A 51-year old man from Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia was killed after being struck by a CSX freight train. The accident happened early in the morning at a location east of Ridge Road and Potomac Avenue. By 6:15 am, the man was pronounced dead by a Jefferson County medical examiner on the scene. Cause of death: blunt force trauma.
Before the accident, the man was reportedly walking east on the north side of the tracks — as he did every morning to Duffields station, before catching a train into Maryland for work. This time, although the train blew its horn to alert him of its approach, the man did not step off of the tracks. Law enforcement officials state that they do not view the accident as a suicide. Instead, they viewed it as a tragedy and hastened to emphasize that walking alongside or inside of railroad property is illegal.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm express condolences to the man’s loved ones and hope that future tragedies like this can be avoided. Sadly, too many people lose their lives to collisions with trains — either through suicide or through tragic errors. In some cases, train tracks run through busy metropolitan areas, where car drivers may misread signs and end up stuck between the crossing gates. In other cases, inattention on the part of the train operator may result in a tragedy.
If your loved one was struck and killed by a train, you have the option of hiring a West Virginia wrongful death attorney to get relief. An attorney would know how to obtain the facts to help you understand what went wrong. If the tragedy was a suicide, or entirely due to lack of attention on your loved one’s part, you could not expect to collect any monetary relief. However, in the case of an inattentive train operator or a poorly designed intersection, you may be successful if you argued that your loved one’s death was the result of negligence. To prove negligence against the train conductor, you would need evidence that the conductor’s failure to take the necessary safety precautions resulted in the accident. Sometimes the evidence is circumstantial — “X, Y, and Z would never have happened if the driver had been paying attention.” Sometimes direct evidence can be obtained from sources such as cell phone records showing that the driver was chatting or texting shortly before the tragedy occurred. Witnesses to the event — either on the train or outside — can be helpful in establishing what happened.
If the accident was caused by an unsafe crossing area, you might succeed in filing a lawsuit against officials of the municipality. Your chance of success is greatest if there is evidence of other tragedies, or “near misses,” at this crossing area, and that it was reported to officials. That would demonstrate that these officials were put on notice that a tragic event would occur if nothing were changed. If these officials continued to not act, without a justifiable reason, you could make the case that they were negligent. If you succeed in your suit, the relief awarded by the jury usually includes money for loss of support and services and medical bills (if necessary). It will never bring your loved one back, but it might help you obtain justice and move on with your life.