Trains can weigh anywhere between 4,000 to 20,000 tons, and, depending on class, routinely travel at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. Given their massive size and weight, a train traveling around 55 mph can take over one mile to come to a stop, even when the conductor uses the emergency brake. This can lead to accidents at railroad crossings that can have disastrous outcomes for motorists.
The National Safety Council (NSC) has recently reported that railroad crossing fatalities have reached their highest recorded levels in 13 years. Train related accidents involve complex issues of federal preemption, tort law, and medical damages, so if you or your family members were injured in a crossing accident, you should reach out to an experienced attorney to help you prepare your case. The train crossing accident lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt are uniquely suited to guide victim’s lawsuits, and have over 30 years of experience in railroad injury representation.
High speeds make trains particularly dangerous
An Alarming Increase in Train Crossing Accidents
In the United states, over 900 people were killed in train crossing accidents in 2019, an 11% increase from the previous year. In Pennsylvania, there were over 30 fatalities and nearly 700 incidents involving trains in that same year. In fact, the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that a motorist is now almost 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than in an accident with another vehicle.
While many of these accidents are the fault of a driver attempting to swerve around the crossing guard or cut in front of the train, not every crossing accident is the fault of the driver. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) worked with congress to mandate that Positive Train Control (PTC) be installed and operating by the beginning of 2019, primarily to target the intersections of railroads and highways. Yet to date, only 25 percent of passenger miles, and only 60 percent of locomotives have PTC installed, an action the NTSB has deemed “unacceptable”.
The damage caused to a car that was struck by a train at a crossing in Long Island NY
Determining Fault in a Railroad Crossing Accident
There are many factors to consider when determining fault for a railroad crossing accident. While the driver may sometimes be to blame, other factors to consider are:
- The design of the crossing: Since trains can take over one mile to brake, visibility, sight distances, or visual clutter, can all play a part in how dangerous a crossing is to the driver.
- Passive vs protected crossings: There are over 250,000 railroad crossings in the United States, and over 62,000 of them are passive crossings, meaning they have no lights or gates to protect motorists. The NTSB estimates that 60% of crossing related fatalities occur at these passive crossings.
- Conductor error: When conductors are responsible for slowing a train or signaling its approach, it is possible for them to make an error due to any number of factors. Positive Train Control was created to help mitigate conductor error and stop trains before a crash happens and has yet to be fully implemented by the railroad industry despite orders to do so.
When to Speak to an Experienced Train Crossing Accident Attorney
Lead partner Jim McEdlrew is the past president of the Rail Labor Attorneys, and has helped hundreds of families seek compensation for injuries involving Amtrak, SEPTA, and other railroads across the United States. After the 2015 Amtrak Northeast Regional derailment, Jim McEldrew fought for train safety reform and pushed for the adoption of Positive Train Control nationwide.
If you or a family member have been involved in a railroad crossing accident, you will want to work with a team that will fight to hold large agencies accountable. Jim McEldrew has personally fought to have state agencies assume responsibility for their role in train accidents, despite their current protections, and the team at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt are prepared to work hard to protect your rights. Contact us today by calling 1-866-869-5318 or by filling out our form.