I just met with an expert witness in a railroad crossing case (truck hit by train) whose field is vision and human factors. This lady, Ellie Francis, has two PhDs in these areas. She is an incredibly high powered expert in these subjects which are central to what happens during vehicular accidents like the one I am working on where a train hits a truck, killing its occupant.
What this vision and human factors expert can explain to the jury is exactly how the human eye and brain focus their attention to evaluate complex situations like crossing a railroad track in a car. You might think that the way this works is common sense or something that every driver intuitively knows. However, it turns out to be far more complicated and fascinating because there really is a lot going on in the eyes and brain when the driver does the analysis of the risk taken when coming through a railroad grade crossing.
Some of the variables that the driver must analyze in making the decisions necessary to safely negotiate a rail crossing include knowing that there is a railroad track that has to be crossed, looking in both directions for trains, listening for what sounds might warn of an approaching train, worrying about traffic both behind and ahead, and dealing with any obstacles like telephone poles or ditches in the vicinity of the crossing. There are also various factors which can increase the amount of time it takes the human eye and brain to see and analyze the variables in safely passing the railroad crossing. For example, the amount of sun that could get in your eyes or shadows which could make it harder to see the train and affect the driver perception and reaction time. Road conditions may have to be negotiated such as ice give the driver more things to think about to avoid an accident. The narrowness and angle of the road may affect what the driver is otherwise able to perceive and to do to avoid a wreck, as some of the brain’s attention is directed at dealing with those factors. All of these vision and human factors issues come into play when handling the crossing of a railroad track in your car.
Working with an expert in the field of vision and human factors is an important part of being a good personal injury trial lawyer. Knowing where to find, and how to use, such key liability experts is a part of what we as a law firm at Hajek, Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton, P.C. have experience with in significant injury and wrongful death cases. See our website, www.hsinjurylaw.com, for other examples of how we use experts to win cases for clients who have been hurt by someone else’s negligence. My law partners and I are some of the most experienced personal injury attorneys in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA), area in dealing with major vehicular crash cases, especially in those involving railroads.