Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Managing Editor & Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Aug 15, 2012

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As to international transportation, by Presidential Proclamation, the United States adheres to the “Warsaw Convention” which provides that an air carrier’s liability for a negligent act causing personal injury to one of its passengers, is limited to 250,000 francs (approximately $59,450) for each passenger. If the air carrier is guilty of “willful misconduct” or if a special contract has been entered into, such limitation will not apply. The Warsaw Convention requires the injured party to bring a lawsuit within two years of the accident or the action will be dismissed. Also, the air carrier will not be liable if it can prove that due care was used. This Act applies to injuries sustained on the plane or while embarking or disembarking from an international flight.

The Montreal Convention increases the liability amounts formerly governed by the Warsaw Convention. The Montreal Convention was ratified in the United States in 2003, making air carriers strictly liable for proven damages up to approximately $140,000, including legal fees. The amount is adjusted annually for inflation. These increased liability limits apply to flights starting, ending or having a stopping place within the United States. For damages sought exceeding the limit, air carriers can avoid liability by proving the action was not a result of their negligence or was caused by a third party.

Although every state’s laws differ to some extent, the general requirement is that a motorist approaching a grade crossing, upon detecting an oncoming train, must stop no less than 15 feet from the nearest rail and wait until the train has cleared the crossing. Drivers need to be aware that a crossbuck is considered the equivalent of a yield-right-of-way sign, and active protection — when operating — has the same effect as a traffic light displaying a stop indication.

Since the train’s speed can be such a critical factor in a grade crossing accident, it would seem the question of who determines the speeds at which railroads operate their trains over grade crossings would be very important in determining liability when a crossing accident occurs. However, because of the supremacy of federal law (and accompanying regulations), this is generally not the case.

Operating under the authority granted it by Congress, the Federal Railroad Administration has issued regulations that establish different classifications of track with a maximum speed set for each track classification. As long as a railroad maintains its track to meet the criteria for each track classification it is operating on, it need only comply with the required maximum speed. The practical effect of this is that as long as a train involved in a grade crossing accident was being operated at or under the federally established speed for that track when the accident occurred, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make a claim that the railroad was negligent for operating at an excessive rate of speed.