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Family of Oklahoma teacher killed by train wins case

After filing a wrongful death lawsuit in 2009, the family of an Oklahoma high school teacher and coach has finally won their case against BNSF Railway Co.

The 46-year-old victim died in a railroad accident when a train hit his Jeep. The ensuing wrongful death lawsuit claimed that the train did not blow a warning whistle as it approached the railroad crossing, that the railroad company allowed vegetation at the crossing to prevent motorists from seeing approaching trains, and that BNSF failed to install warning lights or gates.

The widow, children and mother of the victim filed suit against the railroad company, and after a two-week trial, the jury hearing the case awarded the family $14.8 million as gross compensation for the death. However, the award was reduced to $9.6 million based upon the jury's finding that the railroad company was responsible for only 65 percent of the circumstances leading to the train accident.

BNSF defended the case by claiming that a crew member sounded the warning horn, and that the responsibility of making decisions about traffic controls at train crossings falls to government authorities, not to the railroad company. Crew members of the train claimed that they did sound the horn, but the black-box recording did not support that claim.

Railway companies have significant resources for defending against negligence claims, and Oklahoma residents who have been injured in a train accident will need strong legal representation to achieve the best possible outcome. A personal injury claim or a claim of wrongful death can lead to compensation for costs resulting from an accident, and injured parties or their family members should be apprised of their rights.

Source: The Oklahoman, "Pontotoc County jury awards family of BNSF train accident victim $9.6 million," Briana Bailey, Dec. 18, 2013

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