Houston Railroad Crossing Accident Lawyers
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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.
Out of all railroad accidents and injuries, crossing accidents are usually the most catastrophic.
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.
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.
Railroad Crossing FAQ
Who Can Be Held Responsible in a Railroad Crossing Accident?
There are multiple parties who are responsible for maintaining the railroad crossing and ensuring its safety. These parties include the company operating the train (ensuring safe speed and control), the owner of the railroad track (ensuring the tracks are safe and undamaged), and the county or city where the crossing is (ensuring clear signage and safety protocols). In some cases, all three parties may be liable for an accident.
What Damages Can I Claim After a Train Crossing Accident?
In most cases, plaintiffs are entitled to two kinds of damages: general damages, and special damages. General damages include noneconomic losses like “loss of enjoyment,” “pain and suffering,” or “mental anguish.” Special damages are specific itemized losses caused by the accident, like medical bills or lost income due to missing work. In rare cases, plaintiffs may be be entitled to punitive damages, or money awarded to plaintiffs solely to punish egregious defendants.
What Often Causes a Railroad Crossing Accident?
While most accidents are usually a combination of factors, the most important ones usually come down to warning signals and human error. For instance, there are railroad crossings all over the US that lack proper signage or line of sight for drivers, providing zero warning if a train is coming around the corner. This is often combined with the train operator’s failure to signal its approach or dial back the train’s speed.
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.