Washington Train Accident Trial Raises Wrongful Death Questions

A trial now underway in Washington is raising serious questions about railway safety. According to TV station KGW, the Longview, Washington trial focuses not only on safety policies at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, but on how carefully those policies are enforced.

The Washington rail crash trial stems from “a collision between a train and a shuttle van in which three people were killed and a forth was critically injured,” the station reports. At issue is a BNSF policy of parking all stationary trains at least 250 feet from a rail crossing. The victims in this particular case died after being struck by a train that apparently could not see their van as it crossed the tracks because another train was parked only 50 feet from the crossing, blocking the engineer’s view.

One complication facing the victims’ families, however, is the fact that the incident took place on the railway company’s property, where laws designed to protect the public at public crossings do not have effect. Private crossings, such as those on company property, have “no requirements for lights or a crossing arm,” the paper reports.

The court heard testimony that many employees had complained in the past about safety policies related to crossings and how they are enforced on the railway’s property.

Families of victims in situations such as this need to know that the mere fact that an incident took place on private property does not exempt the railroad from legal requirements to operate safely. Though the company says it is studying this Washington motor vehicle accident from every possible angle, the fact remains that victims often find they have little recourse in dealing directly with the company. A Washington personal injury lawyer – particularly one licensed to practice throughout the Pacific Northwest – can offer families invaluable advice on the avenues open to them as they strive to achieve justice following a fatal Washington or Oregon train accident.

KGW.com: Atty: Railroad violated policy before crash