Pedestrian / Train Collisions
Railroads are responsible for preventing injury to pedestrians along their
lines. They are also responsible for anticipating some potential accidents
in areas frequented by the public. Although there is no protection for
unknown trespassers, once discovered the railroad must amend operations
to ensure the individual pedestrian is not hurt. That no measures have
been taken to prevent trespassing does not in and of itself make the railroad
liable, however. And suicide is almost never a railroad liability. But
if the train is traveling over a bridge, and the railroad employees know
it is sometimes used as a pedestrian foot bridge – even though illegal,
the railroad has an obligation toward safety.
A location that is frequently filled with foot traffic is an area where
the train operator would have to use excessive caution. In addition, in
an area that does have high pedestrian traffic, caution must be used in
the materials carried by the train. For example, a hazardous payload will
be considerably more hazardous in an area frequented by pedestrians than
in an unpopulated setting, it’s the railroad’s responsibility
to redirect the train to safer and less populated areas or keep potential
leakage or spillage from occurring.
But again, the railroad’s liability in respect to trespassers does
not exist until the railroad is aware of the existence of the trespasser.
An individual who trespasses on railroad property that isn’t a public
crossing is responsible for his or her actions. But if there’s known
proof of people crossing in the past and the railroad has done nothing
to prevent such crossing, the railroad may be liable. In other words,
if trespassing has occurred at a location in the past and the railroad
was aware of it, but then did not erect a fence or post a sign warning
of the danger and illegality of trespassing, then the railroad may be
liable. Railroads are expected to be vigilant for things like worn and
obvious paths through the brush and which eventually cross the track.
Should they be aware of such thoroughfares and take no action, they may
It’s important to note that trains don’t careen off track and
strike unsuspecting pedestrians. Those walking along the track and who
become victims of a speeding train have a responsibility to avoid injury
and walking on a train track is not only illegal, it’s dangerous.
Likewise, a pedestrian who climbs over or under a stopped train, proceeding
after a plethora of common sense evidence against it suggests lack of
regard for ones’ own safety. But the loophole is the time the train
is stopped and where it is stopped. If there’s evidence that the
train will be stationary and the pedestrian is at a crossing gate, then
the situation has changed dramatically.
Likewise, when the engineers or responsible crew of the railway or train
sees an individual on the track, they must do their best to warn the person
or reduce speed to avoid injury to the individual on the track. Of course,
a train doesn’t slow down very quickly, so accidents still happen.
As an aside, those interested in filing suit for a loved one who has taken
their own life by lying on the track have little recourse. Should an individual
be determined to commit suicide, there are too many ways for him or her
to do that, and any lawsuit has very little chance of being successful.
Having an attorney with a focus in railroad litigation is critical in providing
you the financial compensation you deserve. The Doan Law Firm can assist
in determining damages owed you for a railroad accident. The Doan Law
Firm is available to answer your phone call any time, day or night, at