A shockingly high number of Alabama citizens are killed in train collisions every year. Most of us here in Alabama experience train crossings at least periodically. Why do collisions happen and what are the legal issues?
We represented a surviving family member in a train case and the train lawyer demanded to know in the deposition whether the train had come off the tracks and hit the car. Or did the car pull out in front of the train. The answer was the car pulled out in the path of the train. The lawyer sat back with a smug grin as if he had discovered the theory of relativity before Einstein.
There is a lot of PR out there by the train industry saying that if you pull out in front of a train its because you were “racing” the train. This is just plain wrong. Now, some do try to beat the train or ignore the stop signs or are drunk but not everyone who pulls out in front of a train.
We have handled many train cases involving bad curves coming into the crossing where the train did not blow its horn and did not try to stop when it saw the car come onto the tracks.
The law in Alabama is that we must stop, look, and listen. But if you do that and you don’t see or hear the train, and then pull forward and the train comes around the corner/curve, you can have that train on you before you know it. A good rule of thumb is for every mile per hour, it is 1.5 feet per second. So a train going a normal 40 MPH is covering 60 feet per second. Experts who we have hired talk about reaction time – the time it takes once you see or hear a train and the time to react. Maybe a second or two or three. Then the reaction time of the car when you hit the gas or reverse or whatever you do to try to get out of the way. All of those seconds are chewing up 60 feet each.
Train litigation can be very complicated with federal law preempting state law and often requires multiple experts but there are valid cases out there against negligent train companies – even when you are on the tracks when you get hit by the train.
If you have any questions about a potential train case, please contact an attorney experienced in litigating with the train companies so that you can get a good evaluation of your legal options.