As an injury lawyer who regularly handles railroad accident cases, there’s been a lot of talk about “RailView” and LocoCAM” being used by many major railroad companies. Some people believe these devices can be used as key evidence in a railroad accident case. But what exactly is this technology and how reliable is it? Can it hold up in a court of law?
Let’s take a look…
“RailView (a.k.a. RailView Event Data Recorder) is a device that is usually mounted near the train engineer’s window. It provides a video recording of the train’s journey, reports the train’s speed, whistle activity, and braking activity.
LocoCAM functions similarly, though it’s mounted inside the train’s engine cab on the right side of the windshield at the level of the windshield wipers. The camera makes an ongoing record of conditions on the track and at crossings to increase safety awareness and to have a record for liability purposes in case of accidents.
Here’s a video illustrating how LocoCAM is used on a locomotive train…
The devices have been used in court by both plaintiff attorneys and defense attorneys. For example, attorneys in Petre v. Norfolk Southern Corp. used the RailView record to show that a Norfolk Southern train was speeding which led to the car/train accident which killed Wanda Petre. Nevertheless, the attorneys representing Norfolk Southern also utilized the RailView record to show that the speed at which the train was traveling (61 mph in a 60mph zone) was not sufficient evidence to prove the accident could have been prevented.
But the big question remains – are LocoCAM and RailView reliable and should they be used as rock solid evidence in a court of law? The jury is still out on both questions (pardon the pun). This technology is relatively new so there hasn’t been a major flaw detected…yet. However, I do not believe it can fully reflect the visual capacity of the railroad engineer, and therefore should only be used as a supplement to the railroad engineer’s testimony in court. As you can see by the video above, the LocoCAM gets a certain visual angle, but is relegated to that particular angle. It does not have the freedom of motion that the engineer has and, therefore, the visual range is not comparable. It can still be a helpful piece of evidence, just not an equivalent to first-hand account of a train accident.
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