We all learn at an early age to look both ways before crossing the street, but do you apply these same rules before entering a railroad crossing? Too many motorists assume that the coast is clear if they don’t hear a horn or see lights flashing, but this may not be the case. Many railroad crossings are unguarded, and some that do have gates could have a malfunction.
Accidents at railroad crossings can have a catastrophic effect on a motor vehicle and its passengers or a pedestrian. These crashes often lead to severe injuries and even death. The force of a 30-car freight train hitting a passenger vehicle is the equivalent of a car crushing a soda can.
Railroad Crossing Accident Statistics
Railroad crossing accidents occur frequently in the United States, as often as one every two minutes. Over the past decade alone, there were more than 21,000 of these types of accidents in this country, resulting in over 9,100 injuries and more than 2,500 deaths. In 2017, California had the highest number of railroad accident deaths in the nation, with 166 collisions and 38 deaths.
What Safety Features are Required at Railroad Crossings?
Railroad crossings are inherently dangerous by their nature. When the possibility of a 4,000-pound motor vehicle colliding with a freight train weighing up to one hundred times its weight is present, the highest degree of caution should exist. Therefore, there are many rules surrounding these intersections, and there are many requirements in place for designated railroad crossings. Some of those rules include:
- A lack of visual impairments. Motorists should always be able to see approaching trains. This means that there should never be another train parked in the area that could obscure visibility or overgrown vegetation that will block a car’s view.
- Adequate warning systems. Trains and some railroad crossings are required to have adequate warnings systems to let drivers know that a train is in the area. An active crossing will have lights, bells, and a crossing bar that lowers when a train is approaching. Trains are also supposed to sound their horns and have a headlight that lets motors know of their presence.
- Consistent gradient. A railroad crossing is supposed to be as consistent as possible with the surrounding roadway. Its gradient refers to the steepness of the road that leads to the train tracks, which should allow drivers to cross in a smooth fashion.
Who is Responsible for Your Damages in a Railroad Accident?
Railroad crossing accidents can change your life in the blink of an eye. The injuries resulting from these crashes can be so severe that accident victims require extensive medical care, experience lost wages, and may have other losses such as permanent impairment and pain and suffering. Sadly, a railroad company, the owner of the rail line, or a municipality may not always be diligent in the duties that they owe the public. When they fail in these duties, and this is the cause of an accident at a railroad crossing, you have the right to sue for damages.
Unfortunately, there is often an assumption by insurance companies that motorists and pedestrians injured at railroad crossings were somehow at fault for their own injuries. While this does happen on occasion, there are far more instances of train operators failing to give proper signals and crossings not operating as they should. If you or someone you love has been the victim of one of these accidents, you should speak with an experienced accident attorney as soon as possible.
Our San Diego Railroad Accident Attorneys are Here to Help
When dealing with a train accident that occurs at a railroad crossing, you must be aware of all the liability issues that can arise in your case. It not only matters who owns the property but also who owns the train and the tracks. In all fairness, these parties may not be liable in all train accident cases, but if they are responsible for causing an accident, either directly or indirectly, they should be held accountable.
When you or a loved one has suffered serious harm from a railroad crossing accident, you should speak with experienced legal counsel about your situation. The laws surrounding these cases can be complex, and the parties potentially responsible for your damages aren’t likely to admit their wrongdoing. The skilled railroad accident attorneys at Garmo & Garmo, Attorneys at Law, will thoroughly investigate your case, hire experts when needed, and protect your legal right to recover full damages.
Contact our San Diego office now to schedule a free consultation by calling (619) 441-2500 or reaching out online.