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Railroad Crossing Accidents

railroad accidents, train accident, San Jose personal injury attorneysRecently, a woman was struck and killed by an Amtrak train in Richmond, near Giant Highway and Par Court. The accident occurred away from any railroad crossings. The train, travelling between Sacramento and San Jose, was carrying 60 passengers. None of the passengers or crew were injured.

Duty of Care

Trains can be dangerous, so their operators have a duty to protect others from injury. The operators of railroads must take care at crossings with public highways, both by maintaining the crossing and in safely operating the train. The more dangerous the crossing, the more care the railroad operator must take. If there is an unusual hazard, special precautions must be taken.

In California, railroads are required to use basic care to avoid injuring anyone crossing their tracks from public streets by posting warning signals and using protective devices. To take reasonable care in operating trains at crossings, an operator must control the train’s speed, taking into account the specific conditions at the location.

Safety Regulations

Because of the risks of accident and injury presented by trains, California has many safety regulations to govern railroads and prevent accidents. For example, speed regulations are especially important. There are laws limiting a train’s permissible speed when approaching and proceeding through a crossing, and if a train operator exceeds the legally permissible speed and injures someone, the railroad may be liable.

Obeying the state’s safety regulations is only the minimum standard of care, however. To avoid negligence lawsuits, a railroad may have to take greater care than that required by the regulations.

Warning Systems

The operator of a train must keep a lookout for people and vehicles that may cross the tracks. If the operator discovers, or reasonably should have discovered, a person or vehicle on or near the tracks, the operator must use reasonable care to not harm anyone.

Railroads are also required to install warning systems to give the public reasonable warning that there are tracks. They may use signs or other devices, and must take care in the design, installation, operation, and maintenance of their warning systems.

Comparative Fault

California uses the comparative fault system to decrease an accident victim’s recovery in proportion to the victim’s degree of fault in causing the accident. Thus, if a driver or pedestrian is approaching a railroad crossing, he or she must use reasonable care to determine whether a train is approaching. If the driver is negligent in checking for trains, any recovery of damages will be decreased in proportion to the driver’s negligence.

The mere presence of a track is a warning of danger, and if a driver’s view of oncoming trains is blocked, the driver must take extra care to make sure the way is clear. However, if there is a signal to warn of approaching trains, then the driver does not have to take as much care to check for trains.

If you have been injured in a railroad accident, you should speak with a lawyer about your options. Please call the skilled San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. at (408) 289-1417 for a free consultation.

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