Fatal pedestrian and train accidents still on the rise

by John Chapman

Last month, sixteen year-old Mateus Moore and his girlfriend, Mickayla Friend, were walking on railroad tracks on their way to a Sadie Hawkins Dance at the Marysville Charter Academy For The Arts in Marysville, California. They were walking in the same direction as a train was travelling. They apparently did not notice the train approaching until the last moment, according to reports from witnesses. At that point, Mateus pushed Mickayla off the tracks, saving her life, according to eyewitnesses who were at a Little League baseball game nearby. Mickayla was taken to a local hospital with traumatic injuries but is expected to live. Mateus died at the scene.

Unfortunately, such stories are taking place far too often. In fact, there has been a significant rise in pedestrian-train accidents nationwide. According to a series of reports in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, such accidents increased dramatically in 2013. And, since 1997, well over 7,000 people have been fatally struck by trains in the U.S.

Adding to the danger is the growing phenomenon of so-called “distracted walking,” as pedestrians are increasingly distracted while, for example, texting and chatting on mobile phones. As for the teens killed in California, so far it appears they were not using smart phones, wearing headphones or intoxicated. “Sometimes these trains, when you’re directly in front of them, can sneak up on you,” Marysville Police Chief David Baker said following the incident, according to KXTV.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called railroad trespassing incidents “one of the most vexing safety issues that the industry faces.” The number of pedestrians fatally struck by trains last year rose to the highest level in six years.

One way to address is the problem is by restricting access to the tracks. Railroads dismiss restrictions like fencing, claiming it’s impractical and won’t stop people. However, experts have countered that placing fencing and other protections in place, at least in certain problem areas, is not only practical but would make a significant difference and save lives.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson and Personal Injury Lawsuits

To successfully bring a claim involving a railroad company or train collision, clients need an experienced, educated attorney on their side. They also need an attorney with the financial resources to take the case to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have tried hundreds of cases to verdict and have settled hundreds more. For example, in 2010, we negotiated settlements of personal injury and wrongful death claims totaling more than $50 million.

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In addition, Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Heygood and Mr. Orr are additionally Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Our partners been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several years in a row.*

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Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.

by John Chapman

John Chapman is a licensed attorney with experience in complex commercial litigation (including securities fraud, RICO, shareholder oppression, and derivative actions) and personal injury litigation.