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 be liable.
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 (800) 349-0000.
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