A railroad is not liable for injuries caused at crossings just because a crossing is hazardous. The crossing must be extrahazardous and the railroad must have been negligent in the maintanence of the crossing in order to be found liable. An "extrahazardous" railroad crossing is one that a reasonable person cannot safely use unless safety measures are taken in excess of those normally used.
In railroad crossing collision cases, liability depends on a number of factors. The most common include:
Adequacy of Warning Devices
Generally, there is no duty to provide gates or other safety devices in the absence of a statute requiring them. However, there may be a need for safety devices because of foreseeable accidents. For example, crossings with heavy traffic or crossings where the view of oncoming trains is obstructed may mean that the railroad was negligent in not providing gates or safety devices. If safety devices are not at a crossing where they are required by statute, the railroad company may be guilty of negligence per se (an act which is intrinsically negligent because of the violation of a statute).
Degree of Hazard
Liability depends on the degree of hazard of the particular railroad crossing. Variables such as weather and obstructions will effect the hazardness of the crossing. For example, buildings, trees, bushes, weeds, or grass which obstruct the view of oncoming trains may indicate a breach of care on the part of the railroad. Some jurisdictions have statutes requiring railroads to clear its right of way of trees and shrubs for a specified distance on either side of a crossing.
Care of Train Operators
The train and crew must use reasonable care to avoid injury to those who use the crossing. Trains approaching railroad crossings are required to give warning, usually by a bell or whistle. Other factors of the train and its crew, such as speed, lights, signals, and lookout, can also be evidence of the negligence of the railroad.
Should I Contact an Attorney If I Have Been Injured at a Railroad Crossing?
If you or someone you know has been injured at a railroad crossing, a personal injury attorney can help you recover for your injuries. The railroad company may have defenses to liability, but an attorney can help protect your rights and build your case.