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Train Versus Pedestrian Accidents

If you live in the Chicago area, you’re no stranger to hearing tragic reports of incidents in which a train collides with a pedestrian. According to studies, a pedestrian is killed by a train approximately every 10 days in Chicagoland, making this type of collision the leading cause of fatality within the railroad industry. When a train-versus-pedestrian accident occurs, many assume that the pedestrian is at fault, when this is not always the case. While the intentional or unintentional actions of pedestrians do cause many of these accidents, it would be a fallacy to place blame on the pedestrian in each and every circumstance. As Chicago Pedestrian Accident Lawyers, we know the importance of examining fault on a case-by-case basis following an injury or death involving a commuter, passenger, or freight train.

Often time, the actions of a pedestrian combine with some other factor that together cause the accident. Because the railroad is found to be at entirely at fault in only a handful of train-versus-pedestrian accidents, the vast majority of these cases hinge upon the level of fault assigned to each party involved. Illinois follows a modified version of comparative negligence, which allows the claimant to seek recovery of damages for personal injuries, including wrongful death, so long as the victim was not more than 50% at fault.

Consider some specific examples of fault on either side of the fence:

Railroad (Contributory) Fault

  • Speeding
  • Inattentive engineer or conductor
  • Failing to sound warning horn
  • Negligent supervision, training or hiring of railway employees
  • Communication or dispatch errors
  • Mechanical errors
  • Crossing malfunctions
  • Missing or obscured signage

Pedestrian (Contributory) Fault

  • Trespassing/ walking along tracks
  • Distractions (talking on phone, texting, listening to music, etc.)
  • Suicide attempt
  • Crossing a closed gate
  • Failing to heed to audible or visual warnings
  • Accidental (falling on tracks, foot or clothing gets stuck, etc.)

Now consider fault, given the foregoing, by selecting at least one factor from each list, and comparing them. Doing so should help illustrate the role of comparative negligence, pursuant to Illinois tort law, following an accident occurring between a train and a pedestrian. In example, clearly the fault of a pedestrian attempting suicide would outweigh fault imparted upon a railroad for failing to address a signage issue at a crossing, especially if the issue was unknown, undiscovered, or had just occurred. On the other hand, a pedestrian that is struck by a train because they were distracted due to texting while passing through a rail crossing in which the gate was malfunctioning and/or the engineer failed to sound a warning horn, would be unlikely to be found more than 50% at fault for causing the collision.

Keep in mind, though, that the examples described above are just hypothetical scenarios. Comparing each party’s level of contributory fault, for purposes of establishing or negating liability for injury or death, is rarely as cut-and-dry as one may think. Initial assessments regarding fault should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, and by a legal professional that is experienced in handling similarly situated pedestrian accident matters. Beyond this, though, when fault is challenged and a case proceeds to trial, the jury will determine the percentage of fault assigned to each party. Consequently, having a skilled trial attorney, as opposed to an injury lawyer that has little or no actual courtroom litigation experience, can greatly impact the outcome of a case.

Further, because the majority of such collisions result in fatality, it is important to select an attorney that specifically handles wrongful death actions. In addition, claims extending from train versus pedestrian accidents require specialized knowledge on matters that involve common carriers, as well as governmental liability and immunity, including the impact and application of both state and federal law.

The Chicago Injury Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. are seasoned practitioners, with decades of experience representing the victims of pedestrian accidents. We have collectively recovered several millions of dollars on behalf of the injured, as well as family members and estates of the deceased. Take the first steps to understanding your legal rights and options by contacting us at 773-516-4100, or sending us a message online.

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