Mobile Railroad Crossing Accident Attorneys
Each year, dangerous and deadly accidents occur across this country’s roughly 14,000 miles of railroad track and over 250,000 railroad crossings. Any roadway accident involving a train can result in horrific outcomes, nearly always leading to catastrophic injuries if not death. The effects of these accidents can be devastating for victims and families that have lost loved ones.
At Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C., we represent railroad crossing accident victims and their families throughout Alabama to pursue full compensation for damages in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. If you believe that negligence was a factor in one of these accidents, it is vital that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
How Common Are Railroad Crossing Accidents?
The Federal Railroad Administration estimates that cars and trains collide with each other at railroad crossings more than 2,100 times per year, or between five and six times each day in the U.S. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, half of all railroad crossing accidents take place within five miles of the driver’s home and three-quarters are within 25 miles. Shockingly, a motorist is nearly 20 times more likely to lose their life in one of these tragic crashes than in a collision with another motor vehicle.
Common Causes of Accidents at Railroad Crossings
While some accidents involving trains are caused by negligent drivers that ignore safety rules and devices, this isn’t always the case. Most drivers operate their vehicles with due care and caution, and still find themselves victims of serious accidents. Some of the most common causes of collisions at railroad crossings are:
- No Warning Signals Installed. A majority of railroad crossings in the U.S. lack any warning signals such as crossing arms, flashing lights, and alarms. This is particularly the case in rural areas, where budgets are a concern. When there is no warning, motorists don’t know that a train is coming. According to the NTSB, 60% of train crossing fatalities occur at “unprotected” crossings.
- Defective Warning Signals. Even if a warning signal is installed, it is worthless if it isn’t functioning properly. Failure to repair or maintain these signals can result in serious accidents.
- Train Track Defects. The owners of the track are responsible for keeping it maintained. If it develops defects, this can lead to a derailment and other dangerous situations.
- Operator Error. The train’s operator has a duty to maintain safe operations, and some examples of operator error are speeding, operating while under the influence, or operating while distracted.
- Obstructed View of the Crossing. The track’s owners not only have to maintain the track but also ensure that there is a clear line of sight around a railroad crossing. If there are overgrown trees or other debris, motorists may not be able to see that a train is coming.
- Faulty/Defective Trains or Train Parts. If the train has any type of mechanical defect, such as faulty brakes, this could impede its ability to operate safely and avoid a serious accident.
Damages in a Railroad Crossing Accident
An empty passenger train, which is the lightest type of rail car, weighs about 80,000 pounds. Just one diesel locomotive, the engine car that pulls freight across the country, can weigh 200,000 pounds and some weight twice this much. At any speed, the sheer force of a train hitting another vehicle can result in life-altering injuries.
In short, a collision with a train is one of the most devastating types of accidents that can occur. When death doesn’t result, there are almost sure to be severe injuries requiring extensive medical care. If the accident was caused by the reckless or negligent actions of another party, you deserve compensation for your losses.
Injured parties can claim compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
- Economic lossesare those that can be quantified. These include property damages, medical expenses (current and future), and lost wages (current and future).
- Non-economic lossesare more difficult to quantify. These include emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
In some rare cases, there is also the possibility of punitive damages. These are additional damages that are meant to punish a responsible party and deter them (and others) from repeating similarly egregious actions in the future.
Who is Liable for a Railroad Crossing Accident?
Trains don’t have the ability to change their direction or speed in time to avoid an imminent collision, so it’s often the driver’s responsibility to avoid a railroad crossing accident. That doesn’t mean, however, that drivers are always at fault. Although a railroad nearly always has the right of way, there are times when a railroad crossing might be considered a hazard.
Train accident cases are complex to pursue, and there are several parties that could be held responsible if there is serious injury or death from a collision at a railroad crossing. These include:
- The Train Owner/Operator. If the train operator caused the accident, the train company could be held liable.
- The Train Track Owner. Failure to maintain a track or a crossing could be the fault of the track owner.
- The Train Designer or Manufacturer. When defective design or parts lead to an accident, these parties should be held responsible.
- A Municipality. If a city or town fails to maintain the roadway leading up to a railroad crossing, and this causes an accident, this entity could be held liable.
In deciding whether the railroad crossing involved in your accident is a safety hazard, a jury might consider several factors:
- Federal regulations that require additional warnings
- Prior accidents at the same crossing
- Other intersections near the crossing
- Visual clutter at or near the crossing
- Other sight distances or visibility reduction at the crossing
Alabama Railroad Crossing Accident Attorneys Help Build Your Case
If you or someone you care about has been injured in a railroad crossing accident, time is of the essence. This is likely a difficult time that is filled with intense physical, emotional, and financial suffering. Our job is to remove some of this burden from your shoulders so that you can focus on rebuilding your life.
The experienced train accident attorneys at Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C. understand the Federal laws that regulate railroads and have the personal experience to handle your case aggressively. To schedule a free consultation, contact our Mobile office at (800) 574-4332 or reach out to us online.