Railroad Crossing Accident Lawyer KY
If you or a family member are struck by a freight train, severe, if not fatal, injuries will likely result. These trains could be more than a mile long, weigh 18,000 tons, and travel up to 49 miles per hour. If a railroad acted negligently and caused injuries or deaths, it can be held liable in court.
The Federal Railroad Administration states that 2,145 highway-rail grade crossing accidents happened in 2021, causing 234 deaths and 669 injuries. Kentucky ranks as the 19th state for collisions that year, at 57, with two deaths and seven injuries.
Railroads Must Use Reasonable Care to Prevent Accidents
A train has the right of way at railroad crossings, but that doesn’t mean a railroad is never at fault when a train strikes a vehicle at a crossing. Both a motorist and the railroad must use reasonable care at crossings.
Under federal law, the railroad owning the tracks must provide safe crossings for the public. Trains are obligated to:
- Give reasonable and timely warning that a train is approaching
- Brake to avoid an accident
- Slow for specific local hazards
There are many ways safer crossings can be accomplished, including:
- Ensuring there are audible warnings to alert cars and pedestrians of oncoming trains
- Ensuring there are crossing arms, that they work when trains approach or leave the area, and they’re correctly designed to stop traffic
- Installing signs showing the dangers of crossing the railroad tracks when trains approach
- Installing flashing lights to warn motorists and pedestrians
- Ensuring the crossing area is as level and smooth as possible as the surrounding roadways
- Removing vegetation, trees, or objects that can obscure a person’s view of an oncoming train
What the railroad is legally obligated to do and how its failure led to an accident depends on individual circumstances.
Railroads Could Make Crossings Safer, Faster, But They Don’t Want To
The railroad industry likes to portray itself as an innocent bystander when motorists and pedestrians get in the way of their trains. An investigation by the Kansas City Star of accidents in 12 states found that wasn’t the case.
States and railroads are supposed to work together to determine which crossings are the most dangerous, so sufficient protections can be installed. It could be weeks or months after an agreement is made before anything is done, leaving time for more carnage on the tracks.
The railroads can’t blame a lack of resources. Union Pacific earned $1.11 billion in profits in the last three months of 2022. Burlington Northern Sante Fe earned $2.1 billion in profits in the third quarter of last year. No matter their profit margin, their costs for making crossings safer are reimbursed by the federal government.
The long, winding path to get (crossing safety) projects…often becomes mired in bureaucracy, leaving thousands of crossings nationwide unprotected and potentially dangerous for years, a Kansas City Star investigation found. Despite the ability of the cash-rich railroads to pay for the improvements outright, they don’t start the project until there’s a full agreement with the government, which pays for most or all of the work. As a result…people across the country are dying at crossings that have been tagged for safety upgrades, the investigation showed. Had those fixes been made, and active warning devices installed, many of those deaths likely could have been prevented.
The newspaper also found:
- Residents of rural communities or small towns are disproportionately affected by unsafe crossings
- Despite studies that show lights and gates at crossing could prevent up to 90% of collisions, about half of the country’s crossings don’t have them
- The National Transportation Safety Board investigates a tiny number of railroad accidents (14 of the 1,887 it could have done in 2021). Even if it investigated them all, the group has no enforcement authority, and railroads can ignore their safety recommendations
The newspaper found that since the railroad industry is wealthy, politically connected, and aggressively fights lawsuits, there’s no urgency to make crossings safer.
How Railroads Can Be Found Liable in a Crossing Accident
If you’re involved in an accident at a railroad crossing, depending on the facts, you may have a successful claim for compensation for your injuries. You need to prove the railroad was negligent and that their acts, or failures to act, were at least partial causes for the accident and your injuries.
Negligence is a legal framework to decide if a party’s mistakes are so significant that they’re legally responsible for an accident. You (the plaintiff) must show it’s more likely than not that the railroad (the defendant) acted negligently, was responsible for the accident, and they must compensate you for the harm you suffered.
You must establish all these elements to be successful:
- The defendant had an obligation or duty to do or not do something under the circumstances because of the relationship between the two of you. Because the tracks cut through your community and its roads, the railroad’s obligated to remove vegetation obstructing drivers’ views to see if a train is coming
- The defendant failed to live up to their obligation or breached this duty. It ignored the problem and didn’t control the plants growing next to the tracks
- The defendant’s actions, or failures to act, are the factual and proximate (or legal) cause of your accident and injuries. You couldn’t see an oncoming train, you drove forward, were struck by a train, and injured
- You suffered damages (harm measured in dollars) due to your injuries. They cause you physical pain, anxiety, depression, medical bills, lost income, and they affect your relationships
- Under Kentucky law, the railroad’s legally obligated to compensate you for your damages
Kentucky is known as a pure comparative negligence state. Our laws allow you to recover compensation for the share of your damages caused by the other party.
If we look at what caused your accident, and you’re a third responsible, you could obtain from the railroad two-thirds of the compensation you would’ve gotten had you made no errors. Even if the railroad shows you’re partly to blame for your injuries, you still could have a successful case.
Speak To a Railroad Crossing Accident Lawyer Today
Are you or a loved one injured because of a railroad crossing accident in Kentucky? If so, our law firm can and will help you receive fair compensation for your injuries. Put boots on the ground with help from Satterley & Kelley PLLC.
To schedule a free initial consultation at our office in Louisville, call 502-589-5600 (toll-free at 855-385-9532) or complete our contact form today.