Frequently Asked Questions
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Train Accidents

  1. If I am a pedestrian hit by a train or light rail transit vehicle or the survivor of a pedestrian killed by a train or light rail transit vehicle; can a lawsuit be brought even if the accident did not occur at a designated railroad crossing?
  2. If I am injured in a train collision, to whom can I make a claim?
  3. I heard that even if I work for the railroad, I can sue my own company. Is this true?
  4. If I Am Injured While A Passenger On A Train or Light Rail Transit Vehicle and I am injured or my loved ones are killed, Is The Railroad Company and/or Light Rail Transit Company Liable?
  5. What Are The Duties And Responsibilities Of A Train Crew As They Approach A Public Grade Crossing?
  6. What Are The Railroad's Responsibilities In The Area Of Providing Grade Crossing Protection?
  7. Why Are So Few Grade Crossings Protected By Flashers And/Or Gates?
  8. What if I am in a motor vehicle that is hit by a train or light rail transit vehicle at a railroad crossing or I am a pedestrian who was hit by a train or light rail transit vehicle at a crossing? What are my rights?
  9. Is it important to retain a lawyer who is willing to perform a thorough investigation and hire experts in railroad collision and/or light rail transit collision cases?
  10. What damages are recoverable in train collisions or light rail transit vehicle collision cases?
  11. Do I need to retain an attorney?

Questions & Answers

If I am a pedestrian hit by a train or light rail transit vehicle or the survivor of a pedestrian killed by a train or light rail transit vehicle; can a lawsuit be brought even if the accident did not occur at a designated railroad crossing?
Answer:
Yes. In the event of light rail transit and passenger trains, there is an obligation on the part of the railroad and light rail transit company to provide protection for the public at or near crossings and drop-off and pickup sites. This includes pedestrians approaching and departing a train.  In the instance of freight trains, if you can demonstrate that the railroad company was aware that people frequently cross at a particular location (such as children crossing the track from homes to go to a grocery store or playground), or there is a common path used to cross where there otherwise is no sidewalk and the train company had notice of this, then there may be a claim made against the railroad.  Also, if the train was operated negligently and the negligence caused injury or death a claim can be made. 

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If I am injured in a train collision, to whom can I make a claim?
Answer:
You can make a claim with any person or entity that was responsible for the collision, including the railroad company, the light rail Transit Company the city or local jurisdiction and state where the collision occurred.

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I heard that even if I work for the railroad, I can sue my own company. Is this true?
Answer:
Yes. If you are an employee of a railroad, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) allows a limited exception through the general prohibition against suing an employer.

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If I Am Injured While A Passenger On A Train or Light Rail Transit Vehicle and I am injured or my loved ones are killed, Is The Railroad Company and/or Light Rail Transit Company Liable?
Answer:
Yes. Railroad Companies and Light Rail Transit Companies are common carriers, and are required to use the highest standard of care for the safety of its passengers. This includes the duty on the railroad passenger train and light rail transit train to maintain a safe place for its passengers, including area for boarding and departures.

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What Are The Duties And Responsibilities Of A Train Crew As They Approach A Public Grade Crossing?
Answer:
A train crew for passenger trains and freight trains as well as light rail transit vehicles usually includes a conductor, an engineer, a brakeman, and sometimes a fireman. The crewmembers in a passenger train and light rail transit vehicle are held to the highest standard of care in the operation of the train as it crosses public grade crossings. Crew members of a freight train have an obligation to maintain a reasonable lookout and control over the train, subject to the application of state and federal laws and regulations may have to slow down during local hazards conditions which can include fog, rain, blowing snow, or other limited visibility in circumstances they encounter as the train approaches a public grade crossing.

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What Are The Railroad's Responsibilities In The Area Of Providing Grade Crossing Protection?
Answer:
Generally speaking, once the grade crossing protection devices, whether it is stop signs, crossbucks, or flashing gates and lights installed, it is care the obligation of the railroad to maintain. The installation of these devices at railroad grade crossings usually is funded by state and federal governments, and sometimes with limited funds from local governments such as cities. State and federal authorities have the responsibility to initially approve the installation application and inspect the installation after completion. The railroad has the obligation to maintain adequate sight lines including the clearing of vegetation. 

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Why Are So Few Grade Crossings Protected By Flashers And/Or Gates?
Answer:
Although there are many technical improvements and sophisticated devices available (including warning devices on buses would be alert the driver approaching trains), the state and federal laws lag far behind technology. Consequently, in Minnesota like most other states, the Department of Transportation can inspect and recommend various railroad grade crossings for the installation of gates and lights.  Because of limited personnel these inspections, once completed often are changed and reprioritized depending on time and circumstance. Local authorities such as cities can also have input, but public officials must be diligent in their request and petition for the installation of gates and lights at railroad grade crossings.   It is unfortunate, but there should be many more railroad grade crossings protected by gates and lights that work.  In reality grade crossing protection is really protection for the motoring public.  Gates and lights alert drivers that there is an approaching train, and/or light rail transit vehicle, even though they cannot see or hear the approaching train.

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What if I am in a motor vehicle that is hit by a train or light rail transit vehicle at a railroad crossing or I am a pedestrian who was hit by a train or light rail transit vehicle at a crossing? What are my rights?
Answer:
If you can demonstrate that the railroad grade crossing was maintained in a negligent manner, or that the train or light rail transit vehicle was being operated negligently you may be able to bring a claim against the Railroad Company or light rail transit company. You may also maintain a claim against any other person or entity whose negligence contributed to the collision.

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Is it important to retain a lawyer who is willing to perform a thorough investigation and hire experts in railroad collision and/or light rail transit collision cases?
Answer:
Yes. The Railroad Company and light rail transit company have two-way communications on the trains and light rail transit vehicles. Many times the investigators for the railroad company arrive at the scene before or simultaneously with the first responders and emergency vehicles, beginning the investigation and gathering evidence.  It if very important for victims and survivors of victims to retain a lawyer knowledgeable in handling railroad grade crossing and light rail transit collision cases to begin an investigative workup right away. Critical evidence can be lost, destroyed, or inadvertently missed placed, or even worse overlooked and than lost in the minutes and hours following a railroad grade crossing and/or light rail transit collision.

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What damages are recoverable in train collisions or light rail transit vehicle collision cases?
Answer:
In the event of injury, damages can include past and future medical bills and wage loss, pain, disability and emotional distress. If you are married, your uninjured spouse may also have a claim for loss of your services and companionship. In the unfortunate event of death, the survivors will have a claim for the lost of income if the decedent is a bread winner and for the family, and loss the surviving family members will have an additional claim for the loss of care, support, services, society, and companionship of their loved one.

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Do I need to retain an attorney?
Answer:
It’s almost always a good idea to hire an attorney when a person has been injured or killed in a train accident. Frequently, there will be questions relating to comparative fault. In addition, expert witnesses likely need to be hired as soon as possible so that they can reconstruct the accident before evidence is lost or destroyed.

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