Michael Golden Law Corporation July 17, 2017

A character in the classic movie, American Graffiti, says it all: Driving is a serious business. Deadly serious, one might add without exaggeration, for the very good reason that loss of life may result. Driving has become such a commonplace activity that drivers can sometimes neglect to remain fully alert. When an ambulance driver is involved, such neglect can be particularly pernicious and may be the primary cause for commencing a wrongful death lawsuit.

The facts in a fatal case involving the transport of an elderly Langley resident from a full-care facility to a hospital in nearby Abbotsford, British Columbia, have been fully investigated by the Transportation Safety Board. At the junction of a Langley railway crossing at Crush Crescent, an ambulance driver stopped on the tracks, intending to turn left onto Grover Road. Talking on his cell phone, the driver became aware too late that bells, lights and barrier had been activated by an oncoming train.

The train hit the ambulance twice, once on its back end and then again as the vehicle spun around. The paramedics who had just begun their shift suffered injuries. They and their elderly female patient never completed the half-hour drive to Abbotsford. Tragically, she did not survive the September 2015 crash. The Transportation Safety Board concluded that driver distraction was a key cause of the crash which led to the ultimate harm of loss of life.

The role of the Transportation Safety Board in British Columbia is to determine cause whether of human error or inadequate road or rail safety measures. Their report speculated on signalling that may have misled the driver to believe that no trains were in the area. However, since this driver could not have given his full attention to the road signage because of his cell phone conversation, the report cited his inattention as a significant contributing factor to the death of the woman in his care.

The shock caused to her family must have been especially appalling, given that this should have been a routine transport by health care workers. The distress occasioned by this painful and traumatic loss entitles families in British Columbia to file for damages attached to a wrongful death lawsuit. A successful lawsuit which addresses end-of-life and related costs as well as pain and suffering would ease a family’s way through the aftermath of such a sudden and unexpected tragedy.

Source: Vancouver Sun, “TSB releases report about fatal 2015 train-ambulance collision“, Jennifer Saltman, July 13, 2017