NHTSA begins railroad accident awareness campaign
The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently joined forces with the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration to bring attention to railroad accidents. The federal agencies report that there is one accident involving a train and vehicle at a railway crossing every four hours. These accidents can result in serious injuries and even death. In 2019 alone the NHTSA reports there were 136 fatalities and 635 injuries due to accidents at railway crossings.
Why are these accidents so severe?
The answer has to do with basic physics. Even a relatively small train is much larger than a typical passenger vehicle. Add this size with the speed the train is traveling and the fact that objects that are in motion tend to stay in motion and you get a massive crash. Even if the train’s engineer sees the vehicle in time to engage the braking system for the train, it is highly unlikely the train will stop in time to avoid an accident.
Are there remedies for victims of train accidents?
There can be. Three possible scenarios that can result in legal remedies include an irresponsible railroad company, an engineer that was negligent and a passenger who was in a vehicle where the driver was negligent. In the first scenario, the victims could gather evidence to show that the railroad company’s policies set unreasonable expectations or failed to properly maintain the trains and that these pressures or failures contributed to the accident.
In the second scenario, the victim would need to establish that the train driver’s negligent behavior led to the accident. One example: the use of medications that inhibited the driver’s ability to respond. In the final scenario, the passenger would need to show the driver was negligent. This could include showing that the driver circumvented the lowered gate, ignored flashing lights warning of an oncoming train or stopped on the tracks.
A claim involving a railroad accident begins by filing a complaint with the right court system. The train system and their insurance company will then respond. This response will likely include defenses that attempt to defeat the victim’s claim. This may include a request for summary judgment — a court process that results in the dismissal of the victim’s claim. If the claim moves forward, the next portion is referred to as discovery. This involves gathering evidence to support the claim.
In many cases, a claim involving a railroad accident involves negotiations that lead to a settlement. Railroad companies may try to strong arm the victim or the victim’s loved ones into accepting less than they are entitled. It is important to fight for full compensation, as these funds are likely needed to cover the expenses that result from the accident. Expenses that may include medical bills, replacement of a vehicle and lost wages.