The rate at which train crossing collisions occur is alarming. Grade crossing collisions are catastrophic, usually causing horrific injuries or death. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), once every two hours a train strikes a motor vehicle or pedestrian at a railroad crossing somewhere in the United States.
Common causes of railroad crossing accidents and grade crossing collisions involve negligent train operations and maintenance issues, including:
- improper use of the train horn or train whistle;
- failure to decelerate or brake the train to avoid a collision;
- careless lookout for cars and motorists near the tracks;
- sight-obstructive vegetation around the crossing;
- poor design of the crossing;
- inadequate warning devices;
- deteriorating crossing surface; and
- malfunctions of the lights or gates.
Regardless, the railroad companies, especially the Class I railroads, have a history of vigorously defending claims that they did anything wrong. They are notorious for improperly removing crossing cases to federal court and making blanket assertions of federal preemption and evidentiary privilege to frustrate discovery and stall the litigation process. Every set of discovery responses from the railroad, for example, is likely answered with form objections based on 23 U.S.C. 409 and discussions of Norfolk Southern Ry. Co. v. Shanklin, 529 U.S. 344 (2000). Litigation against the railroads is always difficult and expensive, requiring extensive motion practice, dozens of depositions and experts in railroading, human factors, audiology and traffic and safety engineering.
Our attorneys are nationally recognized for their success in railroad crossing litigation. We possess a unique knowledge of the complicated aspects of state and federal law surrounding railroad litigation. We are trained in evaluating and using evidence particular to railroad litigation such as the locomotive data event recorder or black box and the Railview, LocoCam or Track Image Recorder (“TIR”) locomotive videocameras. We also have close relationships with the best experts in the field. If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a railroad crossing accident, contact us.