What are my rights if I'm injured in a hired van?
By Mark Allen
Coordinator of UTU Designated Legal Counsel
Railroad workers sometimes jokingly say they spend more time in vans than trains as railroads transport their workers using contract limousine services. As agents of the railroad, these companies may be held to the same legal standard as the railroad if their negligence causes injuries. It is therefore important to look for all details of the incident that might point to fault on the part of the van driver (i.e. eating or talking on a cell phone while driving).
But, what if the van driver is not at fault? Where the van driver is not at fault in causing the collision, there is NO claim against the railroad or the van service company to compensate the injured railroad worker for any injuries. The claim or lawsuit must be brought against the other driver who caused the collision. In this example, the rail-road worker usually makes his claim against an insurance company. Insurance companies for drivers usually limit the amount of coverage to a per-person and per-accident basis. So where another driver is at fault, the insurance coverage may be small and insufficient to cover all of the railroader’s expenses. Or, even worse, the other driver may have no insurance at all.
If a driver who hits a hired van is totally at fault but is not insured or is underinsured, the railroader may be required to look toward the van company’s uninsured/underinsured motorist policy or possibly the railroad worker’s own vehicular policy (if it has uninsured/underinsured provi-sions). There may also be off-track vehicle insurance by agreement between the UTU and the railroad that may pro-vide benefits, as well. It is worthwhile to review your own vehicle policy NOW to determine if it provides you with appropriate benefits for uninsured and underinsured motorist claims.
Contact a UTU designated legal counsel for specific advice on all injury questions. Go to www.utu.org and click on “Designated Legal Counsel” on the top of page under “About UTU”; or ask your local union officers for the list.