Articles Posted in Train Accident

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every three hours, a person or vehicle crashes with a train in the United States. It is important to have protocols and measures in place for train crossings to help keep everyone safe. Some causes of train accidents include mechanical or electrical failures, communication failures, human error, and driver fatigue or inexperience. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), over 2,000 train-vehicle collisions have occurred at railroad tracks every year since 2013. With these statistics in mind, it is important for drivers of vehicles, pedestrians, and for train operators to practice extreme care and caution.

A recent news report revealed the devasting details of a train crash in Linthicum, Maryland that resulted in the death of a high school football star. A light rail operator was charged with negligent manslaughter, criminal negligence, and reckless endangerment in the death of the teen. The teen was driving a car along Maple road when the train began to approach, blew its horn before approaching, and the gates’ red lights began flashing. At first, authorities believed the driver failed to obey traffic control devices which resulted in the collision. However, authorities reviewed a video of the accident, which revealed that the train entered the intersection while the gates were still lowering, meaning that the roadway was not completely blocked when the crash happened. The teen driver was pronounced dead on the scene.

How Can Drivers Safely Navigate Train Crossings?

For drivers, it is important to be alert at train crossings. This means paying attention to signage, never driving around lowered gates, and recognizing that trains cannot stop quickly. Furthermore, determining who is liable when a car and train collide can be tricky. It can be hard to determine who is at fault, and in some instances, both the train operator and the vehicle driver may share some of the faults. In addition, when thinking about possible personal injury lawsuits, you may also want to consider who to sue. This may include, but not always, the train operator or engineer, the train company, the manufacturer of the train, and even the local government. Because these accidents are not easy to navigate, connecting with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you navigate your case may be essential.

In today’s society, our busy roads are shared with a wide range of vehicles, in addition to pedestrians. It’s important for every road user to be mindful of others who we share the road with. This includes large semi-trucks sharing the road with bicyclists, which can be dangerous considering the big gap in size between the two vehicles. Truck drivers may have a harder time seeing smaller vehicles like bicycles, and should take great precaution to ensure that their line of vision is clear before proceeding. Bicyclists must ensure that they are also very diligent and aware of their surroundings. Accidents happen everyday, so it’s important that we are all actively paying attention to those around us who we share the road with.

In a recent news report from a Brooklyn accident, a 44-year-old bicyclist was tragically killed in a collision with a tractor-trailer. According to the article, the driver of the tractor-trailer was turning when the bicyclist, who was in a crosswalk, was struck by the tractor-trailer, and dragged under the truck. The bicyclist suffered severe head trauma and later died at a local hospital. The tractor-trailer driver did not immediately face charges.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IHS), the most serious injuries involving Bicyclists are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing properly fitted helmets. IHS reported that a total of 932 bicyclists were killed in crashes involving motor vehicles in 2020. Further, IHS reported that 57 percent of bicyclists killed in 2020 were not wearing helmets, and that 79 percent of bicyclists were killed in urban areas.

Many people in Maryland and the surrounding area use public transit for daily commuting and occasional travel. While transit may appear to be a safe form of transportation, accidents involving Maryland trains or tracks can result in disastrous consequences. A Washington Post poll indicated that nearly 20% of Maryland area residents use transit to get to work, and almost 90% use Metrorail occasionally. As the country continues to see improvements in overall health and safety, there will likely be an increase in public transit. While some legislators are concerned with improving roads, it is equally essential to consider transit.

What Are the Leading Causes of Train Accidents?

Although train accidents are not common, they tend to result in severe injuries and property damage when they do occur. A significant number of train accidents happen because of:

  • Unmarked railroad crossings

As we often detail on this blog, Maryland truck and bus accidents can have disastrous impacts, resulting in serious bodily injuries or even death. There is no shortage of examples of this, but take a recent crash, occurring one Monday morning when a bus preparing to let passengers get off was hit by a utility truck. The utility truck burst into flames, and the driver was killed. Additionally, 14 of the 15 passengers on the bus were taken to area hospitals with injuries. This accident is just one of the many truck and bus accidents that occur every day.

Because these accidents can be so serious, they are often followed by Maryland personal injury lawsuits—lawsuits seeking to recover financially from the party who caused the accident, to cover medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. But what happens when the driver who caused the accident cannot cover the full amount owed to plaintiffs, due to lack of finances? Well, for some plaintiffs, they may be able to also sue the negligent driver’s employer, especially since trucks and buses are often driven by drivers in the scope of their employment for someone else, such as a food company or tourism business. The employers may be liable for the damage caused through a doctrine called vicarious liability.

When Does the Doctrine of Vicarious Liability Apply?

For the doctrine of vicarious liability to apply, the plaintiff must prove all the typical elements of a tort with respect to the driver’s conduct—duty, breach, causation, and harm—and then also prove that the driver was acting in the scope of their employment. A driver who is driving for work is driving within the scope of their employment unless they were engaged in some major detour. For example, if a pizza delivery driver is on their way to deliver a pizza when they get into an accident, then there is likely vicarious liability and the pizza restaurant may be liable. But if the delivery driver delivers the pizza and then decides to not return to work but instead drives their girlfriend around town, then an accident occurring during this detour may not give rise to vicarious liability.

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) prioritizes keeping Maryland roadways open and safe. However, despite MDOT SHA’s best efforts to maintain the roadways, any infrastructure damage can result in a serious Maryland accident. These accidents tend to become more common and disastrous when the accident involves bad weather and large trucks.

Trucks are inherently dangerous because of the sheer size and speed at which they travel on highways. Inclement weather, including snow, ice, sleet, rain, and fog, can amplify the likelihood of an accident. Although many truck drivers and trucking companies will blame Mother Nature for the accident, almost every accident involves some form of human error. Unlike many other motorists, truck drivers do not always have the option of remaining off the road during severe weather episodes. As such, those on the road during a severe weather event are more likely to encounter a truck.

Federal regulations require that truck drivers modify their driving habits and exercise caution when operating their large vehicles during inclement weather. While these rules are designed to protect both the driver and others, truck drivers often overestimate the level of control they have over their vehicles. Moreover, these drivers tend to have strict delivery deadlines, only furthering the likelihood of a serious and deadly accident.

In a recent opinion, a state appellate court considered a wrongful death claim arising out of a train accident, ultimately concluding that the plaintiff was not entitled to relief. The tragic facts of the case and the plaintiff’s loss in court highlights something Maryland train accident victims know all too well: the difficulty in recovering against railroad companies when accidents occur.

According to the court’s written opinion, the tragic accident happened one morning when the victim, a 16-year-old girl, was walking to her school bus stop, a route which required her to walk through a railroad crossing and across railroad tracks. The railroad crossing’s warnings, including the bells, whistles, flashing lights, and automatic lever blocking cars, were all working and activated, indicating to the public that a train was approaching. The victim did not heed the warnings, and instead began to walk across the crossing. Almost immediately after she stepped onto the tracks, a freight train hit her, killing her instantly.

The victim’s mother filed a wrongful death action against the railroad company, the train conductor, and the train’s engineer, alleging two things. First, that the company failed to ensure proper safety measures, such as a pedestrian barrier, were in place at the railroad crossing to prevent children from walking onto the track. Second, the plaintiff alleged that the train conductor and engineer were negligent in operating the train, making them vicariously liable for the accident. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Subsequently, the plaintiff appealed.

The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) was passed in the early 1900s in response to the increasing number of railroad worker deaths. FELA allows for injured railroad workers who are not covered by workers’ compensation to sue their employers based on the employer’s negligence. Importantly, a FELA claim may entitle a claimant to compensation for pain and suffering, unlike a traditional Maryland personal injury lawsuit.

Unlike traditional workers’ compensation programs, FELA is not automatically applicable. In other words, an injured worker must present evidence that their employer was negligent. In addition, an employer may try to defeat a FELA claim by showing that the employee was covered under a traditional workers’ compensation plan. If an employer is successful in proving workers’ compensation coverage, that will generally be seen as the employee’s sole remedy against their employer. Thus, a common issue that arises in Maryland railroad accident cases brought under FELA is whether the injured employer is covered by a workers’ compensation program. A recent federal appellate opinion discusses a case involving such a dispute.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured while working for the defendant railway. Evidently, the plaintiff was working on a bridge when the walkway he was standing on gave way. The plaintiff was able to avoid falling into the river, but sustained serious injuries as a result. The plaintiff filed a FELA claim against his employer.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an opinion in a Virginia train accident case involving an employee who was injured while working for the defendant railroad company. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of his injuries. Ultimately, the court concluded that the jury’s verdict was supported by some evidence supporting a finding of causation, and the verdict was affirmed.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff worked as a conductor for the defendant railroad. One day, the plaintiff was asked to help make a “cut,” which is when several of the cars in a train are released and left behind. The plaintiff completed the cut without issue; however, as the plaintiff was walking back to a nearby electrical box, he lost contact with the train’s engineer.

Evidently, the train’s engineer became worried after losing contact with the plaintiff and set out to see if anything was wrong. The engineer walked around to the rear of the train, and saw the plaintiff lying at the bottom of a 36-foot embankment. There were no witnesses to the plaintiff’s fall, and the plaintiff had no memory of the accident. The walkway where the plaintiff was when he fell was about 15 inches wide, and the embankment was approximately 70 degrees.

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Maryland railroad accidents are more common than most people believe. While trains are not as ubiquitous as they once were in the United States, there is still a significant amount of cargo that is transported across the country by train. In fact, it is estimated that there are about 150,000 miles of active train tracks in the U.S. Much of this track is concentrated around the eastern seaboard, making Maryland a hub for railroad activity.

In addition to active train tracks, there are tens of thousands of miles of unused or abandoned tracks. And while most intersections between train tracks and roads are marked with signage or gates, that is not always the case. This can create confusion for a motorist who may not know if railroad tracks are active. Of course, when a motorist encounters an unfamiliar intersection with railroad tracks, it is always best for that motorist to slow down and check both ways before proceeding across the tracks.

Determining who is at fault in a Maryland train accident can be tricky, and depends heavily on the circumstances of the accident. While not all intersections with railroad tracks are required to have flashing lights or lowering arms, all intersections should be marked appropriately. If gates or lights have been installed, however, they should be adequately maintained. Additionally, the area immediately around the railroad track should be clear of foliage and debris to allow motorists to see if a train is approaching.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case upholding a jury verdict in excess of $10 million. The case illustrates one of the many situations in which the victims of a Maryland train accident may be able to obtain compensation for the injuries or losses they sustained in the accident.The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was killed in a railroad-crossing accident. Evidently, the plaintiff’s husband was driving with a friend on a country road as they approached a set of railroad tracks. The evidence presented at trial showed that there was one black-and-white “RAILROAD CROSSING” sign. However, the plaintiff’s evidence also suggested that the intersection had become overgrown with vegetation, such that it was difficult to see the sign.

As the plaintiff’s husband approached the intersection, a train approached as well. It was disputed whether the train’s horn was sounded, but the train ultimately collided with the plaintiff’s husband’s vehicle. The plaintiff’s husband was killed in the accident, and the passenger was seriously injured. The plaintiff’s husband filed this case against the railroad company. The passenger filed a personal injury lawsuit against the train’s operator as well as the plaintiff’s husband, and they settled with both parties prior to trial. Thus, the plaintiff’s case proceeded without the passenger’s case.

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