Some types of auto accidents are pretty minor, like backing into a tree or a fender bender in a parking lot. Others are more severe, like high-speed T-bone crashes when one vehicle runs a red light, head-on collisions when a pickup truck crosses over and hits a sedan, or rear-end accidents where a speeding 18-wheeler slams into a compact car that’s stopped in traffic.
But some of the most horrific and carnage-laden accidents occur when a train strikes a car. Not surprisingly, fatalities tend to be rule rather than the exception in auto-train accidents.
This begs the question: Since the train is traveling on tracks in a single direction and is large enough to be seen, aren’t all auto-train accidents the responsibility of the vehicle driver?
Not necessarily. While it’s true that the driver usually bears part of the liability for his or her involvement in these kinds of collisions, it’s often the case the train companies or municipalities carry some blame as well. And in these instances, a judge or jury may choose to award monetary damages to the victim (or his or her surviving family members).
It’s self-evident that trains cannot swerve to avoid vehicles that are on the tracks ahead of them. However, train operators and municipalities are both responsible for doing what they can to avoid auto-train collisions. Examples include:
- a train operator or conductor sounding the train’s horn to warn the driver of a vehicle of imminent danger
- a train operator or conductor getting distracted and not attempting to slow or stop for the vehicle
- a train that was moving at a speed higher than permitted in a designated area where the collision took place
- a municipality that fails to identify or maintain a railroad crossing
- a municipality that fails to position proper warning signals or signs that alert motorists that the intersection of tracks and roadway was unsafe
Even though a train-auto accident may claim the lives of the motorists involved, both municipalities and train companies will vigorously defend themselves against any wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family members of the victims. They’ll spare no expense in their attempts to demonstrate that the victim was 100% at fault. That way, they won’t pay monetary damages or establish a precedent for similar lawsuits in the future. Therefore, if you plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit in connection with an auto-train accident, it is imperative that you engage the services of a qualified auto accident attorney.
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