem and should take immediate steps to seek and preserve all evidence. Attorneys who specialize in representing railroad workers, and others injured due to railroad negligence, have experience with these matters and know how to seek and obtain all of the evidence necessary to pursue your claim – before the railroad destroys it.

Union Pacific Railroad’s track record of misconduct

Union Pacific Railroad has been sanctioned by various Trial and Appellate Courts around the United States. In one recent example, a Circuit Court in Illinois ruled that Union Pacific destroyed evidence and its members lied under oath about that evidence. In another matter, The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit found that Union Pacific failed to preserve a voice tape that was detrimental to its case. Since Union Pacific had preserved similar tapes in cases where those tapes benefited the railroad, the Court held that the facts created “a sufficiently strong inference of an intent to destroy” the voice tape.

The Supreme Court of Arkansas, similarly, found that Union Pacific destroyed voice tapes, track inspection records and other evidence related to a railroad crossing accident. The Court held that Union Pacific “intentionally put the traveling public in harm’s way.” It further held that Union Pacific’s corporate policy “put company profits before public safety.”

Union Pacific’s actions have been so destructive as to pique the interests of the New York Times, which conducted a seven-month investigation and found that the railroad:

  1. Blamed motorists/refused to accept responsibility in railroad crossing accidents
  2. Destroyed or “lost” evidence
  3. Mishandled evidence
  4. Didn’t report crashes properly

While the New York Times held Union Pacific out as one of the worst culprits, other railroads have been held accountable for similar or worse behavior.

Other railroads: Equally accountable

BNSF is another example where the courts have found repeated misconduct.

The District Court in the Tenth Judicial District of Minnesota found that BNSF lost, fabricated and destroyed evidence, ignored its own accident investigation policies, interfered with the injured parties’ access to witnesses and evidence, destroyed drawings and, perhaps most notably, “knowingly advanced lies, misleading facts, and/or misrepresentations by BNSF employees/agents in depositions, sworn affidavits, and/or trial testimony.”

Recently, the Supreme Court of Montana also listed BNSF’s numerous offenses in various lawsuits, calling out that there is a “recurring pattern and practice of dilatory and obstructive discovery practices in … FELA cases.”

What can you do to protect yourself during a FELA claim?

The bottom line is this: If you’ve suffered an injury because of a railroad company’s negligence, don’t hesitate to seek representation.