Railroad Accident Lawyers

Accidents involving passenger and freight trains kill and injure hundreds of people each year. Trains are incredibly powerful machines, and when they strike pedestrians or vehicles in their path the results can be catastrophic.

Railroad crossings can be very dangerous locations for drivers, especially if the crossing is poorly designed or an insufficient warning of an oncoming train is given. According to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization, the Federal Railway Administration reports the following:

  • There were 2,025 highway-rail grade crossing accidents in the U.S. in 2016.
  • They caused 265 deaths and 798 injuries.
  • Eight of those fatalities occurred in Missouri, which is tied for seventh in a list of states with the most railroad crossing fatalities.

A driver may be able to prevent a railroad accident at a crossing.

There are steps you can take to try to avoid becoming the victim of a vehicle accident at a train crossing.

  • Travel over train tracks at a designated crossing, look both ways and cross them quickly without stopping. Don’t stop closer than 15 feet from a rail.
  • Never race a train to the crossing. The time you may save crossing the tracks are far outweighed by the risk of being killed or seriously injured.
  • The train is closer and travelling faster than you may think. It’s best to wait for an approaching train and cross the rails after it passes.
  • Trains cannot stop quickly or over a short distance. A freight train traveling at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop after emergency brakes are applied — the equivalent of 18 football fields.
  • Never drive around lowered gates. Doing so is illegal, and you risk being killed or seriously injured by an oncoming train.
  • Don’t get stuck on the tracks. If there’s a traffic back-up, approach a crossing only if you are certain you can clear it without stopping. Give yourself plenty of room, because a train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.
  • If there are multiple tracks, there may be more than one train approaching a crossing at the same time. Wait for the one you can see to pass, then look to see if there’s another before crossing.

A railroad accident could be the fault of the railroad

There are some railroad crossing hazards that are beyond the control of the driver. They may be the result of negligence by the railroad responsible for its design, construction and maintenance. The federal Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 states in part, “railroads are responsible for public, private, and pedestrian crossings.”

Problems drivers may encounter include:

  • There may be no stop bars to prevent vehicles from going across the tracks in rural areas.
  • Hazard lights and gates may malfunction.
  • If a road is parallel to railroad tracks and suddenly turns and crosses the tracks, there isn’t much time for a driver to see an oncoming train until the last minute, if at all.
  • A driver has the best chance of seeing an oncoming train when the crossing is level with the road or at the same grade. If the road elevates to accommodate the tracks, the driver’s line of sight is upward, and seeing an oncoming train is difficult. If the road crossing the tracks is sharply inclined downward, a vehicle could skid into the path of a train.
  • As time passes, grade crossings wear down and can become uneven unless properly maintained. A slow-moving vehicle could get stuck on a poorly maintained crossing.

Problems caused by railroads can have deadly consequences for those of us driving in vehicles through crossings.

  • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2016 investigated the country’s 25 most accident-prone railroad crossings. The crossings in question had these characteristics:
    • Lacked automated gate arms
    • Didn’t have protective pedestrian gates
    • Lacked advance warning signs, bells and flashing lights
    • Had poor driver sightlines
    • Had confusing road signs
    • Had overgrown brush obscuring drivers’ views of oncoming trains.
  • The husband of the deceased driver of an SUV that was struck by a commuter train in New Jersey in 2015 states that his wife was unaware she was approaching the railroad crossing where her vehicle became stuck because of poor crossing design and improper warning signs, reports NBC New York. The accident also killed five and injured 12 passengers.

What to do if you or a loved one is injured in a railroad accident

At Bley & Evans Trial Attorneys, we handle vehicle accident cases all the time and have represented clients with a variety of injuries. We understand the complexity of railroad crossing accidents and know how to best represent you to receive the full compensation for your injuries. We’d love to start with a free consultation. Give us a call at 844-443-8385 to schedule yours today.