As a general rule, when cars or pedestrians cross a railroad track, they are crossing as the railroad company’s guest. As with property liability claims, the railroad company owes you a duty of care to ensure the crossing area is safe – in the same way businesses need to make sure their property doesn’t have dangerous conditions where people could fall or injure themselves.
Unlike most retail stores and office settings, however, railroad track crossings are inherently dangerous. The occupants of a car or small truck that is struck by a speeding train are likely to be killed or to suffer catastrophic injuries. Railroad companies must understand this danger and take safety precautions to protect cars and pedestrians from the clear life-threating danger trains impose.
Generally, anyone who crosses a railroad at a point other than the crossing is considered a trespasser and will not have the right to hold the railroad company responsible.
According to Operation Lifesaver, there were 2,217 railway reported railway accidents (as compiled by the Federal Railroad Administration) in 2018. Two hundred and sixty-two people died and 840 were injured. “Current Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) data shows that highway-rail grade crossing collisions and pedestrian trespass on tracks together account for over 95% of all railroad fatalities,” they reported.
Common safety precautions
Railroad companies and any companies responsible for the maintenance and repair of railway crossing sites should:
- Make sure there are audible warnings to alert cars and pedestrians of oncoming trains.
- Ensure that that there are crossing arms, that the crossing arms work when trains are coming or leaving, and the crossing arms are properly designed to stop traffic.
- Make sure there are signs that indicate the dangers of crossing the railroad tracks when trains are nearby.
- Install flashing lights to indicate that trains are coming.
- Ensure the crossing area is as level and smooth as possible as the surrounding roadways. If the gradient is too different, cars can get into accidents with other cars or just single-car accidents.
Railroad crossings should also allow the driver to see. Any trees, bushes, or objects that cause a visual impairment are a danger.
If a loved one was killed at a railroad crossing, the trial lawyers at Plattner Verderame P.C., file wrongful death claims on behalf of family members. Our Phoenix railroad crossing lawyers also file personal injury claims against the responsible railroad companies and others for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, your lost wages, and the damage to your vehicle.
We guide families and victims through each phase of the investigation, negotiation, and trial process. To speak with a strong advocate, call us at 602.783.8793 or fill out our contact form to make an appointment.