Kids, Trains and Hospital Bills: Child Railroad Safety

An 11-year-old Northeast Minneapolis boy is Minnesota’s latest train accident victim. The boy and his friends’ choice of a moving a train as the site of their early evening play was ill-advised, as the boy sustained a foot injury while trying to either hop on or jump off of the moving locomotive. According to one report, the young victim might have paid a dear price, losing part of his big toe in the accident.

Not a game

Undoubtedly, playing on or near train tracks is never a good idea. The stakes are even higher when horseplay involves moving trains. In a case earlier this year, a nine-year-old Minneapolis boy lost more than his toe, with both feet severed by a moving train. In this case, the boy made his way onto a moving train, but fell, which resulted in the train severing his feet. While the boy appears to be recovering, his life has been forever changed by his run-in with the moving train.

History repeats itself

A survey of the area indicates that that a path running near the tracks is a well-worn shortcut between two nearby neighborhoods, leading many to wonder why the railroad didn’t take steps to prevent children or anyone else from approaching the tracks. The case is especially painful for another Minnesota man who lost portions of his legs in an almost identical accident nearly 20 years ago.

Who’s at fault when children are hurt by trains?

While parents have a responsibility to both warn their children about the dangers trains pose and ensure that children are adequately supervised, the law requires railroad companies to take adequate safety measures. The tracks at issue in several of these cases lacked the required fencing under the law in Minnesota, which is home to about 4,400 miles of railroad lines according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. 

The railroad’s failure to comply with the fence law is troubling, especially in light of the fact that the law has been on the books for close to 100 years and the number of lawsuits filed based on death and injuries near Minnesota railroad tracks. The success of such lawsuits may depend on a few factors:

  • Whether fencing would have kept children off the tracks
  • Children’s age and development
  • Children’s ability to appreciate the danger associated with moving trains 

Children and adults injured in train accidents deserve a dedicated legal team at their side to face railroads and municipalities that try to stand in the way of their recovery.

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