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Car-Train Collisions: Are They Ever the Train Conductor’s Fault?

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A Bristol, Tennessee man was driving a waste management truck when he attempted to cross over railroad tracks. He was blindsided by a train and thrown from the vehicle, after which he was airlifted to a nearby hospital with – miraculously – non-life threatening injuries. The railroad crossing where the accident occurred has a white marker and stop sign to indicate the railway, but has no flashing lights or gates to warn drivers of a train’s approach. The cause of the car accident is still under investigation.

In situations like these, it can be easy to assume that the driver is at fault. But that’s not always the case. There can be any number of liable parties in train accidents, and every accident is different.


  • Railroad company liability. Railroad companies have a duty of care to the public to operate trains in a safe and prudent manner. A railroad company can be liable for negligence leading to a car-train accident for several reasons. If a company does not properly train engineers or conductors, the company could be liable. If the railroad company does not take measures to prevent impaired or fatigued crew members from causing an accident, the company may be liable. If the company does not properly maintain the train, the company may be liable.
  • Railroad track owner liability. Many trains run on lines owned by other railroad companies. If a train runs along a line owned by another company, and that company has not done their due diligence in maintaining the rails and providing adequate and well-maintained safety features at rail crossings, the owner could be liable.
  • Train designer or manufacturer liability. Some car-train accidents are due to defects in the design or manufacturing of the train, including the warning components, lights, brakes, coupling mechanisms and the communications systems used by crew.
  • County or city liability. In rare conditions, the roadbed through the train crossing may be improperly constructed or maintained. This can make a county or city liable for accidents.
  • Automobile driver liability. Many car-train accidents happen when vehicles attempt to outrun trains. In these situations, the driver would not be able to seek a claim against the train company. However, passengers are able to file a lawsuit against the driver for causing their injuries.

1 John 4:16, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

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