Railroad crossing accident - Bailey Javins & Carter

Accidents and Railroad Crossings

There are more than 250,000 railroad crossings in the United States that intersect with vehicle traffic, and over 8,000 crossings in West Virginia alone. Historically, railroads have played a critical role in the growth and development of the Mountain State, and trains are still widely used to transport coal and other natural resources and goods to other parts of the country. Although trains are an important part of our state’s economy, they also pose a risk of accidents at railroad crossings.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, collisions at railroad crossings rose by 3.1% in the U.S. from 2016 to 2017. There was also a 7.4% increase in crossing collision fatalities during this period. Railroad crossing accidents are especially hazardous because of the sheer force of colliding with an oncoming train. When a motor vehicle is struck by a train that weighs anywhere between 80,000 and 400,000 pounds, it is very difficult to walk away without life-altering or fatal injuries, no matter how well-built and protected your vehicle is. It comes as very little surprise, then, that individuals who collide with trains are approximately 30 times more likely to be killed than those involved in collisions with other motor vehicles.

One of the major reasons for train accidents is that so many crossings lack the proper warning mechanisms. Nationally, approximately 46% of railroad crossings do not have flashing lights or crossing gates to protect motorists when there is an oncoming train. Although unprotected or “passive” crossings make up a little under half of the crossings in the United States, approximately 60% of all railroad crossing fatalities occur at a passive crossing.

The sharp rise recently in railroad crossing accidents and fatalities has prompted the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to re-launch their “Stop. Trains Can’t” education initiative. In addition to educating the public regarding the dangers of colliding with an oncoming train at a railroad crossing, the FRA is also investing over $65 million into a wide range of grant projects designed to improve railroad safety, efficiency, and reliability. Installing warning mechanisms at passive crossings is included among the improvement projects the FRA is awarding grants for.

Accidents and Railroad Crossings in West Virginia

Because of the unique topography here in West Virginia motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians here face a greater risk of colliding with a train. This state has countless narrow, winding roads that cut through the numerous hilly and mountainous regions. If there is a lack of proper warning mechanisms, overgrowth of vegetation, and other factors that prevent a motorist from detecting a railroad crossing until they are practically right on top of the tracks, the dangers become even more escalated.

Who is Responsible for Railroad Crossing Accidents?

When a train accident occurs, there are several parties they may be potentially liable:

  • The Driver, Bicyclist, or Pedestrian: Some individuals make very poor decisions when they are near railroad crossings. Motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians need to exercise extreme caution around crossings. Listen carefully for trains and watch for warning mechanisms, and NEVER try to race an ongoing train.
  • The Company Operating the Train: The driver has a responsibility to operate the train in a safe manner. Unfortunately, some train operators are improperly trained, causing them to break acceptable speed limits and increase the chances of a deadly collision.
  • The Railroad Track Owner: The company that owns the railroad track may or may not be the same company that owns and operates the train. The track owner is responsible for maintaining the tracks to minimize the chances of a derailment, keep the vegetation in and around railroad crossings trimmed so motorists can see oncoming trains, and take other measures to ensure the public’s safety.
  • The Train Designer and/or Manufacturer: If the railroad crossing accident was due to a malfunction of an electrical or mechanical system, the designer and/or manufacturer of the train may be the responsible party. Examples of electrical or mechanical defects include failure of warning whistles, failure of warning lights, failure of the train’s braking system, and many others.
  • The Local Municipality: Some train accidents are caused by failure to properly maintain the roadway that intersects with the railroad crossing. When this occurs, the city, county, or other entity that is responsible for maintaining the roads could be held liable.

Injured in a Railroad Crossing Accident? Speak with an Experienced West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer

Because of the various parties that could be held responsible and the numerous laws and regulations governing the railroad industry, train accident cases tend to be very complex and difficult to pursue. If you or a loved one was injured or killed at a railroad crossing, it is important to work with an attorney who thoroughly understands these types of cases and has a successful track record obtaining full and fair compensation for injury victims.

At Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C., we have successfully represented countless clients over the years who have been injured in accidents at railroad crossings. We have extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and we work closely with our clients to provide the strong personalized representation they need and deserve. For a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact our office today at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979, or send us a message through our online contact form.

Preparing for an Independent Medical Exam (IME) - Bailey Javins & Carter

Preparing for an Independent Medical Exam (IME)

During a personal injury case or Workers’ Compensation claim, the other party sometimes requests verification of the physical and/or emotional injuries sustained. This is typically done through an independent medical examination (IME). Being asked to undergo an IME is not unusual, and it is not a reason to panic. By understanding the purpose for the IME and preparing for it properly, you can get past this hurdle and bring your claim toward a successful conclusion.

What is an Independent Medical Exam?

An IME is supposed to be conducted by an “independent” medical professional who is not affiliated with any of the parties. This is rarely the case, however. Most of the time, the examiner is someone who is selected by the insurer and has a history of performing similar exams for this same insurer. This means that, at the very least, the examiner is incentivized to make findings that are favorable to the insurer in order to continue receiving referrals in the future.

With this in mind, you can expect this to be an adversarial situation, and the doctor’s findings are likely to favor the insurer’s side of the story and attempt to poke holes in your claim. From the insurer’s standpoint, the end goal of the IME is to produce one of two results:

  • Provide a basis to deny your claim outright; or
  • Provide a basis to offer you far less than your claim is really worth.

How to Prepare for an Independent Medical Exam

Now that you have a general idea why the IME is being requested and what the other side is likely trying to accomplish, you should have the right mindset while you prepare. There are several steps you should take in properly preparing for an IME, here are some the most important:

Review the Details of the Incident that Caused the Injury

You are likely to be asked in detail about what led to your injury. Some time has passed since your accident, so you may have forgotten a few things, or you may be a little foggy on some of the details. Go over the original accident report and any other notes you have describing what happened, and make sure that the answers you provide the medical examiner are consistent with what you have said in the past.

Know your Medical History in Detail

The examiner will most likely have all your medical records in front of them, including previous injuries and health conditions. Take some time to review your medical history in detail, so you understand what the examiner is referring to when you are asked about any of this.

Bring Someone with You to the IME

Always have someone with you when you attend an independent medical exam. This is very important, because you need a witness to confirm what happened at the exam in the event that a dispute arises later. If it is possible and practical, bring a nurse or another health professional along. This way, they can provide expert testimony (if needed) regarding what occurred at your IME.

Arrive Early

Missing your appointment time could be a costly mistake. For example, if the IME is for a Workers’ Compensation claim, your benefits could be suspended if you don’t show up for the exam. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of extra time and arrive early, so there can be no question about whether or not you kept your appointment.

Understand that you are Continually Being Observed

From the moment you pull up in the parking lot of the medical examiner’s office, you are most likely being watched. Assume that the premises are under video surveillance and plan accordingly. The examiner will consider everything about you; including how well you walked into the office, how well you move around the room, how easily you get on and off the exam table, etc.

Do Not Exaggerate your Conditions

Be honest and polite with the examiner, and do not exaggerate the extent of your injuries or symptoms. The examiner will be looking for inconsistencies between what you say and do and what s/he observes, so do not provide any reason for them to claim that you were not telling the truth.

Take Detailed Notes about What Happened at the IME

After you get home from the examiner’s office, write down in as much detail as you can what happened during the exam. Take note of the questions the examiner asked, the tests that were administered, what the examiner told you, and other important facts. This information may become very useful if your case ends up in court.

Consult with Your West Virginia Personal Injury Attorney for Additional Guidance

For more information on preparing for an IME, speak with your attorney beforehand (if you have one). Your attorney will provide more detailed advice about how to prepare for the exam based on the specific circumstances of your case. For example, they can go over the reason the IME was requested, what types of questions to anticipate, what steps need to be taken to counter a bad report, etc. If you have any questions, contact the experienced Personal Injury attorneys at Bailey Javins & Carter and we can help you prepare for your IME. Call us at (800) 497-0234 or through our website contact form.

Car Accidents & the Holidays - Bailey Javins & Carter

Car Accidents and the Holidays

Car Accidents and the Holidays

The holidays are upon us, and this is what the famous song refers to as the “most wonderful time of the year.” The holidays are a wonderful time in which we look forward to spending some relaxing days catching up with close family and friends. But with all those get-togethers comes increased travel. During the month of December, Americans will put on millions of miles to go out to holiday parties and drive out of town to visit family members. Car accidents are a heightened concern during the holidays, especially in states where there is a strong likelihood of inclement weather.

West Virginia is definitely among the areas in which motorists must exercise extreme caution while driving during the winter. Our narrow, winding roads and high mountainous regions can be a recipe for disaster, especially on days leading up to Christmas and New Year’s when there are numerous travelers on the road.

What Causes Auto Accidents During the Holidays?

Increased road congestion and poor driving conditions are two of the major reasons more car accidents occur during the holiday season. These factors are beyond our control, but there are other causes (that are largely within our control) that contribute to these accidents. Some of the most common include:

  • Holiday Stress: Everyone is in a hurry during the holidays. There are countless places to go and things that need to be done. Shopping for loved ones, mailing out cards and gifts, preparing the house for guests/visitors, preparing for holiday parties, going to school events and other presentations, and numerous other tasks can put undue stress on even the most level-headed drivers. This combined with heavy traffic and bad weather can lead to very poor driving decisions.
  • Distracted Driving: These days, more and more people are texting while driving and sending other types of electronic messages when they are supposed to be focused on the road. With all the coordinating that needs to be done around holiday events and related tasks, it is easy for people to take out the phone and try to sneak a quick text in while they are slowing up to a stop sign or stop light. Texting while driving is an especially dangerous activity, because it distracts drivers in three ways; manually, visually, and cognitively.
  • DUI/DWI: According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drunk driving accounts for accounts for 28% of all car accident fatalities during the month of December. And on average, 300 people are killed each year just in the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve alone. Many holiday gatherings involve alcohol, and it is tempting for those celebrating to get behind the wheel after having a few drinks, especially if they only have to drive a short distance. Sadly, this results in numerous preventable auto accident injuries and fatalities during the holidays.
  • Faulty Vehicle Maintenance: Maintaining your vehicle is important at all times, but this is especially true during the winter. Drivers need to make sure their cars are tuned up, their brakes are in working order, and their tires are not worn down to unsafe tread levels. Here in West Virginia, tire chains of reasonable proportions are sometimes required because of snow, ice, or other slippery conditions. When owners do not take proper steps to ensure that their vehicles are maintained, they can endanger themselves and others on the road.

What to Do If Injured in an Auto Accident During the Holidays

If you are involved in a car accident this holiday season, there are some steps you should take to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights:

  1. Seek Medical Attention

The first priority is to ensure that everyone who may have been hurt in the accident receives medical help right away. If there are injuries, call 911 and summon an ambulance to the scene. Some injuries are not easy to detect right away, such as whiplash and injuries to internal organs. If this was a high-impact collision, call for medical attention for everyone involved just to be on the safe side.

  1. Call the Police

The police should be called to the accident scene to ensure that an official report is filed. The police will investigate what happened, interview witnesses, etc. and put it all in their report. Be sure to review the report when you have a chance and check for any inaccuracies.

  1. Document as Much as Possible

Write down, in as much detail as you can, how the accident occurred. Do this as soon as possible, so everything is still fresh in your mind. In addition, take multiple photographs of the accident scene from various angles, and obtain the contact information for any individuals who may have seen what happened. Their testimony may be valuable later on if you end up pursuing an injury claim.

  1. Contact a Seasoned West Virginia Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney

If you or someone close to you was hurt or killed in an auto accident during the holidays, you may be entitled to compensation. Before speaking with the other party’s insurance company, get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer. An attorney who has in-depth experience with car accident injury cases can thoroughly review your case and advise you of your rights and options, so you can make the most informed decision regarding which legal avenue you want to pursue.

Contact The Experienced Car Accident Injury Attorneys at Bailey Javins & Carter

If you, or a loved one, has been injured in a car accident this holiday season, contact the experienced car accident injury attorneys at Bailey Javins & Carter. Contact our office at (304) 345-0346 or contact us online.