Legally, railroads are responsible for the negligence of their agents while performing duties for the railroad. Courts typically consider transportation services a railroad provides to get employees to and from trains to be agents, or arms, of the railroad. Therefore, if an employee is a passenger in a vehicle provided by the railroad to transport him or her to or from a train and is injured due to the negligence of the driver of the vehicle or to a defect in the vehicle, the railroad may be responsible for the injuries.
The exception is when a wreck is caused by someone else who is not working for the railroad. For example, if a transportation van is legally stopped at a stop signal and is struck from behind by another vehicle, it is usually the negligent driver who struck the transportation vehicle who is held responsible for the injuries and not the railroad. Also, if an injury is caused by a defect in a vehicle neither the transportation company nor the railroad knew, nor should have known, about, courts will typically find that negligence on the part of the rail operator or its agent does not exist.
On the other hand, if a defect is related to a failure to properly inspect or maintain a vehicle, courts will typically find that the defects is of a nature that a railroad should have anticipated and, then, hold the railroad liable for injuries due to the defect.
I’m frequently asked whether a railroad employee should complete an accident report for a transportation company if they’re hurt in the transportation company’s vehicle. My answer is usually yes. The form provides documentation of the incident for future reference. The employee should take care to complete the accident report form accurately and make an effort to get a copy of the completed form for his or her records.
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