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Can Steep Railroad Crossings Cause Wrecks?

Steep-Grade and Unlevel Railroad Crossings Can Cause Train Accidents

There's a variety of reasons why passenger cars occasionally collide with trains. One of those reasons could be caused by unlevel or steep roads at railroad crossings. If you've lost a loved one or suffered injuries from a train accident, you may be able to pursue compensation with a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit against the party or parties who caused the accident.

In the event you are involved in a train accident, you will need to prove how the accident occurred and why the party, from whom you're seeking compensation, is to blame. An experienced train accident attorney will be able to help you through the process of proving the train company was liable for the accident. In the article, we will examine how grade hazards may contribute to train accidents that occur at railroad crossings.

Questions answered on this page:

  • What is a grade hazard?
  • Who is responsible for maintaining railroad crossings?
  • How can a lawyer help me if I was involved in a train accident?

What is a Grade Hazard?

When a road intersects a railroad at the same level, this is known as a grade crossing (or level crossing). Prior to reforms that were passed during the 1990s to make grade crossings safer, most railroad accidents occurred at grade crossings, as cars attempted to drive over the tracks only to collide with a train that the driver did not see. Today, more injuries and fatalities occur from trespassers trying to cross railroad tracks where there is no crossing, but grade crossing accidents still remain a significant danger, particularly when the grade crossing is not as level with the road as it's supposed to be.

In order for the driver of an oncoming car to be able to see a train that is either already in the crossing or is quickly approaching, the crossing must in fact be level with the road or at the same grade - hence the name grade crossing. When the road rises sharply to meet the train tracks, the driver's line of site can be pointed skyward, preventing him or her from seeing the locomotive. In rural areas where there are no stop bar preventing cars from crossing the tracks, on private rail lines where there are no warning signs or lights, or if the hazard lights and gates aren't functioning, such a danger can easily lead to a collision between a car and a train. The danger is even greater on a road that runs parallel to the tracks but then suddenly turns left or right to intersect the tracks, for in this instance, the driver doesn't have the opportunity to see the train until the last minute. If the road leading up to the grade crossing is too steep, then the driver won't see the train at all.

On the other hand, if the grade crossing runs downhill onto the tracks, then a car could skid onto the tracks, or a driver operating a car with a manual transmission could accidentally roll into the train while idling in neutral. Furthermore, as the grade crossing wears down through time, it can be ragged and uneven, making it possible for a car that is cautiously inching over the tracks to become stuck, leading to an unfortunate scene straight out of an old serialized cliffhanger.

Who is Responsible for Maintaining Grade Crossings?

Railroads are responsible for the upkeep of grade crossings because both the federal and state governments say they are. The federal Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 says, "railroads are responsible for public, private, and pedestrian crossings." Whereas, Texas Revised Civil Statute Annotated. Article 6327 states, "every railroad company must place and keep that portion of its roadbed and right-of-way over or across any public county road in proper condition for the use of the traveling public." In other words, a grade crossing that is so steep that the driver can't see the oncoming train has not been kept in "proper condition for the use of the traveling public." Railroads are responsible for regularly inspecting their crossings, so "we don't know" isn't a acceptable excuse.

Thus, if you have been injured or someone in your family has been killed in a railroad collision at a crossing that wasn't actually at grade, you may be able to seek compensation from the railroad company that did not adequately maintain it. However, proving such a claim will be challenging, and you won't likely be able to succeed without the help of an experienced attorney.

How Grossman Law Offices Can Help

Our attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have litigated many railroad accident cases in the 25 years we've been practicing personal injury and wrongful death law in Texas. Through the course of time, we've developed partnerships with several different railroad engineering and operations experts. When you're dealing with a subjective issue like whether or not a grade crossing was so steep as to present a danger to stopping cars, you need the testimony of an expert who has spent many years working in the industry and can explain to a jury just why the poorly-maintained crossing caused the wreck.

If you have questions about whether or not the grade of a railroad crossing could have come into play in the locomotive collision that's harmed you or your family, then call our train accident attorneys now for a free consultation at 1-855-326-0000. We're happy to ease your concerns and explain how we can help.

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