Railroad Crossing Accident Lawyers
Railroad crossing accidents nearly always have catastrophic results when they occur. Roughly every two hours, a train strikes a vehicle or pedestrian at a railroad crossing in this country. When thousands of pounds of steel and freight cause an accident at a high rate of speed, there is inevitably a life-changing injury or even death.
If you or someone you love has been harmed in an accident at a railroad crossing, or a loved one has lost their life in one of these tragic events, you have the right make a claim for damages if some other party was negligent. At Garmo & Garmo, Attorneys at Law, our experienced train accident attorneys are recognized as some of the region’s most effective personal injury and wrongful death lawyers.
Facts About Railroad Crossing Accidents
There are roughly 130,000 public railroad crossings in the United States, and more than half (54%) of those are in operation with warning devices such as flashing lights, bells, and gates. This means that 46% of active railroad crossings are considered “passive,” meaning they only have a sign present as a marking.
Approximately 60% of all railroad crossing collisions occur where there are active warning signals in place. Almost 19% of all railroad crossing accidents involve a motor vehicle that strikes a train which is already in the crossing.
What Causes Railroad Crossing Accidents?
Since a train cannot change its speed or direction quickly, it’s often the responsibility of the driver or pedestrian to avoid train crossing accidents. This doesn’t mean, however, that all railroad crossing accidents are automatically the driver or pedestrian’s fault. In California, some rural crossings will not have warning signals. There may be some cases of people using these crossings to play pranks or even take their own life.
Depending on how the accident occurred and some other circumstances, you may or may not be at fault. Some of the most frequent causes of railroad crossing accidents include:
- Defective gates or signals
- Trains failing to sound a horn when approaching a crossing
- Trains failing to use their lights when approaching a crossing
- Unprotected railroad crossings
- Excessive train speed
- Worn, broken, or missing crossbucks
- Obstructed view of crossing due to vegetation
- Operator error due to distraction, DUI, or fatigue
Injuries and Damages from a Railroad Crossing Accident
As vehicle injuries go, probably nothing comes close to the severity of a railroad crossing accident. The average passenger car weighs around 4,000 pounds. The lightest passenger train, which is empty, weighs 80,000 pounds. A diesel locomotive can weigh as much as 400,000 pounds, and these engines are often pulling freight cars loaded with materials, sometimes flammable or otherwise dangerous.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that 733 people died in train-related accidents in 2016 and 255 of those were at railroad crossings. Because of the size and impact force of these accidents, they can be deadly. Statistics show that you are 30 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in one involving another motor vehicle.
Remember, trains cannot stop on a dime. An eight-car passenger train that is traveling up to 80 mph will take 6000 feet, or 1 1/8 miles, to stop. A 150-car freight train that is traveling at 50 mph will take 8000 feet, or 1.5 miles, to stop.
Fortunately, crashes at railroad crossings are responsible for more injuries than deaths. Those injuries, however, are likely to be severe. Some common injuries resulting from these accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal injuries
- Lacerations and scarring
- Loss of limbs
- Broken and fractured bones
If you’ve been hurt in one of these tragic crashes, you know that medical treatment to care for your injuries are costly. You may also lose time from work or even be unable to return to your normal employment due to permanent impairment. The physical and emotional aftermath of the accident could leave you with lasting pain and suffering. If another party was responsible for your accident, you should not have to shoulder these financial burdens alone.
Who is to Blame for a Train Accident at a Railroad Crossing?
Whether the railroad crossing had signals in place or not, the issue of fault in an accident can still be unclear. The parties that could be liable for one of these tragic accidents include:
- The driver or pedestrian. If all signals were in place and a driver or pedestrian chose to ignore them, they would be responsible for their injuries.
- The train company. The train’s operator is responsible for the safe operation of the train and the company for the proper training of its employees.
- The train manufacturer. If the accident was caused by a mechanical error, the manufacturer could be negligent.
- The owner of the railroad track. A company that owns the track may be responsible for its maintenance, including crossings and the removal of vegetation.
- The city or county. This is possible if the city our county was responsible for maintaining the road, and their failure caused the accident.
When the courts review these cases, they consider several factors when determining fault. Among them are whether there have been similar accidents at the crossing, if there are malfunctions in a crossing or visual clutter in place, and if there are rules requiring additional warnings that were not followed.
Speak with a Qualified San Diego Railroad Crossing Accident Lawyer
Fault in a railroad crossing accident is almost never clear. These are complex cases that can involve both state and federal law, also requiring extensive investigation and expert testimony. If you or someone you love are the victim of one of these accidents, let our qualified railroad accident attorneys act as your strongest advocate.
At Garmo & Garmo, Attorneys at Law, our experienced accident attorneys represent victims of some of the most catastrophic accidents and injuries in Southern California. We will represent your interests against the world’s largest railway companies and work to hold the parties responsible for your harm accountable. Our legal team works with medical experts, crash investigators, and railroad professionals to prepare the strongest case possible so that you can receive the compensation you deserve for your losses. Contact our San Diego office now at (619) 441-2500 to schedule a free consultation.