As motorists, many of us are familiar with the flashing red lights and the checkered gates that descend at railroad crossings. Here, we may count the cars as they fly by, or simply stare out the window, enjoying the few moments of forced rest until the path is clear.
Sadly, however, although numerous warning signs exist to alert motorists and pedestrians of an oncoming train, railroad accidents are also often the site of tragic vehicle accidents that lead to catastrophic injuries and death. To be sure, information provided by Operation Lifesaver, Inc., which uses data provided by the Federal Railroad Administration, 2,025 accidents took place at highway-rail grade crossings in 2016 alone, leading to 798 injuries and 265 deaths.
Because of the sheer size of the train, coupled with the weight of the cars, railroad crossing accidents generally lead to injuries with effects that last a lifetime, as well as fatalities. And, in the aftermath, few injured victims or their survivors are interested in filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation. However, it is in this exact moment that contacting an attorney is key. Specifically, an attorney can help you determine who was at fault for the wreck, how much compensation you deserve, and what steps you need to take to move forward, as well as help ensure you file your claim in a timely manner.
Who is Responsible for a Railroad Crossing Accident?
Of course, each individual railroad crossing accident likely has a different underlying cause. That being said, a number of factors lie behind a significant amount of accidents, and many of these represent negligence on behalf of the railroad company.
To begin, it’s important to note that because the railroad company generally owns the tracks on which the trains travel, once you cross the tracks you are considered to be on private property owned by this organization. As such, the railroad company has a responsibility to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of the public and those who are legally on the tracks.
In some cases, a railroad accident may have occurred because the warning signs did not work properly, thus failing to alert motorists and others of an oncoming train. In most cases like this, the railroad company could be held liable since they are responsible for providing a functioning warning system to protect the public. Or, in other cases, a car may get stuck on the tracks and be unable to avoid a collision with an oncoming train. Here, if it could be shown that the gradient of the hill leading up to the tracks was too steep to cross safely, and perhaps not in accordance with federal law, the railroad company would again be liable for damages.
However, not everyone crossing a train track is considered a guest. Instead, those who cross outside of a designated crossing area will likely be seen as a trespasser, and will be owed a different duty of care by the railroad company.
Ultimately, because of the complexity of most railroad accidents, victims should contact a legal professional for help moving forward with a personal injury claim. Indeed, a trained lawyer can examine the specifics of the accident, and use their experience to determine who is liable and the best method to obtain due compensation.
Damages in the Aftermath of a Railroad Accident
To many, calculating damages after a railroad accident may appear simple: any costs that arose, such as medical bills, costs for ongoing prescriptions, or even funeral or burial costs. With the help of an attorney, however, you can likely pursue much more. For example, many victims find themselves unable to work for a period of time after an accident, or even partially disabled for life. In other cases, a victim may experience ongoing pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, post-traumatic stress system, or a number of other psychological issues. An attorney can work with a financial expert to factor all of these into the calculation of damages to ensure you are awarded the compensation you deserve.
In reality, there is no reason to face the legal system if you have been the victim of an accident. Our skilled attorneys at Whibbs Stone Barnett Turner, PA, P.A. have decades of experience serving clients near Pensacola, Mobile, Fort Walton Beach, Crestview, and the surrounding areas, and we are happy to help you, as well. Don’t hesitate to call us for a free consultation at 1-888-219-4561.