When you are a child, it is fun to stop in front of a railroad crossing. You hear the bells and see the gates come down and then watch from your parents’ car as the train zooms by. You count the cars from the engine all the way to the caboose, and by the time the train has passed and you can safely cross the track, you feel as though you have been party to a special occasion.

When you are a busy commuter, having to stop to wait for a passing train is an annoyance. You count the minutes until you can finally continue your drive to work. Of course, these instances only apply when the railroad crossings are safely constructed and operated. If railway crossings are not properly constructed and operated, the resulting railroad crossing accidents can be devastating. The causes of railway crossing accidents are many, but if they are because of a flaw in the railway crossing, then the injured party could have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

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Rules and Regulations Governing Rail Crossing Safety

The California Public Utilities Commission is in charge of making sure that the railway crossings in California are safe and properly maintained. A railway crossing is an intersection where a railroad crosses another railroad or a public road. These are some of the safety requirements for railroad crossings in California:

  • The minimum overhead clearance above railroad tracks where freight trains travel is 22 and one half feet. If a railroad track ends inside a building, then the minimum overhead clearance inside that building is 18 feet. The freight cars on these tracks cannot be taller than 15 feet; taller freight cars must bear permanent labels that say “excess height.” For railroads built only for commuter passenger trains, the minimum overhead clearance is 14 feet.
  • The minimum clearance between the center lines of two parallel tracks must be at least 14 feet.  Certain types of tracks require an even greater clearance.
  • It is illegal to place any items on the ground or on the platform within eight feet of a railroad track. A visible marker should indicate the eight-foot mark beyond which one cannot place any items.
  • When a railroad crosses above a public street or road where vehicles operate, there should be a 15-foot minimum overhead clearance. When a road open to vehicular traffic crosses above a railroad track made for freight trains, the minimum overhead clearance is 22 feet six inches.

Were There Violations of Safety Standards at the Site of an Accident?

If you are involved in a train accident, you should always document whether the minimum clearances were being observed and whether the required markings were present. If they were not, and you were injured in the accident, then you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

Contact Case Barnett About Railroad Crossing Accidents

If you were injured in a railroad accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California to discuss your case.

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