Railroad Crossing Accidents
If you have been injured at a railroad crossing, chances are you have suffered serious injuries. Railroad crossings are very dangerous and have led to many serious injuries, even deaths, in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellingham, Olympia, and across Washington State. These are difficult cases to file a lawsuit on and win, but they can be done.
If you have been injured by a train in a railroad accident, you have the right to file a claim to be compensated for the injuries and losses you have suffered because of the railroad’s negligence. Since trains always have the right of way on the roads in Washington State, there is often a challenge in proving that you, the driver, were entirely fault-free, but it can be done.Important Information Regarding Railroad Crossing Accidents
Every year in this country there are serious accidents associated with railroads. There were, by some estimates, approximately 2,000 accidents last year alone, which resulted in over 800 people being killed. In 2018, for example, there were 1,121 accidents and 12 collisions, 124 derailments. Of those, 42% were because of issues with the railroad track, 24% were because of equipment problems, and 8% were because of signal problems.
These are the most common kinds of trains on American tracks today:
- BNSF Railway
- Canadian National Railway
- Canadian Pacific Railway
- CSX Transportation
- Kansas City Southern Railway
- Norfolk Southern Railway
- Union Pacific Railroad
Most people think of Amtrak, and perhaps other train companies, as government entities,
but they are not. This is important to understand because there is an entirely different claims process for suing a government entity. Something to keep in mind is that with most railroad crossing accidents, especially if there are multiple cars or fatalities involved, the NTSB (the National Transportation Safety Board) will be involved and investigating the case in some fashion.
They will do their own investigation into the accident. However, this should not stop the attorney’s own investigation into the accident to determine how the accident occurred and the root cause of the accident. You only have three years from the date of the accident to bring a claim in court, and the NTSB can take a very long time to come back with their findings and report. Therefore, it is best to proceed with the lawsuit and not wait for the NTSB to report their findings, and if their findings are helpful to the case, then those can be incorporated into the case.How to Avoid a Railroad Crossing Accident
Avoiding railroad accidents involves mostly using a common sense approach to the railroad crossing. Never, under any circumstances, should you stop on the tracks of the train, especially if there are cars in front of or behind you, locking you in place. Always try to listen for the horn of the train as it approaches. It is also imperative to make sure you are aware when you are crossing a railroad track. While it may not seem possible, less than half of all railroad track crossings have gates or arms that lower, stopping traffic and announcing the approach of the train. It always best to travel at a slow rate of speed when approaching a railroad crossing as well. And most importantly, it is crucial to keep a clear line of sight and be able to hear over the radio or conversation for the sound of the train.Common Reasons for Railroad Accidents
Time and again we see the same reasons for why a train accident occurs in Washington State. Among them are:
- Train mechanical failures
- Trains that are not properly kept up and maintained
- No crossing gate or a gate that does not come down and up properly.
- No stop or warning sign
- Objects that get in the way of you, the driver, being able to see the oncoming train. These objects are frequently trees, plants or other kinds of objects.
- Lights that do not work right.
- Engineer error, especially not activating the train horn or lights
- An out of control train that is going too fast for conditions
- A train that derails and crashes into traffic
- A car that causes an action by crashing into another car, particularly one in front, which then causes the car to be shoved into a railroad crossing or in front of a train.
In this last example, if a car creates an accident by rear-ending another car, the momentum of which shoves the car into the tracks of an oncoming train and the train hits that car, then the owner of the car who initiated the accident should be held responsible for the accident. However, in most cases, the railroad company is often the one at fault, and while all of the above-listed reasons are common reasons for train accidents, the most common reasons for accidents are trains that are simply going too fast or tracks that do not have the proper signage or some kind of malfunction with the signage of the railroad track.
As it currently stands, there is a long that Congress passed that says if you sue Amtrak the most amount of money Amtrak has to pay out from a single accident is two hundred million dollars. That may sound like a lot of money, and it certainly is, but keep in mind that if dozens of people are killed and hundreds more injured, then that money can be exhausted quickly and people may not receive a fair share for their injuries. It should be noted that this cap of two hundred million is for all railroad companies, not just Amtrak, though lawmakers in 1997 who passed this law had Amtrak in mind when they passed this law.Common Railroad Accident Injuries
If you have been injured at a railroad, chances are you have significant injuries. The most common injuries are:
- Fractures and broken bones
- Brain injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Wrongful death
These injuries will not just resolve themselves on their own. Rather, you need to seek
immediate medical care from a qualified professional, such as a medical doctor, osteopath, physiatrist, or even a chiropractor, who can address these injuries.How The Jackman Law Firm can Help After a Railroad Crossing Accident
After a railroad crossing accident, you may wonder what you should do or where you should turn for your case. You might be wondering if suing the railroad company is the same as suing a government entity, and there is a common misconception that you cannot sue the government. If these questions are going through your mind, you need an experienced attorney who can help you during this difficult time.
First and foremost, we can negotiate with the insurance company for the railroad to determine whether it is even possible to achieve an out of court settlement. Sometimes the insurance company will be willing to settle and other times they are not willing to do so. If we cannot come to an agreement out of court, then we will file your case in the appropriate court, which may be either state or federal court, and we will do everything possible to achieve a verdict for you from a jury that is an amount of money that is fair given your injuries.
Under Washington State law, you are allowed to receive money for the following categories:
- Money for medical bills, past and future
- Money for lost wages and future wages
- Money for pain and suffering
- Money for out of pocket expenses, such as a brace or wheelchair
Obtaining these damages will not be easy and the insurance company will likely try to
argue and claim that they are not responsible for your injuries. You need a dedicated attorney who has the skill and experience to successfully obtain a settlement for your case that you deserve.
Feel free to call us for a free consultation.