Railroad Workers’ Lawyers
According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s 2017 Office of Safety Analysis report, 691 million Americans traveled by train last year. Most people reached their destinations because professional railroad crews ensured their safe travel. These dedicated employees worked an impressive 433 million total hours to keep the country’s tracks operating smoothly.
Unfortunately, the commuting public often doesn’t realize these hard-working crew members face serious dangers on a daily basis. Some workers endure sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue due to long hours. Others receive limited time off work because of employee shortages. Unlucky railroad employees get injured when equipment malfunctions, or heavy freight crushes their bodies.
According to the federal agency’s statistics, these are ongoing perils. The bureau states that:
- 11,671 railroad accidents occurred last year.
- 4,177 railroad employees were injured in on-duty incidents in 2017.
- 12 employees died in rail accidents.
- 4,165 accidents were non-fatal conditions.
The report also acknowledges five primary causes of accidents. It discovered:
- Human factors caused 37.9 percent of railroad accidents.
- Equipment defects initiated 14.05 percent of incidents.
- Track defects caused 27.7 percent of accidents.
- Miscellaneous factors sparked 17.62 percent of accidents.
- Signal problems accounted for 2.73 percent of accidents.
Our Experienced Railroad Accident Lawyers
Most railroad professionals know about the hazards associated with their work. Many loyal employees give their best work to these companies despite the dangers involved.
However, when they’re injured in serious accidents, they can sometimes realize that their loyalty is not reciprocated. A company may try to find loopholes to absolve itself of fault, or reduce compensation due to injured employees.
Injured employees often lose their ability to earn an income because they cannot work. They cannot pay bills on time or care for their families and may risk losing their homes or possessions. They also face high medical bills because of the accident, which in some cases will require lifelong care or rehabilitation.
Rome, Arata, Baxley & Stelly, LLC, believes railroad employees deserve justice. Our firm’s lawyers have extensive experience handling Federal Employers Liability Act claims, and have successfully represented numerous clients both in and out of the courtroom.
Our Firm Fights for Railroad Workers
Our firm doesn’t make extravagant claims—we get results. Our firm has obtained several large settlements for injured railroad workers and their families in the past:
Conductor: $1.45 million settlement – We represented a conductor who was injured when the speeding train upon which he was working disastrously derailed. He frantically attempted to assist his seriously injured passengers in the aftermath of the derailment before tending to his own injuries. He suffered several physical injuries, the most prominent being two broken teeth, one of which required surgical extraction, and traumatically injured vertebrae in his neck. He made an excellent recovery from his physical injuries, and his medical bills only totaled slightly more than $16,000 for accident-related treatment. However, he endured disturbing post-traumatic stress disorder in the form of flashbacks and constant memories of the terror that he experienced, witnessed, and heard when this horrific derailment occurred.
Locomotive engineer: $4 million settlement – This wrongful death case involved the family of a locomotive engineer. The employee suffered severe third-degree burns when his freight train collided with a gasoline tanker in New Orleans, later resulting in the engineer’s death. Our firm fought to secure a $4 million settlement for the engineer’s loved ones.
Train Attendant: $1.8 million settlement – We represented a lead service attendant who was injured when her speeding train horrifically derailed and the car upon which she was working left the tracks and was thrown on its side. Our client suffered physical injuries to several areas of her body (including her head, neck, back, arm, ankle, and foot), but none of the traumatic injuries were terribly serious or required any surgery. More significantly, however, she experienced agonizing psychological injuries, including PTSD, nightmares, and flashbacks which required psychiatric treatment and prevented her from returning to work at the railroad. We successfully negotiated a 1.8 million dollar settlement with the railroad to resolve this case.
While it is impossible to guarantee a case’s outcome based on previous experiences, our track record shows we provide passion, dedication, and tireless commitment to every one of our clients.
Occupational Hazards, Diseases, and Injuries
Railroad workers endure many dangers on the job. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, train accidents fall into three primary areas: highway-rail grade crossing incidents, rail equipment accidents, and casualties (including deaths, non-fatal injuries, and diseases). Here are common occupational hazards train employees face:
Amputations – Catastrophic train accidents can severely crush or sever railroad employees’ limbs, some of which require amputation. This recently happened in the Boston area to an MBTA railroad conductor. In 2017, he lost his footing and fell underneath his train as it pulled into a station. It crushed his leg, requiring amputation. Amputees need extensive physical and emotional rehabilitation. They may receive prosthetic limbs and must often relearn basic motor skills.
Traumatic brain injuries – Employees who sustain severe head trauma may develop traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that this devastating condition can leave a lasting impact on cognitive function. Some TBI patients endure personality changes, persistent headaches, vision changes, and speech problems. Patients can encounter difficulty concentrating, expressing their feelings, and interpreting others’ emotions. Rehabilitation can take months, and many patients never fully recover.
Broken bones – Orthopedic trauma is one of the most common railroad work-related injuries. Accident victims can tumble from cars, or freight containers can hit limbs, fracturing bones.
Crush injuries – This occurs when heavy objects smash limbs. Individuals may experience severe nerve damage and physical disability. Many crush injury victims cannot return to work.
Neck injuries – Our necks are sensitive areas, susceptible to trauma. Injuries occur due to sudden stops that cause whiplash. Other damage results from falls, faulty equipment, or large items striking the body. This impairment causes chronic pain, nervous system issues, migraine headaches, and limited mobility. Most sufferers need medical visits, occupational therapy, and chiropractic treatments to relieve symptoms.
Electrocution – Railway employees face another peril on the tracks: electrocution. Exposure to live electrical wires, lightning, and faulty tracks can sear tissue. The voltage can trigger heart attacks and nervous system damage. Some workers receive second and third-degree burns. Some electrocution cases can result in fatalities.
Herniated discs – At work, rail workers may lift large packages and heavy equipment. This may cause the spinal discs to herniate. The spinal column, then, pinches nerves. This chronic, painful condition limits the employees’ ability to work, and may require surgery, medication, and pain management.
Torn ligaments – Tendons connect muscles to the skeleton, and ligaments support the joints. People can suffer sprained or torn connective tissue during an accident. These injuries require prolonged rest to heal.
Spinal cord damage – The spinal cord is a fragile network of nerves and damage to this area can affect a person for life. Some victims cannot feel their limbs; others cannot walk or move their arms, depending on where the injury occurred.
Severe burns – Crew members can suffer severe burns from hot rails or caustic materials. Treatments involve skin grafts and surgeries.
Cancer – Rail employees work around dangerous chemicals. Exposure damages blood lymphocytes and increases chromosomal aberrations. Locomotive engineers have an increased risk of chronic lymphatic leukemia (a blood and bone marrow cancer).
Neuropathy – Railroad painters use dangerous chemicals and solvents in their work. These materials can damage their peripheral nerves, causing numbness and weakness.
Carpal tunnel syndrome – Railroad and transit workers use genotoxic compounds that lead to chromosomal changes. These solvents harm hormone-binding proteins like myeline, found in nerve tissue. The repeated use of drills, jackhammers, and other vibrating tools create extra trauma and can cause the nerves to swell. These workers may later develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
Determining Who Is at Fault in Your Case
Railroads are interstate commerce companies. In 1908, Congress enacted the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to compensate injured railroad workers.
- Under FELA, companies have a duty to:
- Provide workers with safe environments, functioning equipment, and safety devices.
- Inspect their work zones and ensure they are hazard-free.
- Give workers training, supervision, and help to perform their job functions.
- Keep workers safe from dangerous acts of other people.
- Enforce workplace rules and regulations.
- Refrain from imposing unreasonable work quotas.
Employees must prove the railroad is at fault under FELA – Workers’ compensation policies are no-fault, so employees can collect regardless of who caused the accident. However, under FELA, railroad workers must prove that injuries resulted from the negligence of the railroad, its contractor, or malfunctioning equipment.
The railroads are highly capable of defending against FELA claims. Hiring a dedicated legal team can ensure you need not fight against the railroad and its lawyers alone.
What Damages Can Railway Workers Recover?
Workers’ compensation claims only recover employees’ medical costs and a portion of lost wages. Railway workers, however, can get larger financial awards and protections under FELA. The law entitles injured workers to jury trials, and covered employees have the option to file claims in either state or federal court. Workers can sue for damages that include:
- Past and future wage losses and fringe benefits
- Prior and ongoing medical costs not covered by their insurance
- Past and future mental distress, suffering, and pain
FELA also allows surviving family members to pursue compensation in the case of deceased rail workers.
Ways Railroads Avoid Paying Claims
Injured employees often believe the railroad has their best interests at heart after a serious accident. The railroad, however, will often work hard to limit its statutory liability. Most railroads retain experienced legal and investigative teams that can limit financial awards to injured workers. These professionals collect evidence to undermine the employee’s claims of liability and may speak to employees when they’re the most vulnerable.
After an injury, the railroad’s claim agents may wish to interview you or your colleagues without representation, or may pressure you to sign documents that can strip you of your rights. You must protect yourself after a railroad injury. Do not communicate, negotiate, or sign anything at your employer’s request without first securing legal representation. After an injury, injured workers are at a severe disadvantage. Level the playing field and hire your own experienced legal team, like that of Rome, Arata, Baxley, & Stelly, LLC.
Our Attorneys Get Results
Rome, Arata, Baxley & Stelly, LLC, can help railroad workers who suffer on-the-job injuries. Schedule a free consultation with us at 800-249-1306 or use our contact page.