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The Dangers of Accidents at Railroad Crossings

railroad crossing accidents

The US has nearly 14,000 miles of railroad track and more than 250,000 railroad crossings, and countless catastrophic accidents occur on these each year. Roadway accidents that involve a train almost always result in devastating injuries, if not fatalities. The aftermath of these accidents can send the victims and families reeling in shock, along with having to deal with mounting medical expenses.

How Often do Railroad Accidents Occur?

According to Federal Railroad Administration estimates, vehicles and trains crash into each other at railroad crossings over 2,100 times annually, or nearly five to six times daily in the United States.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that around 50 percent of all railroad crossing crashes occur within a range of five miles from the driver’s home, and nearly 75 percent take place within a 25-mile radius. 

Unfortunately, the likelihood of a motor vehicle driver losing their life in one of these tragic accidents is 20 times more than in an accident with another vehicle.

Common Reasons for Railroad Crossing Accidents

Sometimes crashes involving trains happen due to reckless drivers who do not follow safety regulations and signals. However, this is not always the case.

Absence of Warning Signals

Most railroad crossings in the country do not have any warning signals, such as flashing lights, alarms, and crossing arms. In rural regions, this case is especially true due to budget constraints.

In the absence of warning signals, vehicle drivers do not know that a train is approaching. The NTSB indicates that 60 percent of fatalities at railroad crossings happen at “unprotected” crossings.

Faulty Warning Signals

An improperly functioning warning signal is of no use. Serious accidents can result from a failure to maintain or replace these defective signals.

Defects in the Train Tracks

It is the responsibility of the owners of the track to maintain it. In case it develops a defect, it can cause derailment and potentially devastating outcomes.

Operator Error

The operator of the train is responsible for undertaking safe operations. Speeding, operating in a negligent manner or operating while intoxicated are some instances of operator error.

Unclear View of the Railroad Crossing

It is the duty of the track’s owners to maintain the track as well as make sure that there are no obstructions in vision around a train crossing. Vehicle drivers may not be able to see an approaching train if there is thick foliage or debris around the railroad crossing.

Defective/Faulty Trains or Train Parts

Mechanical defects in the train, such as defective brakes, could affect its ability to function safely and avoid a devastating accident.

Compensation in a Railroad Crossing Accident

A vacant passenger train, which is the lightest rail car type, weighs nearly 8,000 pounds. A single diesel locomotive, the engine car that pulls cargo around the nation, can weigh almost 200,000 pounds. Some engine cars can weigh double this much. Irrespective of the speed, the absolute force of a train crashing into a vehicle can lead to life-changing injuries.

In summary, one of the most catastrophic accidents to occur is colliding with a train. If the victim escapes death, there are certain to be serious injuries necessitating extensive medical care. Victims of careless or reckless actions of another person deserve to be compensated for their losses.

Victims of railroad crossing accidents can claim damages for various economic and non-economic losses.

Economic Losses

These refer to expenses that are quantifiable, such as damage to property, medical costs (present and future), and lost income (present and future).

Non-Economic Losses

Non-economic losses are hard to quantify and include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.

A possibility of claiming punitive damages also exists in some exceptional cases. Punitive damages are additional claims meant to penalize a responsible party and discourage them and others from engaging in similarly destructive actions in the future.

Who is Responsible for a Railroad Accident?

A railroad almost always has the right of way, but sometimes a train crossing might be considered a danger.

Railroad accident cases are complicated. There are various parties that could be held accountable if the victim suffers severe injury or dies from a railroad crossing collision. These parties include the following:

The Train Operator/Owner

The train company can be held accountable if the accident occurred due to an error on the part of the operator.

The Train Track Owner

The train track owner might be responsible if the accident occurs due to a poorly maintained track or crossing.

The Train Manufacturer or Designer

These parties can be held accountable when an accident involving a train occurs due to faulty design or parts.

A Municipality

If a city or county does not properly maintain the road leading up to a train crossing, and this causes a crash, this body could be held accountable.

Experienced Attorneys for Victims of Railroad Accidents

Sustaining injuries in a crash involving a train can have life-altering consequences. If you have been hurt in a railroad accident, you need a qualified lawyer who can help you get fair compensation for the monetary and emotional losses that you have suffered due to the negligence of others.

The experienced attorneys at Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz Ltd. can help you win your railroad accident case. Call (434) 977-7977 to speak to a skilled attorney today. 

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