Pedestrians On The Tracks: Who Is Liable For Injuries?

Railroad track, personal injury attorneyTrespassing on Railroads

Most railroad operators consider pedestrians on the tracks to be criminal trespassers. In fact, railroad tracks are considered a private property that is owned and maintained by the railroad company. However, that does not absolve railroad operators from taking reasonable measures to prevent unauthorized access to the tracks and they are required to maintain crossing points that allow for safe passage across the tracks. In fact, it was only recently that federal law required railroad operators to provide GPS data on where pedestrian accidents are occurring; previously, this information was broad and provided little help in identifying locations that were particularly deadly.

Little Attention Given to Pedestrian Dangers

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, there were numerous campaigns that led to increased safety standards at railroad crossings. These campaigns targeted motorists and provided enhanced protective measures including gates and warning lights to notify motorists of oncoming trains.

However, pedestrian safety at crossings and along sections of track is a problem that remains largely ignored. Federal investigators consider it an issue for local law enforcement, however, they only have limited access to video recorders and other information including black boxes, etc. that records the incident. This limits their ability to determine when horns were blown, when brakes were applied, how fast the train was traveling, etc.

Train Engineers in the Hot Seat

It is the responsibility of the train engineer to manage the operation of the train. This means operating the train in accordance with established safety protocols and taking reasonable steps to stop the train before a collision with a pedestrian occurs. However, in most cases, trains are not required to slow down when passing through residential, urban, or suburban areas. This creates conditions where pedestrians can come across fast-moving trains as they attempt to walk along or cross railroad tracks. Depending on the accident, property owners beside the tracks, the railroad company, or even the city could be found liable for creating conditions that allow pedestrians to gain unauthorized access to railroad tracks. Further, the train engineer could also be found liable for causing a wrongful death if it is determined by the evidence gathered by a Las Vegas personal injury attorney that the train was operating outside of established regulations including speed limits set for that particular section of track.