Rail track maintenance worker’s back injury claim

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This case study relates to a Thompsons client’s personal injury compensation claim after he suffered a trip and fall accident while carrying out maintenance work on a train track.

His union, RMT, referred him to our team of expert workplace accident solicitors so we could pursue compensation on his behalf.

The background

When he suffered the trip and fall accident that led to his injury, our client was working for National Rail as a team leader in charge of a team of technicians. It was his responsibility to inspect the track’s overhead power lines, looking for any faults and attending to any maintenance issues.

On 19 April 2019, our client and his team were working a night shift. They were walking along and inspecting the tracks between Clydebank Station and Dalmuir Station in West Dunbartonshire when they noticed a fault that required urgent repair. Because they needed to retrieve the necessary equipment, they carried on to Dalmuir station, which was only a few hundred yards further on from the fault, and then drove their van to the closest railway access point.

The access point, closed off to the public, consisted of a set of wooden planks that formed makeshift steps leading down to the track. Our client had to descend these steps while carrying his equipment – a set of poles that allowed him to move the overhead power cables. However, the steps were in a state of disrepair, and when our client put his foot on the first step, the first riser, being old and rotten, split and moved away from him. Our client slipped and put the entire weight of his body and of the poles onto his left knee. He then fell backwards, and the poles (which he was carrying over his right shoulder) struck a fence, causing his body to twist so that he injured his back and shoulder.

Although our client suspected he had torn a ligament in his knee and was in severe pain, he completed the urgent track repair before going to the hospital.

The consequences

After his shift, our client drove to the hospital. A nurse confirmed he had torn a ligament in his left knee and that his right shoulder and lower back had sustained soft tissue strains.

He also visited his GP, who referred him to the orthopaedics unit at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He had scans of his knee, but because he had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing immunotherapy, his knee could not be treated at that time.

In the weeks following the slip and fall accident, our client experienced a lot of pain that made daily living very difficult. He required a lot of assistance from his wife and daughter, as he struggled with simple tasks. His knee pain was ongoing and caused him to lose strength in his legs.

He also incurred a significant loss of earnings. As he was unable to continue working, he missed out on shift allowance and overtime and received only half his pay after the first six months of absence.

After our client’s accident, the access point was closed and condemned.

The settlement

We intimated a claim to our client’s employer, who admitted liability pre-litigation but also argued that our client’s own actions had partly contributed to the accident.

The defenders made several offers pre-litigation, but we did not think these were reasonable, so we raised our client’s knee and back injury claim in court.

We had supportive liability evidence in the form of the accident report, which confirmed that the employer did not carry out any inspections or maintenance on the stairs. We also had a medical report that confirmed the extent of our client’s injuries: a soft tissue injury to his knee with symptoms that would last six to nine months and a lower back injury that would take him one month to recover from.

The defenders eventually offered a sum of £19,500. Considering all the relevant heads of claim, we believed that this was a good offer and was unlikely to be improved upon if the case proceeded to court. We discussed the sum with our client, and he was happy to accept the offer.

The workplace accident settlement was agreed on 2 August 2022.

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