Railroad Crossing Accident Lawyers
One empty passenger train, the lightest type of train car, weighs around 80,000 pounds. One diesel locomotive, the type that pulls freight across the country, can weigh as much as 200,000 pounds. Some models weigh 400,000. At any speed, the sheer force of a locomotive can devastate even the most protected and well-built vehicle. It is virtually impossible to walk away from a train collision without life-altering or fatal injuries.
In other words, railroad crossing accidents are among the most dangerous accidents that can occur.
In 2015, 967 people were injured—either as drivers, passengers, or pedestrians—in train accidents at railroad crossings. An additional 244 were killed. That means 1 in 5 victims of railroad crossing accidents suffer fatal injuries. NHTSA car accident statistics paired with the Federal Railroad Administration statistics reveal that “a motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than...with another motor vehicle.”
The Cause of Railroad Crossing Accidents
The ability to avoid train accidents is often the driver’s responsibility, as trains cannot change speed or direction in enough time to avoid imminent collisions; however, that doesn’t mean every railroad crossing accident is the driver’s fault. In some cases, the design of the crossing itself is the deciding factor. In this case and many others, it is railroad companies that are at fault for the harm suffered by motorists.
If trains require over a mile in order to brake, then crossings should give conductors a mile of clearance. More practically, every crossing should have a warning system for drivers well before the train is in sight. Although railroad almost always have the right of way, there are times when a crossing may be deemed a unique and local safety hazard; thus requiring the railroad to take additional steps to safeguard motorists.
In deciding whether a particular crossing is a safety hazard, a jury may consider whether:
- Federal regulations would require additional warnings
- Sight distances or visibility are reduced at the crossing
- There are intersections with other roads near the crossing
- There is visual clutter at the crossing
- There had been prior accidents at the crossing
Protected vs. Passive Crossing
Trains often intersect with roadways. In fact, there are 250,000+ roadway
and railroad crossings across the country, of which nearly 96% of all
accidents occur on.
Nearly 62,500 of these crossings do not have a light or gates protecting motorists.
Figures from the National Transportation Safety Board state that approximately 60% of all railroad crossing fatalities occur at “unprotected” or passive crossings. Passive crossings are those with no more than a railroad crossing sign. The statistics also state that “protected crossings,” those crossings with warning devices such as lights and gates, represent only 20% of the public railroad crossings in the U.S.
When a Car Is Involved in an Accident at an Unprotected Train Crossing, Who Should Be Held Liable?
Trains are an effective means of transporting heavy cargo and freight. This need for constant shipping means that trains will continually remain in high demand. When accidents occur, there may be multiple parties involved in a suit.
There are five main parties that may be considered liable:
The driver of the car.
Drivers make decisions that can affect their safety, such as attempting to maneuver across tracks before the train crosses.
The company operating the train.
The driver of the train has the responsibility of driving that train in a safe manner, and failing to train their employees, ensure the responsibility of their crew, and maintain acceptable speed limits can all add to their liability.
The train manufacturer.
If the accident was related to the design of the train or electrical / mechanical systems, the manufacturer can be held responsible. Some common manufacturing failures include warning whistles, warning lights, brake systems, coupling mechanism, and more.
The owner of the railroad track.
Train tracks are owned and operated by railroad businesses. While trains can travel on a different company's tracks, they are not responsible for maintaining the track. This means another company will install lights and gates, remove obstructions, and more.
The county or city.
If the roadway was the cause of the accident, the county or city responsible for maintaining the road can be liable.
If you were harmed in a crossing accident, contact Arnold & Itkin at (888) 493-1629 for a free consultation. We’ve won billions for our clients, including numerous train accident victims. Share your story with us.