Who is Liable For a Railroad Crossing Accident?

In 2021, Virginia witnessed four private railroad crossing accidents and 14 public railroad crossing accidents, a considerable increase over the six that took place in 2020. After being injured in a train crossing accident, both passengers and non-passengers are able to file wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits. If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a train crossing accident, it is important to seek immediate legal advice to ensure your right to collect compensation from the liable track owner, motorist, or engineer is protected. The Norfolk railroad injury lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp have been achieving successful outcomes in railway injury cases since 1985. Call us today to schedule your free consultation. 

How Do Railroad Crossing Accidents Happen?

Some of the most common causes of railroad crossing accidents are:

  • Missing or malfunctioning warning signals
  • No clear line of sight for approaching vehicles
  • Failure to signal
  • Train operator error
  • Defective rails
  • Track obstructions
  • Defective train components

Any one of these situations can lead to an injury-causing or even fatal accident. 

Passive Vs. Protected Railroad Crossing

The United States is home to hundreds of thousands of train crossings, many of which inevitably bisect roadways. Unfortunately, these intersections are often the sites of serious railroad accidents, especially passive railroad crossings which do not have any gates, signals, or warning lights to help protect passing drivers. Protected railroad crossings are intersections between tracks and roadways that are clearly marked.  

Who is Liable For A Railway Crossing Accident?

Establishing liability for a train crossing accident is challenging. In many cases, multiple parties share liability for the crash, all of whom will work hard to downplay the role they played in the accident. This is one of the reasons you should speak with a qualified Norfolk railroad injury lawyer right away. 

Parties commonly liable for railroad crossing accidents include:

Engineers and Conductors

Since trains require a lot of room to come to a complete stop, the engineer or conductor must always be on the lookout for possible dangers. Inebriation and inattention both slow reaction times and put passing drivers at risk. Engineer inattention also increases the risk of a train derailing, which can cause serious injuries to passengers and non-passengers.  

The Rail Company

If an accident is caused by an engineer or other workers who were improperly trained, the rail company for whom they work could be held liable. Rail companies have a duty to appropriately train and supervise their workers to ensure that they perform their jobs properly and obey all applicable regulations, rules, and laws.

The Owner of the Track

Most rail companies run along the same sets of tracks. These tracks can be owned by a private party, a business, or another rail company. The track owner is responsible for ensuring that the track is free from obstructions and hazards and is in good working order.  

The Train Manufacturer or Designer 

If a defect in the train, such as a malfunctioning speedometer or defective brakes, is determined to be liable for the crash, the manufacturer of the train could be at fault. If the train was repaired recently and a faulty repair job caused or contributed to an accident, the repair workers could also be held responsible. 

A Local Government Agency

The decision to convert a passive crossing to a protected one often rests in the hands of the local government. If federal laws mandate further warnings at a particular crossing, the area has heavy traffic, or more than one collision has occurred at a specific crossing with no intervention from the local government, the city might be liable. 

The Company Responsible for Track Maintenance

If the owner of a track contracted out maintenance duties for a section of the track to a private business, the business could be held accountable if any factors related to track maintenance contributed to an accident.  

A Driver

In some circumstances, particularly those involving trains with faulty whistles or lights or unmarked or poorly marked crossings, there is nothing a driver could have done to avoid an accident. In many cases, however, a driver’s inattention or poor decision contributes to an accident. Drivers who try to speed across tracks to beat an oncoming train or who are unintentionally standing on tracks while waiting for the light to change could be held liable for any resulting injuries.

What Damages Are Available for A Railroad Crossing Accident?

Although every accident is different, if you were injured or lost a loved one in a railway crossing accident, you may be entitled to damages such as:

  • Current and projected medical bills
  • Ongoing care expenses, such as physical therapy  
  • Lost earnings 
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • The costs of retrofitting your vehicle or home to accommodate your injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death damages

Were You Injured in a Railroad Crossing Accident?

If you were injured in a railroad crossing accident through no fault of your own, contact the Norfolk railroad injury lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp. When you partner with us, you will work with an attorney who understands the laws that apply to your case, is able to perform a thorough investigation, gather statements, records, and other strong evidence that back your claim, and maximizes your financial compensation. By using these methods, we obtained a $133,000 settlement for a client after her two children were injured when their vehicle was struck at a train crossing. To schedule your free consultation, call (833) 997-1774 or fill out our online contact form. We have offices in Norfolk, Hampton, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach. 


Tags: , , ,