There are over 500 railroads in the United States and thousands of railway crossing incidents that occur yearly. These accidents can involve derailments, train collisions and single train accidents. It is well understood that when a train collides with a car or truck the results can be devastating and deadly. The train’s weight and size will destroy most vehicles. In many railroad accidents, the collision could have been prevented by the railroad company.
Jeff Nadrich, an accident attorney in Fresno, California, discusses the dangers motorists and railroad employees encounter at unsafe railroad crossings. Mr. Nadrich also details various legal duties and liabilities owed by the railroad company for different hazard types.
Parked Train Cars Obstructing Motorist’s View
Trains are not supposed to be parked close to crossings. A parked train car can prevent a driver from seeing another train that was moving toward the intersection. In such instances the train company could be liable to a driver for injuries sustained in an accident caused by an obstructed view due to a parked train.
Foliage And Landscaping Maintenance Near Railroad Crossings
Sometimes a driver’s view at a railroad crossing will be obstructed by foliage or landscaping, preventing the driver from seeing a train and causing a collision. In such cases, the railroad company is likely to be held responsible for failure to keep sight lines clear at railroad crossings. The railroad company has a duty to maintain foliage and landscaping around crossings to ensure that motorists’ views are unobstructed.
Crossing Gate Malfunction Or Inadequate Warning
The railroad company is responsible for safely maintaining railroad crossings. Part of this responsibility includes regular inspection of the crossings for proper functioning. For example, railroad employees need to check each railroad crossing at regular intervals to ensure that the flashing lights and crossing gate arm are properly functioning.
Employees must regularly inspect and maintain signage to ensure that motorists have sufficient warning that a railroad crossing lies ahead so that drivers have sufficient time to slow their speed before arriving at a crossing. Failure to reasonable inspect, maintain and repair railroad crossings, will subject the railroad company to liability for injuries caused by defective conditions at the crossing.
What Damages And Compensation Are Available To Railroad Crossing Injury Victims?
An injury victim can recover expenses for medical care and related expenses including lost income, permanent physical disability or disfigurement, loss of family, social, and educational enjoyment, emotional damages including embarrassment, depression, etc. Settlements are not considered income and are not usually taxable as income.
If a person injured in an accident dies because of those injuries, the victim’s spouse, children, and/or parents may be able to obtain a recovery via a wrongful death lawsuit. Also, if a person with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the personal injury claim survives and can be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
What Legal Rights Do Train Passengers Have When They Are Injured?
The duty the railroad owes to an injured victim depends on whether they are an employee, passenger, or non-related third party such as a motorist or pedestrian. Because railroads are common carriers they owe passengers the highest duty of care. This increased responsibility of a railroad to its passenger makes recovery for injuries easier to obtain than in other personal injury situations; even if another passenger was partially responsible.
Railroad Company’s Liability For Railroad Employee Injuries
Being a railroad employee is a dangerous job. There have been 145 people killed working for the railroads and more than 45,000 injured in 1998 and 2007. Railroads were established before worker’s compensation laws; therefore, federal law applies, notably the Federal Employee’s Liability Act (FELA). This act provides injured railroad workers the right to sue railroad employers for monetary recovery and compensation for all damages including injuries, medical bills, future loss of earnings, etc;
The Federal Employer’s Liability Act covers a railroad’s legal responsibility to its employees. It is a federal statute that was passed by Congress in 1908 to provide for fair and just compensation for railroad employees injured on the job for whatever reason. In order to succeed under FELA, the injured employee would have to prove that the railroad was negligent.