July 7, 2020

Nebraska Railroad Crossing Accidents

Omaha, NE — A Nebraska woman rendered a paraplegic in a 2005 car and train railroad crossing accident has asked the Nebraska Supreme Court to overturn the dismissal of her case and order the trial court to consider whether the train sounded its warning horn before entering the rural crossing.

The victim of of the crash was 17 years old when the car in which she was a passenger was hit by a Union Pacific freight train. The rural railroad crossing had no gates or lights to warn drivers of an approaching train. The driver stopped at a stop sign at the crossing before proceeding across the railroad tracks and into the path of the train.

The injured victim and her mother filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific claiming that the railroad company was negligent because the operator of the train did not sound its horn. A Lancaster County judge dismissed the case in 2009. The case has been appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The victim testified that she saw the oncoming train as they were crossing the railroad tracks and warned the driver, who tried to back up the car. The train crashed into the car, causing her to suffer devastating injuries. She was paralyzed from the chest down.

In sworn testimony, she describes the railroad crossing accident:

“[She] had stopped and she started to go forward, and I had saw the train, and I don’t remember if I’d yelled or screamed. She automatically put it — tried to put it in reverse and tried to back up, and she tried to grab my hand, and the next thing I remember, my eyes were closed, and I could hear glass being broken and the train had hit.”

It is argued in her appeal that neither she nor the driver of the car recalled hearing the train sound it’s horn as it approached the crossing and that the trial court judge should have considered whether the warning horn was blown before the crash.

Union Pacific says the train’s data recorders indicate that the engineer activated the horn. The victim argues in her appeal that while there may be evidence that the horn was activated, there is no evidence that it actually sounded a warning.

“The district court simply took a blind leap-of-faith. . . . The fact remains that there was no evidence showing that the event recorder actually records the audible horn sound or that the event recorder will only make a recording if the horn makes an audible sound,” her lawyer argues.

Union Pacific argues that there is no reason to believe that the sounding of the horn would have prevented the accident at the railroad crossing.

“After [the driver] came to a stop, she did not look to her left, or to the west, in the direction the train was coming. This means she ignored her statutory responsibilities as a driver at a rail crossing,” argue the railroad company’s attorneys.

The Court heard the lawyers’ arguments on the lawsuit on April 7.

If you have been affected by a railroad crossing accident, contact a railroad crossing accident attorney now to discuss your right to financial compensation. An experienced train accident lawyer can find the cause of the crash and help you collect the personal injury or wrongful death damages you deserve.