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Can I Sue for a Railroad Crossing Accident?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

Yes, you can sue for injury stemming from an accident at a railroad crossing. However, your lawsuit will only be successful if someone was negligent. Railroad crossings are generally hazardous and sometimes accidents just happen. Railroads are only liable for incidents that stem from their negligence.

So, if you do what some commuters in California have done recently and abandoned your car on the tracks, do not expect to successfully sue for damages. If, however, you have all the elements of a negligence claim, your suit may succeed.

Let's see what you need to do to prove negligence if you are injured at a railroad crossing.

Proving the Elements of Negligence

All negligence cases have four elements: duty, breach, causation, and harm (also known as damages). Plaintiffs must show that a defendant owed them a duty of care, which was breached, and that this breach caused the plaintiff's injury, resulting in a compensable harm (or, a harm that can be relieved with monetary or other damages).

What precisely you would have to show to prove that negligence occurred at a train crossing depends on the details of the incident and who you are suing. You may be able to blame multiple defendants if, say, you are hit by a train at a crossing and the company that owns the tracks is not the same as the one that owns the train.

Naming Multiple Defendants

A railroad crossing accident may involve many parties. Apart from the owners of the train and tracks involved, your lawyer may consider suing the train manufacturer or the company that put the traffic light at the crossing, or its manufacturer.

Similarly, your lawyer will look for more than one way to show the defendants were negligent. Arguments can be made that worker training fell below standards, that equipment was poorly maintained, or that communications systems failed.

Again, everything will depend on the details of your case -- different rules apply to passengers in the train than to a car at a railroad crossing. And even after you tell your lawyer the story, it may take some time to decide who to name as defendants in the suit and what to argue.

A Train Wreck of a Claim

Given the general complexity of any negligence case and the statutes of limitation that apply, it is critical that you act fast. States all have different time limits that dictate the deadline for filing certain lawsuits, so it is important to talk to a lawyer promptly.

If you were injured in an accident at a railroad crossing, consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Counsel will help you to understand the issues at play and get a sense of whether you have a serious claim or if your case is a train wreck.

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