An elderly female driver was fatally injured in a Los Angeles car accident after a Metrolink train struck the car she was driving the afternoon of July 29, 2009. According to a news report in the Los Angeles Daily News, the woman, who was the sole occupant of the car was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision in the Pacoima area near San Fernando Road and Pierce Street, Los Angeles fire officials said. The 22 passengers in the Metrolink train were not injured. It’s not clear how or why this car collision occurred. This death is apparently the second Metrolink-related fatality in Pacoima in the last month. On July 14, 2009, a man was struck and killed by a Metrolink train near San Fernando Road and Van Nuys Boulevard.
I offer my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this woman for their tragic and heartbreaking loss. Please keep them in your prayers.
Based on the information we presently have, it’s tough to tell exactly what might have caused this train accident. Was the woman not aware of the railroad tracks? Was she not paying attention? Did the railroad crossing in question have warning signs, mechanical arms or flashing lights? At this point, we don’t know.
Liability in Train Accidents
U.S. Courts have traditionally upheld that railroads have a general duty to ensure public safety at grade crossings. However in a train accident lawsuit that has to do with a railroad crossing accident, the railroad companies will argue that they have no such duty to install and maintain adequate warning devices at railroad crossings. Usually these arguments are successful especially if they are being made in federal courts because federal regulations support these arguments. Various statutes place primary responsibility for crossing safety with local governmental agencies rather than railroad companies. Yet, it’s important to note that these laws do not relieve railroads of all responsibility at these crossings.
Railroads have a common-law duty to provide and properly maintain warnings at grade crossings. Railroads have a common-law duty to provide and adequately maintain warnings at railroad crossings. While final authority for the installation of particular safety devices at grade crossings has long rested with state and local governments, this allocation of authority apparently does not relieve the railroads of their duty to take all reasonable precautions to maintain grade crossing safety (Quoting the U.S. Supreme Court).
The family of this deceased victim would be well-advised to retain an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer who will help investigate what occurred at this railway crossing and determine whether there was any fault on the part of the railroad or local governmental agencies.