Recently a 50-year old woman from Kentucky was killed in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, after being struck by a train. At close to 10 pm at night, the woman apparently was crossing the tracks when she was struck by a northbound Norfolk Southern train near the East German Street crossing and South Mill Street. Although emergency medical personnel reached her a short time later, it was too late and the woman was soon pronounced dead.
The tragic accident is being investigated, and early reports suggested that the woman was walking with a man on the tracks. However so far, the Shepherdstown police, the West Virginia State Police, and other law enforcement agencies have been unable to find a second victim, or information on where a second person might have gone. It is believed that no foul play was committed.
The Shepherdstown police chief issued the following warning to residents of the area: do not walk on or near the train tracks. One reason is because the trains and their cars are wider than the tracks, so even those who are not on the tracks are still capable of being struck if they are too close to where the tracks lie. Furthermore, it may be possible to misjudge the speed at which the train is approaching, especially during times of darkness. All the individual may see is a light coming closer before the fatal collision.
Sadly, deaths caused by collisions with trains are more common than they should be. In 2010, it was estimated that train deaths involving pedestrians was 434 across the country, though that is a six percent decline over a 10-year period. Some of these deaths might be due to suicide, but others could possibly be due to the design of today's trains, many of which are quieter than trains of the past. Trains now run on rails that are on longer, continuous sections of track, so the clacking sound when trains switch tracks has been reduced. There are also several "quiet zones" in place now in residential areas, where train operators are not allowed to sound the horn. Also, many of those killed by accident were listening to music, which also reduced their ability to listen for the train. Too many people use train tracks as a shortcut and tend to walk right beside them.
Often, train accidents are terrible tragedies where the train operator was doing everything appropriate, but simply could not stop the train in time. In cases where it turns out the train operator was not being attentive, the deceased's estate can file a lawsuit against the operator and the railroad company. In these cases, the estate would need to prove that the operator had a duty of care to operate the train safely; the operator breached that duty; the breach led to the deceased's injury; and the injury led to the deceased's death. Kentucky has a system of pure comparative negligence, where it is possible for an injured party to collect even if the injured party was more than 50% to blame for the accident. Contact a Kentucky personal injury attorney to find out more.
Miller & Falkner is a plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.