Articles Posted in Train Accidents

Not all traffic accidents involve two people driving cars. Drivers may suffer an accident involving public transportation, including trains and light rails. When a train conductor fails to exercise ordinary care, both passengers and other drivers on the road may suffer the consequences. To bring a successful negligence lawsuit after a Virginia train accident, it is crucial to understand the rules for recovery when the responsible party is a public transportation department.

According to a recent news article, a teenager died after a train accident in Linthicum, Maryland. The accident occurred as automatic roadway gates began to lower and block traffic for the light rail train to pass. Before the roadway fully closed, the train conductor entered the intersection, colliding with the passenger side of a sedan. The driver died at the scene. The railroad conductor was unharmed. Initially, investigators believed the accident occurred when the driver failed to heed warning signals that the roadway gates were closing. However, upon further investigation, officers found the conductor caused the driver’s death by entering the intersection before the roadway could close. As a result, officers charged the conductor with negligent manslaughter, criminal negligence, and reckless endangerment.

Can You Sue for Civil Damages After Criminal Charges?

Because criminal and civil cases are separate actions, you can bring a civil negligence lawsuit for damages against a defendant who is facing criminal penalties; a criminal case does not bar your civil claim. This is true even if the criminal penalties include fines, which remain district from a civil damages award to a winning plaintiff. Additionally, the lower burden of proof in civil cases may result in a different outcome from a criminal trial. Even if a jury finds a defendant not guilty in a criminal case, a jury in a negligence lawsuit could find that defendant liable for civil damages.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued a written opinion in an interesting case brought by the surviving family of a man who was killed by a train. The case required the court to discuss the “last clear chance” doctrine and its applicability to cases in which both the accident victim and the defendant may have been negligent. Ultimately, given the specific facts of the case, the court determined that the plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband was killed as he was walking next to a set of railroad tracks. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s husband was walking next to the tracks, listening to music on his phone, when a train approached. Evidently, the plaintiff’s husband was unable to hear the approaching train due to the music, and as the train passed him, a part of the train that overhung past the tracks struck the plaintiff’s husband. He was killed instantly.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the train, as well as the conductor and engineer. She claimed that, notwithstanding any possible negligence of her deceased husband, the defendants were the one with the last opportunity to avoid the collision, but they failed to do so. The trial court disagreed with the plaintiff’s argument and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

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Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision interpreting the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. In the case, OBB Personenverkehr AG (“OBB”) v. Sachs, the Court determined that the “commercial activity” exception to the Act’s general grant of immunity to foreign governments did not apply to the specific facts presented. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.The Facts of OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs

The plaintiff in OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs was a California woman who had purchased a Eurorail pass here in the United States from a U.S. retailer for her plans to travel in Europe. While she was in Austria, however, the woman was seriously injured due to the alleged negligence of OBB, which is wholly owned by the Austrian government. The plaintiff filed suit against OBB in a U.S. federal district court.

In a pretrial motion, OBB cited the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and asked the court to dismiss the case.

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