Fatal Amtrak Crash Reveals Dangers Posed by Absence of Railroad Crossing Warnings & Barriers
When a collision occurs between an Amtrak train, freight train or commuter train and a car, truck or SUV, the carnage often is horrific while the injuries suffered by those in the passenger vehicle are usually life-altering or fatal. A tragic train crossing collision in Toccoa this weekend, which is about a hundred miles from Atlanta, provides a grim reminder. The deadly Amtrak crash occurred when the train T-boned the 2008 Mazda car occupied by three people from Austell, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC).
The devastation that is common when trains collide with passenger cars was apparent in this collision. The Stephens County Sheriff informed the AJC that the accident involved a 'violent crash.' According to the media report, the train was traveling at approximately 60 mph when it slammed into the Mazda and pushed the car the length of a football field. Because locomotives pull trains that weigh hundreds of tons and move at high rates of speed, decimated vehicles resulting in permanent debilitating injuries and wrongful death are the rule rather than the exception.
This fatal train crash, like many such crashes, occurred at an unprotected railroad crossing that had only a stop sign in place. The train crossing lacked flashing warning lights, crossing guardrails or other forms of warning signals to alert drivers that there was a train approaching the crossing, according to the AJC. Although the cause of this train crash is still under investigation, Amtrak and other railroad companies may be held liable when they fail to take reasonable care to provide sufficient warnings and barriers at rail crossings or fail to maintain safety equipment in proper operating condition.
When railroad crossing safety equipment is present, malfunctions generally are not the consequence of mechanical failure but the result of a series of actions or inactions that might have prevented the collision. This sequence of mistakes or omissions may contain multiple forms of conduct that amount to inadequately managed systems or human error. While many people presume these types of dangerous railroad collisions are extremely rare, thousands of people die in collisions between trains and motor vehicles each year. The lion's share of these fatal train crashes occur at railroad crossings.
Although there may be factors involved in some train accidents beyond the control of the railroad company, Amtrak and other rail operators may be held financially responsible for failing to take reasonable care to protect those who must cross railroad tracks. The process of proving negligence in personal injury or wrongful death train accident lawsuit is complex because a train may take a third of a mile to come to a stop after the braking process is initiated.
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