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When Luck Ran Out: Catastrophe on the Tracks

When Luck Ran Out: Catastrophe on the Tracks

When Luck Ran Out: Catastrophe on the Tracks 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

Q: Is it negligence if a track owner fails to attend to problems at a railroad crossing where multiple accidents have occurred and another vehicle gets stuck and struck there?

Texans know that size matters. At least in terms of personal injury accidents, it does.

Generally speaking, in cases of great disparity the larger, heavier vehicle offers better protection in a collision and its occupants may fare better in an accident. For example, in a pedestrian–car accident, the car always fares better. In a car-bus accident, the bus fares better. And in a train accident, the train usually wins out no matter what it hits.

This theory proved true in an accident between a freight train and a 20+ ton casino charter bus that became “stuck at a steep grade crossing on the tracks”. The violent impact of the train-bus collision sent the busload of gamblers a distance of over 200 feet, killing four people and endangering more than 40 others.

Fifteen of the passengers filed a $250 million dollar lawsuit against the bus company, the tour company that arranged the casino trip, the company that owned and maintained the tracks, and others for the wrongful death and personal injury of the victims.

To prevail in a personal injury or wrongful death action, plaintiffs must show not only that they suffered damages but must also prove that their damages were caused as a result of the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions or inactions of another person or entity.

Once liability is established, damages recoverable in a personal injury action may include current and future medical expenses, property damage, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. In a wrongful death claim, close relatives of the victim may be able to recover damages such as the victim’s final medical costs and funeral expenses, loss of income/support, and more depending upon the survivor’s relationship to the victim and the particular circumstances of the case.

Reportedly, “at least 17 accidents had occurred previously at the crossing, including at least two accidents within the last two years where large vehicles were stuck on the tracks while trying to cross.” Was the company that owned and maintained the tracks negligent in not giving this crossing “needed attention”? Was that company’s conductor negligent in failing to stop in time to avoid the collision?

A pedestrian or vehicle gets struck by a train every two hours in the United States and nearly 40% of all train accidents are caused by track defects.