Next Steps After an Accident Involving a Train and Car

There are plenty of safety measures in place that protect cars from the sheer enormity and power of a train collision. Still, train car accident statistics prove that the unthinkable still happens, and train and car accidents are not as uncommon as you might think. According to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, in 2019, Kentucky reported 47 total highway-rail accidents. Ohio reported 72. Indiana reported 107. If you have ever been involved in an accident with a train, you understand how scary and confusing it can be to try and find answers.

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Common Reasons Behind Car and Train Accidents

Like any other vehicle, a train is only as efficient as its equipment. Negligence, faulty equipment and signal malfunctions are only a few reasons that trains collide with cars. The following is a list of possible factors that contribute to highway-rail accidents.

  • Driver/Conductor Negligence or Error
  • Faulty or Malfunctioning Equipment
  • Weather Conditions
  • Signal Malfunction or Error
  • Improperly Maintained Tracks or Equipment
  • Failure to Abide by Safety Laws

Important Ways for Drivers to Stay Safe Near Railroad Tracks

In a 2017 NHTSA press release, the Department of Transportation announced a $7 million campaign called “Stop! Trains Can’t” in an effort to reduce train-related accidents. At the time, a person or vehicle was hit by a train in the United States every three hours. Unfortunately, the United States still saw an increase in railroad accident fatalities from 823 fatalities in 2017 to 878 fatalities in 2018.

Although sometimes an accident is out of a driver’s control, the first step towards reducing highway-rail accidents is to consistently practice safe driving habits.

  • Stay Vigilant for Warning Signs and Signals – Flashing red lights indicate a train is on its way. Do not cross the tracks until the lights have turned off.
  • Always Assume there is a Nearby Train – When it comes to driving across train tracks, always assume. No matter what, remember to look both ways before crossing train tracks.
  • Avoid Crossing the Tracks Unless You Completely Fit – Not sure your car will fit across the tracks? Don’t bother crossing! Wait for all other cars to move before you proceed across the tracks.
  • Report Anything Amiss – If you suspect a warning device is not in tip-top condition, you can do a lot of good by reporting the possible malfunction to the crossing’s designated USDOT number. You can find this information on the Emergency Notification sign posted at each crossing.

In Case of Emergency: What if My Car Stalls on Train Tracks?

First thing’s first. Don’t panic. If you crossed when you were supposed to cross, there should be no trains in the very near vicinity. Follow these steps to ensure everyone in the car gets out safely.

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  • GET OUT – If your car stalls on train tracks, evacuate the car immediately. Trains traveling 60 MPH can take over a mile to fully stop, so don’t waste any time unloading your car or trying to restart your engine.
  • GET AWAY – If a train is approaching, walk away from the tracks in the direction of the oncoming train. It’s important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario (your car getting hit) and avoid any possible debris.
  • GET INFORMATION – When you and your family are safe, locate the crossing’s designated USDOT emergency and identification numbers.
  • GET HELP – Call either the railroad’s emergency number, the local police or 911. Be as clear and detailed as possible while providing information about your situation. Inform them that a car is on the tracks and identify the location, crossing number and the name of the road/highway.

Steps to Take After a Train Accident

If an accident does occur, your world can suddenly feel out-of-control and scary. Taking these steps after your train accident will help keep you in control of your experience and will be extremely useful when you seek legal assistance.

  1. Seek Medical Assistance – Even if you feel fine, it’s imperative that you seek medical assistance immediately. It’s common for those who have suffered an accident to experience shock, which prevents them from noticing symptoms of an injury. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and have a professional assess your condition.
  2. Document the Accident – Pictures can often be the key to determining what happened in an accident. If you are able, take as many pictures as you can of the accident, as well as your injuries. Another way to help document your accident is to get the information of any witnesses on the scene.
  3. Keep Records – Like any accident, keep a record of all your medical treatments, test results and physical therapy sessions. Additionally, remember to record all of the days you missed from work and other financial expenses the accident may have caused.
  4. Contact a Train Accident Lawyer – A train accident attorney will examine the specific details of your accident and determine the potential liable parties. These parties can include the car driver, the train driver, the train engineers, or the manufacturer of the tracks, lighting equipment or train.

If you are considering a train accident lawsuit, keep in mind that there is a deadline to file your claim known as the statute of limitations. For more information, we invite you to contact our team 24/7.


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