Personal injury Library

Who’s Responsible for Accidents Caused By a Car Stuck at a Crossing?

Our attorneys explain how liability in a train accident is determined.

There are thousands of videos on the internet of what happens when a car is stalled on railroad tracks. Almost 100% of the time the train doesn't have the distance required to stop in time and the results are devastating. But, not all train accidents are the driver's fault. Train engineers and the companies that employ them are capable of negligence and we've been going after them both for over 25 years.

In this article, our attorneys explain who bears liability in a train-vehicle accident at a railroad crossing.

Questions answered in this article:

  • Who do we determined who caused my accident?
  • How do wrongful death cases work?
  • Why is the train company liable for my loved one's death?
  • How do I win my train accident case?

How do we determine who caused the accident?

Naturally, this is the most important question. Answering this question conclusively will have an impact, for better or worse, on any lawsuit that emanates from this incident.

There are multiple scenarios where a car can stall on a rail crossing and the railroad company may still be liable by virtue of their obligation to make an attempt to avoid an accident. In other words, just because it's the car's fault that the car got stuck on the crossing, that does not give the train operator carte blanche to run the car down. Reasonable efforts must still be taken by the train's crew to avoid the collision. If they follow normal protocol and the collisions occurs, the accident is deemed unavoidable and the railroad company is not liable. However, when the train engineer fails to follow normal protocol and there exists the possibility that the engineer's actions were outside of the scope of reasonable or appropriate actions, then it is easy to conclude that the engineer, at a minimum, contributed to the car driver's demise, and a lawsuit is warranted.

The second common cause of cars getting stuck on tracks is that the rail crossing is itself defective. This may happen due to damage to the railroad crossing warning system, power outages, or damage that was neglected by the train company for months. Since the rail crossing is the property of the railroad, they will of course bear significant liability for causing the accident and subsequent fatality.

We use our team of industry professionals to get to the bottom of the accident. Our experts of accident reconstruction and former railroad company leaders are respected in their fields and have expert opinions that hold weight in the court room. In fact, our experts have provided testimony for us many, many times in the past and have proven that they're able to handle cross-examination with the best of them.

How do wrongful death train accident cases work in Texas?

Anytime someone dies due to the negligence (carelessness, or disregard for common-sense safety rules) of another person or business, the family or estate of the deceased victim may be compensated financially under a claim of wrongful death. In other words if someone is responsible for your loved one's passing the law empowers you to sue that party in civil court.

As it relates to train and railroad related fatalities, the railroad company can be liable for wrongful death if they acted with neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default. The tricky part in railroad cases is that the general public largely views railroads as safe and the unlikely source of a problem. The news media constantly bombards us with stories of railroad related injuries and fatalities that are not the railroad's fault. As such, juries are often conditioned to believe that accident victims in railroad injury cases likely caused their own misfortune. In order to be successful in a railroad fatality case, like the one proffered in this hypothetical scenario, this bias must be overcome.

Additionally, it's worth pointing out that the railroad company does not have to directly be involved in the incident in order to be held liable for damages. Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, a person can be held liable if someone acting as their agent, or on their behalf, was directly responsible for the accident which resulted in the victim's death. The railroad company would be responsible if anyone acting on their behalf caused the accident resulting in the victim's death.

Why is the train company liable for my loved one's death?

The railroad company will be held liable if we can prove that they are responsible for the accident due to proximate causation. Under proximate cause, the harm suffered by the victim must have been reasonably foreseeable by the defendant at the time of the defendant's negligent act and the harm would not have happened but for the actions of the defendant. Basically, this means that the railroad company must have been able to reasonably predict the possibility that this injury or accident may occur from their actions. And we must prove that the injury, and ultimate passing of your loved, one would have not occurred if the railroad company had not acted negligently, or careless.

For example, if the actual cause of the victim's death was being struck by a train, the proximate cause would be that badly poured concrete on the rail crossing caused the wheel of the passenger car to get stuck, rendering the car's owner helpless to get out of the way. Under these circumstances the railroad company could be liable if they were found to be negligent in the maintenance and repairs of the rail crossing.

What kinds of damages can I expect from my train accident case?

Under the Civil Practices and Remedies Code the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased may bring an action for damages. You can recover two types of damages for wrongful death: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages reimburse your family for all medical expenses and funeral costs that your loved one incurred due to the accident. Compensatory damages can also be awarded to the victim's family for loss of support, loss of services, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium.

These types of damages are paid to the surviving family members of the deceased victim, not to the estate of the victim. When the death is caused by the willful act or omission or gross negligence of the defendant, exemplary or punitive damages may be recovered in addition to actual damages. This is a specific type of compensation for the family intended to punish the guilty party for their intentional actions or extreme negligence or indifference to their actions. This type of penalty is intended to discourage this kind of behavior in the future and further compensate the victim's family for their loss.

To win your case, you're going to need an experienced attorney.

Wrongful death suits against railroad company are very difficult and complex. The Railroad Commission has very skillful and knowledgeable attorneys who specialize in liability defense for the railroad company. The railroad company has lots of money dedicated specifically to liability defense which makes a claim against them that much more difficult. In order to successfully recover in a suit for wrongful death against the railroad company you will need a knowledgeable attorney experienced in wrongful death suits who has a great understanding of the court system. A suit for damages against the railroad company is challenging, but it is not impossible to win with the right attorney.

If you believe that your loved one was wrongfully killed in an accident involving a train, you may be entitled to compensation. It is important that you have an attorney who understands your rights as the family of the deceased victim and can reach a favorable outcome to reimburse you for any losses that you may have suffered as a result of the railroad company's negligence. Contact Grossman Law Offices at (855)326-0000.

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