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Last Modified: May 2, 2023

Train Accident Laws

Train accident laws seek to prevent injuries and death. In most cases they have worked pretty well. From 2011-2012, Utah’s Frontrunner only injured 5 people and killed 2. However, Trax has proven more dangerous. From 2007 to 2010, Trax had 94 accidents, 7 of which were fatal. There are also multiple accidents caused by private train companies. While not completely comparable, this is still significantly lower than the 200 fatalities caused by car accidents in just 2012. While the chance of being injured by a train is still small, the devastation is significant and the chances are increasing. It is still possible that you or a loved one could be injured by a train or while in it. You need to know how to move forward despite all the problems caused by the accident. This page on train accident laws can help give you some peace of mind. Our Utah train accident lawyer describes the basic laws and other key information needed to understand what options you have after the accident. We offer it to you as a free service.

Responsibilities of Train Companies

The Company

Train companies are responsible to ensure that they reasonable avoid accidents. The Utah courts have held them responsible for train crossings that are abnormally dangerous. This includes having crossings in a high traffic area or allowing plants to block the view of their tracks. However, the company is not responsible for setting up and maintaining warning signals. Instead, Utah train accident laws place that job with the Utah Department of Transportation. However, this does not remove all responsibility from the company. They still have a reasonable duty of care toward anyone near their train, especially at crossings.

Train Drivers

Train drivers also have very specific responsibilities that they must follow. They cannot block the use of a road for longer than 5 minutes unless under special circumstances. These include following traffic signals, avoiding hitting anything, or when there is no traffic. They only need to keep a lookout for potential dangers where they would expect people to be. This mostly means at railroad crossings. Since it would be nearly impossible to always be able to stop fast enough at other times, they are not responsible in other circumstances. Also, they only have a responsibility to brake when they know that someone is most likely going to get hurt if they don’t.

Responsibilities of Drivers

Utah train accident laws apply to many different types of drivers. If they break these laws, then they might put you or your loved ones in danger. We have compiled a summary of the main laws that affect each of these groups to ensure that you know who might be responsible in the event of a train accident.

Ordinary Drivers

Though common sense, Utah has made some laws to prevent car drivers from causing an accident with a train. In general, drivers must look and listen to see if a train is coming before crossing. After the train warning gates have closed, it is illegal to cross the train tracks. Similarly, a driver must stop at least 15 feet away from the railroad tracks and can’t go forward if there are any warning signals or a train is “plainly visible.” What if the warning signal goes off, but it appears to be a false alarm? Utah train accident laws say that a driver can go through after stopping if:

  1. There is no gate or barrier,
  2. The driver can see the train tracks for a mile in either direction,
  3. “There is no evidence of an approaching train,” and
  4. The driver can cross safely.

However, drivers cannot go around, through, or under a gate or barrier even if the signal is faulty. They also cannot cause another vehicle or person to go onto the tracks or not be able to get off of them. Drivers also cannot go over the tracks unless they can get through without stopping. So when traffic backs up, wait behind where the gate would go until you can pull forward and stop off the tracks. In fact, they cannot even park their vehicle within 50 feet of the tracks unless they are unloading something.


People walking near a railroad track need to be smart. Utah train accident laws dictate what this means. They cannot cross the tracks anytime the warning signals are going off. They also cannot stand inside the gate even if they are not on the actual tracks.

School Bus Drivers

School bus drivers are usually held to a higher standard than the typical driver because there are children on their bus. For example, Utah train accident laws state that school bus drivers need to follow their district policy when approaching a train track. They are also required to report any faulty warning signals to their supervisor.

Semi-Truck Drivers

Semi-Truck drivers also have a higher standard than the normal driver. Typically, when they approach train tracks without a gate, they have to stop 15 feet beforehand. They cannot cross unless they can do so safely. This includes making sure that they can get all the way through when traffic is backed up. Other laws apply to special vehicles like those in construction.

How quickly should I seek legal help if I was injured in a train accident?

Quickly. Utah has a standard four year window for a lawsuit to be filed for personal injuries. While it is important for you to take time to grieve and deal with the injuries or death, waiting too long may cause you even more suffering. After this window closes, no legal action can be taken. This means that you cannot hold the guilty party responsible for the suffering they have caused or deter them from doing it again. Because of how long it takes to find all the evidence and submit all the documents, don’t delay in getting help. If you or a loved one has been injured in a train accident, call Christensen & Hymas at (801) 506-0800 for a free consultation. We can help you know how to move forward, so you can have peace of mind in a difficult time of your life.

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