SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO -- A railroad work accident that left a San Jose man with a fractured skull and broken back and in a monthlong coma has prompted a negligence lawsuit against Caltrain.

Jose A. Salazar, 52, says Caltrain didn't provide a safe work environment the day fellow workers hit him with a 39-foot long, 1,768 pound section of steel track. He survived his injuries, but it's not clear what the long-term impact of the Nov. 8 accident will be on his brain, according to the suit filed Wednesday in San Mateo County Superior Court.

Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn didn't provide any response to the suit, saying in an email "we are unable to comment on pending litigation."

On the day he was hurt, Salazar and some co-workers were repairing a damaged section of rail north of the South San Francisco Caltrain station. A piece of rail smashed into him after fellow workers lost control while lifting it.

He ultimately ended up pinned to the ground, with injuries that also included a punctured lung, broken ribs and a lacerated spleen, the suits says.

Salazar argues in the complaint that the fellow workers didn't use proper procedures or equipment when moving the rail. The workers should have used a machine such as a Speed Swing, a piece of heavy equipment to work on railroad tracks, the suit says.


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Salazar was working for TransitAmerica Services Inc., which Caltrain's board voted to hire in Sept. 2011 to operate its commuter rail system that runs from San Francisco to Gilroy. TransitAmerica was also named as a defendant in the suit as was Union Pacific Railroad Company, which also uses the tracks where the accident happened.

"He's lucky to be alive," said Salazar's attorney Paula Rasmussen. "He says that everyday."

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.