• Brachers’ Personal Injury team has successfully settled a claim against Network Rail following an incident that occurred on a level crossing when our client’s vehicle was hit by a train.

    Our client, Mr J, was a delivery driver who was carrying out his deliveries in a rural Kent village. His satnav had taken him to the wrong address, however, the owner of the property directed him to the correct address, which took him over a level crossing.

    He arrived at the level crossing and pressed the button which opened the gate, allowing him to cross. Assuming all was clear, he proceeded to cross when his vehicle was struck by a train travelling at high speed. The impact caused our client to sustain a mild brain injury, fractured shoulder blade, psychological injury and lacerations to the face.

    Our approach

    While investigating the matter, we became aware the Rail Investigation Bureau (RAIB) was investigating the same incident and had issued urgent safety advice to Network Rail regarding the design of level crossing.

    Although the full report was not yet completed, we carried out our own research into the suitability of Power Operated Gate Opening (POGO) systems on level crossings. Our investigations revealed that Network Rail had changed from the manual opening system to the power operated one.

    A manual opening system would have made it more obvious to users that they had to call the guard to check it was safe to proceed. This is less obvious for the power operated systems, especially to inexperienced users.

    We sent a Letter of Claim arguing that, in the absence of appropriate signage, an inexperienced driver would assume the power operated opening meant it was safe to go. We argued that it should have been more obvious that a driver still had to contact the guard to ensure it was safe to cross.

    Following completion of the RAIB investigation, which criticised the adequacy of the design and signage, Network Rail accepted primary liability but argued that our client should accept some responsibility for causing their own injuries, suggesting Mr J’s compensation should be reduced by 50% to account for this. Their argument was that the instruction to ring the guard was on the sign and so our client should have known to call the guard to check it was safe to cross before doing so.

    While it was correct that the sign had this instruction, we argued it was not clear, as pointed out by their own investigation. After some negotiation, the defendant accepted our client’s compensation should only be reduced by 30% due to their ‘contributory negligence’.

    Once we had resolved the liability issue, we then had to get medical evidence to show the extent of our client’s injuries. In particular, we needed to know how severe Mr J’s head injury was, so we knew how achieve the best settlement. Following investigation, the head injury was revealed to be mild with no significant lasting consequences.

    The outcome

    After some negotiation, we were able to settle the matter with Network Rail, with our client obtaining a five-figure settlement. Mr J was pleased that we were able to maximise his compensation and very relieved that he could now move forward after his ordeal.

    How can we help you?

    Mark Gore is a Senior Associate in Brachers’ Personal Injury and Industrial Disease team. He specialises in serious and complex personal injury claims. Mark’s goal is not simply to obtain compensation for clients, but to ensure they receive the treatment they need to move forward in life. If you would like to talk to Mark about a potential claim, please call him on 01622 680409 or email markgore@brachers.co.uk

    This content is correct at time of publication

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