Railroad Crossing Accidents
The majority of serious railroad accidents occur on grade crossings. The Hampton Roads area and all of Virginia has many private and public railroad crossings. Many of these crossings lack important safety features to properly warn people of an oncoming train. Railroad crossings become more dangerous when equipment malfunctions or a conductor fails to give a proper warning. In the railroad accidents that inevitably follow, people can be seriously injured or killed.
Why Are Virginia Railroad Crossings so Dangerous?
Railroad crossings in Virginia, North Carolina or elsewhere are extremely hazardous places. Many crossings in rural areas lack gates and warning lights. A driver, a pedestrian or a cyclist is forced to look out for oncoming trains.
After years of decline, the number of fatal railroad crossing accidents is rising again in the United States. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) statistics reveal crossing collisions rose 3.1 percent and crossing deaths increased 7.4 percent from 2016 to 2017.
In 2018, an Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers to a retreat in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck near Crozet in Virginia. A passenger on the garbage truck was killed and injuries were reported on the train.
A month after the Crozet crash, two occupants of a pickup truck died in a collision with a train on a crossing in Staunton, Virginia. The private road crossing had no gates or flashing lights. Police said the driver of the pickup failed to stop at a stop sign.
On occasions, crossing accidents have led to a major loss of life. In 2015, a Metro-North commuter train hit an SUV on the tracks in New York leading to a derailement that killed five train passengers and the driver of the SUV.
Railroad Crossing Negligence
Railroad companies and their contractors can be held liable for negligence in a number of circumstances. Some common examples of railroad crossing negligence include:
- Malfunctioning equipment (e.g. lights and gates)
- Poor grade crossing design that limits visibility;
- Too much foliage, blocking a proper view of oncoming trains;
- Poor track maintenance;
- The conductor’s failure to blow a horn or otherwise warn of an approaching train;
- A train exceeding the speed limit on the approach to a crossing.
If it can be proven that the railroad company did not do everything possible to avoid a railroad accident, you can seek compensation for all of the financial, physical, and emotional losses you suffered as a result of your injury. Families of those who lose their lives in a crossing accident may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can Be Held Liable for an Injury or a Death on a Railroad Crossing?
The railroad is not the only company that can potentially be sued in the wake of a crossing accident. Parties who can be sued include:
- A driver who causes a crash on a grade crossing
- A trucking company that employs at at-fault trucker
- The train operator
- The company responsible for the maintenance of the tracks;
- A contractor who has worked on the crossing;
- A local authority responsible for the design of a crossing;
- A landowner or a company when a crossing is on private land.
Experienced Virginia Railroad Crossing Accident Attorneys
Railroad companies have access to powerful attorneys and financial resources. In order to protect their interests, they will attempt to drastically reduce the amount of compensation they owe you, or else find a way to deny your claim entirely. Trucking companies also have big legal teams at their disposal.
In order to effectively fight a railroad company, you need the help of an experienced lawyer who is familiar with railroad laws and the various forms of negligence that can directly lead to accidents. Our Virginia railroad crossing accident attorneys have over 50 years of total experience in Virginia personal injury law. We know the tricks used by the big rail companies, such as hiding or changing the video and electronic data recorders that show crashes. We can help you build a strong case to hold the responsible parties accountable for your injuries.
Attorney John Cooper has represented people who were seriously injured on Virginia railroad crossings and the families of those who lost their lives in accidents involving trains. He is licensed to practice in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a railroad crossing accident, please contact Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free case evaluation.
Our lawyers have a main office in Norfolk and client meeting locations in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk, Portsmouth and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. There are numerous unmarked crossings in rural cities like Suffolk. Often these are poorly maintained and are an accident waiting to happen.
Please contact us if you or a loved one has been injured in a railroad crossing accident in Virginia or further afield at (757) 455-0077.