I have represented many injured railroad workers who were either engineers or conductors on trains that had some kind of incident at a railroad grade crossing with a road. Sometimes the injuries can be quite horrible physical injuries if the train hits a truck and derails. Sometimes however the injuries are more of a psychological kind because the large locomotive is able to blast through a small passenger car and the primary injury to the railroad worker is the horror of watching someone else be killed or seriously injured as a result of the collision.
Recently, I represented several Norfolk Southern and CSX train crew members who were forced to witness violent crashes between their train and a motor vehicle. Both train crews were exposed to a near death experience. They really didn’t know if their train was going to derail or that some fire or other force might take their lives. Under these circumstances, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can easily develop.
When a train crew suffers post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a crossing accident or fatality there may be a claim against the railroad for failing to provide a reasonably safe place to work if the crossing was not properly protected and maintained in such a way that contributed to the collision. There may also be a claim against the driver of the car and their insurance company for causing the wreck. I’ve also handled cases against the tractor-trailer companies who had a negligent driver who caused the train and big rig to crash. Either way it is usually not the fault of the conductor and engineer who are forced to watch essentially someone get killed before their eyes and they’re given very little training as to how to avoid these collisions.
One tricky legal rule in circumstances of getting PTSD as a railroad train crew member is whether there are physical symptoms as well. If there is some physical injury, even relatively minor, that can make a big difference in the way the law treats the psychological injury. If there is absolutely no physical injury and only psychological injury then the question often hinges on whether the train crew had a reasonable fear for their life which is sometimes called the zone of danger test. If it was at least plausible that the train crew could have been killed which it usually is in these kinds of grade crossing accidents, then a claim for PTSD may be successful.
The amount of money involved in these claims is often not as large as after a train derailment where there is a major catastrophic injury and PTSD. However, I have been successful at obtaining settlements that reflect the anguish that the train crew often feels in these situations. Unfortunately, if you are a road engineer or conductor you are going to be involved in a certain number of these collisions in your career. It’s unavoidable because there are lots of unsafe crossing out there on the system, and often motorists make mistakes at them. If you have been injured in an accident on a grade crossing or suffered psychological damage, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers.