Railroad Crossing Accident Leads to Sizable Settlement

WHAT HAPPENED: Driver was operating a car over a crossing in Prince William County, Virginia, with his two sons, both under age five, each strapped in car seats in the rear of the car. At about 6:30 a.m., while driving to daycare, he was crossing Norfolk Southern railroad tracks when a freight train suddenly appeared and slammed into the rear left of his car, violently spinning the car off into a ditch but fortunately, not killing he or his children. The firm was retained by the driver's wife on behalf of both of the injured children who were airlifted to the local hospital with various injuries. One of the two young boys has suffered a skull fracture in the area around the eye (called an orbital skull fracture). Our firm brought claims on behalf of both of the minor passengers in the car and agreed to investigate the liability issues.

LEGAL STRATEGY: Our firm investigators inspected the area of the incident and took measurements and photographs. We determined that the NS train crew was not required by federal or state law to blow a whistle or horn as a matter of course because this was a private or rural crossing. We examined the vegetation, trees and brush at the quadrant. We also reviewed the police officer's notes and determined that the driver (the father of the children) claimed that he had no opportunity to avoid the train and did not even see the locomotive engine until the last minute when his only choice was to quickly accelerate. After examining Virginia common law, the potential jury instructions that would be offered at trial, and all other circumstances, we made a demand for settlement on both the driver/father's insurance company, State Farm, and a demand for settlement against Norfolk Southern.

COURT/DATE: Richmond, VA (Richmond Circuit Court), April, 2006 Norfolk, VA (Norfolk Circuit Court), May, 2006

STAFF: Richard N. Shapiro, attorney; Donald Case, T. C. Emory, investigators; Jackie Tilton-Hunsberger, paralegal;Sherri Carter, legal assistant

The firm settled the claims against State Farm/driver for $50,000.00 and $29,000.00 and settled the claims against Norfolk Southern for $32,000.00 and $22,000.00. Each settlement was approved under the infant settlement provisions of Virginia law.