As each day passes, experienced DuPage County Attorneys hear and learn about various types of vehicle accidents that occur throughout the State of Illinois. Although accidents at highway-railway intersections involving trains and automobiles are uncommon, they tend to be devastating when they occur.
The Facts & Figures
The Illinois Commerce Commission reported in 2012 that 89 accidents occurred at highway-railway intersections which resulted in 25 deaths and 34 injuries. Within the state of Illinois, there are over 7,300 miles of railroad tracks with more than 8,400 public crossings and just over 4,500 private crossings. Unfortunately, not all highway-railway crossings are made equal and some present more dangers than others.
Most highway-railway crossings have flashing lights and gates to inform motorists that trains are approaching, some only have reflective signs that advise motorists to use caution when crossing and few have no markings at all. (See the Illinois Railroad Safety Fact Sheet – 2013). Counties located within the Chicago area, including DuPage, are at the highest risk of experiencing a train-vehicle collision, due to the constant flow of daily trains and commuter traffic. Currently, DuPage County has 140 public highway-railway intersections and 18 private highway-railway intersections with a mix of the features identified above, but most have flashing lights and gates.
There are many factors that come into play when an accident occurs between a train and vehicle at a private or public highway-railway intersection. Train accident victims in the scenarios described above, whether they were a passenger on the train, driver of a motor vehicle or passenger in a motor vehicle struck by a train, rarely know where to start when the unthinkable occurs. As a victim of an accident, they are appreciating the fact they are still alive, potentially mourning the ones they lost, thinking about loved ones and the injuries they suffered. The last thing on their mind during this stressful time is finding out who is responsible.
Immediately after an accident occurs between a train and motor vehicle, an investigation by the proper authorities is usually initiated. Did the driver of the motor vehicle cause the accident, was it the train operator or was the accident the cause of malfunctioning safety equipment? This investigation will reveal the underlying causes of the accident.
Common Train Accident Causes
Typically, when these accidents occur, they are the result of mechanical failures or human error. The train signals can mechanically fail or the operator of the train could carelessly ignore a functioning signal. The operator of the train could be driving while fatigued or intoxicated. Maybe the flashing lights and gate failed at the highway-railway intersection and permitted motor vehicles to enter the direct path of the oncoming train. If you are a passenger on the train and suffer injuries due to the accident, the railroad company could be liable for the injuries you suffered because it owes its passengers a heightened duty of care. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident so that evidence of liability can be collected and preserved.
The location where the accident occurred is also important. Did the accident occur on a private or public highway-railway intersection? Public highway-railways are maintained and regulated by the state while private highway-railway intersections are not. Private intersections are maintained by the owner of the property and are not intended for use by the public. The rights accident victims can assert vary depending on the type of property where the accident occurred.
Contact an Illinois Injury Attorney
As you can see, these types of accidents are complex in nature and many questions arise that need answers. If you were injured or a loved one died as a result of a train accident, contact a Illinois train accident attorney to discuss your legal rights and possible compensation for your losses.