Cyclist Takes on Railroad Giant BNSF Over Gap in Rails that Caused His Injury
There can be few more unequal scenarios than when a cyclist takes on a railroad but it seems to be paying off for Robert Cattanach, a rider who was seriously injured recently at a railroad crossing.
Cattanach is a partner at a major law firm and a recognized expert on cyber security, reported the Star Tribune.
It meant Cattanach from Minnesota “didn’t hesitate to sue BNSF, one of the nation’s largest railroad companies, over a bike accident.” The legal action followed the railroad’s refusal to pay a few thousand dollars in medical bills.
“I don’t wear down easily,” says Cattanach, who is 64 and lives in St. Paul. “I don’t give up.”
Cattanach is an accomplished cyclist who was the Minnesota state bicycling champion in the Road Race and the Criterium race in the 50 and over master class in 2009.
The legal action stemmed from a serious accident he suffered in 2012. On July 15 he was on a bike ride with his wife when his wheel hit a 2-inch wide gap that stretched between two of the rails on the BNSF track near his home. He was going at about 10 mph. He was thrown over the handlebars and landed hard on the ground, breaking his collarbone, injuring a vertebra in his neck and dislocating his right thumb. These were very serious injuries that hospitalized the rider.
He said continued to suffer pain in his right shoulder and neck, and he no longer takes part in bicycle races because an accident could do more damage.
Cattanach said he became concerned that another cyclist could suffer the same fate and contacted BNSF. He went back to the accident scene a week later and said he was concerned to find the gap had not been filled. Eventually some asphalt was dropped near the spot but the attorney said it did not fully fill it.
Cattanach said he hadn’t originally planned to sue, but he felt BNSF was “blowing him off.”
“The reason I filed the lawsuit is they wouldn’t pay for the ambulance or my out-of-pocket medical costs,” which he told the Star-Tribune amounted to several thousand dollars.
The subsequent lawsuit highlighted further problems related to the track. In 2008, St. Paul Park’s municipal client manager, Richard Seifert had warned that the “the condition is degrading at a rapid pace.” A year later, a police officer photographed the crossing, showing poor conditions and a city official warned in 2012 the crossing had deteriorated to the point that pieces of metal were projecting upwards, presenting a potential hazard to vehicles.
Cattanach won a round of his legal action last week when a judge concluded that he appears to have a case and rejected a motion by BNSF to dismiss his lawsuit in which he is seeking more than $350,000 in damages.
As a railroad injury lawyer I have highlighted this case to show how railroad infrastructure across the country is deteriorating, presenting a safety problem. Inadequate crossings present a particular danger to cyclists and drivers. See our information about railroad crossing accidents or call us at 757.455.0077 if you or a loved one has been injured on a railroad crossing.