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Do Railroad Office Workers Have FELA Rights?

Yes, to give the briefest and clearest answer.

Any employee of a railroad corporation that engages in interstate commerce has coverage for work-related injuries and occupational illnesses under the law formally known as the Federal Employers Liability Act.


FELA was enacted in 1908 to protect railroad employees who were almost always excluded from the state-based workers’ compensation programs that were just then coming into being. While FELA procedures differ significantly from those used by workers’ comp, the intent is the same. Individuals who get hurt, killed or made sick while they were doing their jobs can seek compensation and damages for medical bills, disability, lost wages and, in the worst cases, wrongful deaths.

The first qualification for coverage under FELA is working for a company that is subject to the rules and regulations created to implement the law. So, again, yes, people who work for a railroad company but not on trains do have FELA rights.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1980s_computer_worker,_Centers_for_Disease_Control.jpg

And, of course, office workers face risks for workplace injuries and occupational illnesses. The Society for Human Resource Management, for instance, lists four of the most common physical dangers in office settings as

  • Slips, trips and falls;
  • Repetitive stress and strain, which are also known as ergonomic injuries;
  • Fire and smoke; and
  • Poor indoor air quality, ranging from particulates to fungal spores.

Railroad employees who work inside rail yard administration buildings and corporate headquarters can also be exposed to cancer-causing particulates, toxic fumes and infectious agents. The extensive use of asbestos insulation in buildings built before the 1980s and the almost constant idling of diesel-powered locomotives in freight and switching yards pose particular dangers to longtime and retired office staff.

Proving a FELA injury or illness claim is not always easy, though. Doing so requires showing that railroad, through its executives, managers or employees, acted negligently and failed to protect the injured or ill worker. Partnering with an experienced FELA attorney can help a current or retired railroad worker find, organize and present evidence of negligence. Documenting negligence makes a railroad strictly liable for settling a FELA claim or for paying a FELA award granted by a civil trial jury.


Mesothelioma Rate in Maine Is Highest in US

Cancer including mesothelioma that is linked to asbestos exposure has been found to kill Maine residents at the fastest rate in the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

A March 2017 CDC report on mesothelioma and asbestos has brought new focus onto the many dangerous of asbestos exposure. Researchers in that study found that from 1999-2015, the annual death rate due to malignant mesothelioma in Maine was 22.06 per million residents. That is the highest rate in the country. The state of Washington was the only other state that was above death rates of 20 per million.

Across the US, 45,221 people who were mostly male died from mesothelioma in that time period. Mesothelioma is a terrible and incurable cancer of the lining that surrounds the major organs, including the lungs, heart, and digestive organs. It is normally fatal. The sole cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, most commonly in industrial related work decades ago.

The CDC report determined that there was a 4.8% increase in mesothelioma deaths in the above time period. Health officials noted that most of those deaths were in those over 85. This suggests that the asbestos exposure happened long ago. Mesothelioma usually takes 20 to 50 years to develop in people who have been exposed to asbestos fibers.

The report shows that mesothelioma is still claiming many American lives, even though it has been 45 years since the US started to regulate how workers are exposed to asbestos. The EPA currently bans the use of asbestos in many products, but it still is permitted in some products, such as roof shingles.

The CDC stated that mesothelioma deaths have dropped in people under 55. But the fact that there still are deaths shows that some workers still are getting exposure to asbestos.

In the case of Maine, the majority of mesothelioma cases are first diagnosed from the ages 55-84. The CDC report focused on job site exposure to asbestos, but the substance occurs naturally in soil and rock. The study noted that some common Maine industries are higher risk for mesothelioma, such as construction, ship and boat building. 

Maine’s homes are also some of the oldest in the US; at least 31% were built prior to 1950. Thus they are more likely to contain asbestos fibers. Materials that have asbestos in them do not usually pose a health risk as long as they are not disturbed. but any renovation or demolition work can cause the deadly fibers to be released into the air.

Our View

Our railroad attorneys have handled many mesothelioma and asbestos cancer cases involving railroad workers, who were exposed to asbestos insulating materials which was prevalent on railroad for decades, on steam engines, diesel engines, railroad work places and railroad equipment. The study in the state of Maine has shown that workers with exposure in shipbuilding or other industries that were heavy users of asbestos insulating materials, have been stricken with asbestos cancers 30 to 50 years following their exposures. The same findings apply with railroad workers handling asbestos insulating materials, These workers are turning up with terrible mesothelioma cancer or asbestos related cancers decades after their exposures.

Our railroad mesothelioma attorneys are concerned that the rate of mesothelioma deaths is on the rise. If you or a loved one are suffering from mesothelioma, we suggest that you download our free guide Understanding Mesothelioma and the Devastating Impact of Asbestos on Railroad Workers. This guide will provide you with a good overview of your legal options. You may be able to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation for injuries associated with asbestos exposure.


New Study: Peritoneal Mesothelioma Risk Does Not Decline After Decades

A recent published clinical study in Italy has shown one of the most devastating and deadly factors about malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: The risk for contracting the terminal disease is high even many decades after the asbestos exposure ended. 


Peritoneal mesothelioma is a horrible form of mesothelioma that infests the membranes that surround the organs in the abdomen.

Asbestos exposure is well known to be the major cause of mesothelioma. But this latest study conducted new research that conclusively showed that the specific risk of peritoneal mesothelioma is still very high after many decades have passed from the exposure period.

The study was conducted by Italian scientists abroad and used a group of former textile workers. The group featured 1083 women and 894 men who were exposed heavily to asbestos, even if that exposure was short.

Among the 1977 former workers, 1019 had died. Research concluded that these workers were 30% more likely to die of peritoneal mesothelioma than the public. These workers also have a 33% higher risk of dying from pleural mesothelioma.

Critically, the study found that the risk of lung cancer did decline after 25 years after asbestos exposure. However, the risk of contracting mesothelioma of either type did not drop as time passed.


Researchers determined that asbestos fibers have a quality they call ‘biopersistance,’ which means that the body has a very difficult time ridding itself of them. The irritation and inflammation at the cellular level because of constant exposure to the sharp asbestos fibers is thought to trigger the disease.

Our View

This disturbing study on the horrors of mesothelioma should serve as a potent reminder to all workers who think they were exposed to asbestos years ago: You should undergo regular medical examinations by a qualified physician to determine if you have any sign of any asbestos-related disease developing.

Our mesothelioma attorneys in Virginia handle railroad mesothelioma cases mostly, and we know how railroads such as Norfolk Southern, CSX and BNSF Railway were exposing their workers to asbestos daily , when they knew it was dangerous.

We have handled several successful mesothelioma lawsuits in the past against big railroads, and wrote this free guide for workers who have been exposed to asbestos: Understanding Mesothelioma and the Devastating Impact of Asbestos on Railroad Workers. 

If you have been exposed, you should review this free guide so that you know what your potential legal options are.


Madison County IL Leads Country in Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Madison County IL led the US in mesothelioma lawsuits in 2015. This deadly lung and organ lining cancer is caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos fibers, most often in industrial and railroad employment that occurred prior to the 1980s.

The report compiled by the consulting firm KCIC found that Madison County IL accounted for almost 50% of the country’s mesothelioma lawsuits in 2015. Lawyers filed 1012 mesothelioma lawsuits in the county that year.


Many defense attorneys wrongly complain that it is too easy for people to file mesothelioma lawsuits in Madison County, and Illinois generally, which is known as the ‘rocket docket’ in some legal circles. In Illinois, the terminally ill, which includes many who have asbestos cancer, can get a case from filing to trial in only six months. The system has been set up to speed up trials for people who are very sick and need compensation to pay for their injuries, which is entirely fair, others argue. After all, the companies usually knew asbestos exposure could kill workers and many did little to protect them.

Over the years, railroads and other companies have had to pay big verdicts and settlements in Madison County; the largest was US Steel in 2003, where the jury ordered the company to pay $250 million. It later was settled for an undisclosed amount after the verdict in lieu of an appeal.

Our View

We are glad that there are states and jurisdictions in the US where it is easier for people terminally ill with mesothelioma to get the compensation they need and deserve. Our Virginia mesothelioma law firm has a long history of supporting the legal rights of railroad workers who have been injured by the deadly ravages of asbestos. Many of these companies knew for decades that asbestos is extremely hazardous to workers, yet they did nothing to protect the people who worked for them.

Our asbestos cancer attorneys fight for the rights of people injured by asbestos, as well as their grieving families when their loved one passes away. We hope that more states will make it easier for litigants to file mesothelioma lawsuits against negligent companies.



WV Widow Names 100+ Companies in Asbestos Lawsuit

A recent case in West Virginia is a good illustration of how many different companies can be sued for exposing a former worker to asbestos, which can lead to mesothelioma in some cases. 

The lawsuit was filed by Lois June Wells from Middlebourne WV. her late husband Robert Wayne Wells was employed by Weirton Steel in Weirton and also for Miles/Mobay in nearby New Martinsville. One might think that only those two companies would be named in a wrongful death lawsuit but her mesothelioma lawsuit named 103 different companies that were allegedly responsible for his asbestos cancer, which led to his death in July 2015.


The companies named in the suit have been accused of negligence for many reasons. The suit states that the companies knew or should have known of dangers posed by their products and that they did not provide warnings or supply safety equipment. Also, the suit alleges that equipment and supplies were not labeled and warnings were not provided.

Our View

Mesothelioma is a terrible form of lung and organ lining cancer that develops many years after the person is exposed to asbestos. Our mesothelioma law firm often represents railroad workers who developed asbestos cancer related to their work on railroads.

It could prove difficult in the West Virginia case for the woman’s legal group to prove more than 100 companies are responsible for her husband’s death, but we will watch that case with interest to see how it unfolds.

Large corporations are notorious for trying to deny that their products or conduct led to asbestos cancer in any of their workers. Many of the railroad companies we have sued tried to downplay for years the risks associated with asbestos exposure. This is not a surprise because companies do not want to spend money to make their workplaces safer.

However, our FELA law firm has been able to show in our mesothelioma lawsuits that the company(ies) usually knew years ago that asbestos exposure can lead to serious health consequences. Once we are able to establish that fact, as well as the fact that the company had asbestos-containing products to which the decedent was exposed, we have won very large personal injury asbestos settlements for our clients. 


NY Jury Awards $3.2 Million in Machinist Mesothelioma Case

The estate of a machinist mate in New York has been awarded $3.2 million in compensation for the mesothelioma he contracted while working for Jenkins Bros., a company that made the valves that led to his asbestos exposure.

In the case at the Supreme Court of New York, County of Schenectady NY, the estate of Scott Shays was awarded the multi million dollar award for his past pain and suffering and loss of the pleasures of life.


The jury found Jenkins Bros. 50% responsible, stating that the company acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of workers.

According to court documents, Shays was exposed to asbestos gaskets, packing and external insulation that were found in and around Jenkins valves, which he used in his time in the US Navy and Vermont National Guard. He served as a machinist mate fire apprentice from April to December 1976.

Shays died from pleural mesothelioma in April 2016 and was 57 years old.

Our View

Mesothelioma is a horrible and incurable form of cancer that affects the linings of the organs, including the lungs, heart and abdominal organs. It also affects the nerves and blood vessels in parts of the chest, so it is especially painful and difficult to treat. Most mesothelioma victims die within 18 months, and the disease is nearly always caused by exposure to asbestos.

In our work as railroad mesothelioma attorneys, we know that there really is no safe level of asbestos exposure. All types of asbestos can cause mesothelioma. Even if the worker has a short exposure period – as apparently was the case in the above NY lawsuit – it can be enough for the mesothelioma to be considered at least partially related to the person’s occupation.

In the railroad industry, we know that these companies try various tricks and tactics to delay and drag out legitimate claims that are filed under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). For instance, our mesothelioma legal firm once represented two railroad workers who contracted mesothelioma from their work as conductors and switchmen.

The railroad argued that it had no asbestos in products that the workers would have ‘normally’ been exposed to. However, we brought in experienced industrial hygiene experts who accessed internal railroad documents and invoices. They concluded that the workers were indeed exposed to deadly asbestos fibers in their work on the railroad.

They sadly died before the case was brought to conclusion, but at least our mesothelioma attorneys were able to secure a large settlement to ensure the finances of their grieving families.




What To Do If You Are Diagnosed with Mesothelioma in Virginia

Many former railroad workers – including conductors, engineers, switchmen, track maintenance workers and more – are diagnosed with serious cancers after their working days are over. These include mesothelioma, lung cancer, bladder cancer, brain cancer and colon cancer.

We talk to many families loved who wonder, was the cancer caused by being around equipment that had asbestos in it? Many of these family members really had no idea what their loved one did on the job; few of them were ever around the railroad yard or office.


That is why experienced mesothelioma railroad cancer lawyers like us often are investigators for railroad workers and their families. Our job is to dig deep into railroad company records, often decades old, to determine which asbestos-tainted railroad equipment that worker may have been exposed to. Was it the engines themselves? The caboose? The roundhouse? Or was it asbestos-lined brake parts? Was it something else?

It could have been many or all of those things, depending upon the mesothelioma cancer claim. After all, most railroads, including CSX, Norfolk Southern, Conrail and others, used asbestos for decades to heat insulate their products and equipment because of the outstanding insulating quality of most forms of the toxic substance.

As experienced railroad mesothelioma lawyers, we know that the terrible health effects of long term asbestos exposure were known by some railroads as early as 1930. Yet, they continued to expose their workers to the deadly fibers, which can cause this horrible, aggressive and virtually untreatable cancer of the organ linings in the body.

That is why it is incredibly important for former railroad workers and their families to consult with an experienced FELA lawyer if they or loved ones may have been exposed to asbestos in their career. If it can be proven in civil court that you or your loved one was exposed on the railroad job to asbestos which substantially led to his or her asbestos cancer, you can be entitled to a very large financial settlement. ‘

These cases can be very tough to prove; railroads have huge financial resources and defense attorneys who try to argue often that the railroad had no asbestos in its products. We have seen railroads try that trick many times, and we usually are able to find internal railroad documents that state otherwise.

Mesothelioma Rate Has Not Dropped Despite Huge Drop In Asbestos Usage

By Rick Shapiro, Railroad Accident/FELA Attorney

Workers with railroad companies such as Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF, Amtrak, etc. have been known to suffer serious lung conditions as a result of exposure to asbestos. The once popular material was embraced by the construction, manufacturing and railroad industries given its cheap price, easy availability and usefulness in absorbing sound and heat. However, asbestos is also a highly toxic fiber which can get lodged in the linings of your lungs and eventually cause deadly conditions like mesothelioma.

Given the well-known danger of asbestos, manufacturers were finally forced by government regulators to severely restrict if not entirely eliminate the use of asbestos in the United States. Back in the 1970s, asbestos usage reached its peak, with more than 800,000 metric tons of the product being used across the country. Thankfully, pressure from the federal government and others forced companies to cut back use so that by 2011, just barely 1,000 metric tons of asbestos were used in the U.S.

Despite the dramatic drop in asbestos usage, there has not been a similar decline in the number of mesothelioma cases. Though many people would expect the number of mesothelioma and other lung disease cases to drop by corresponding amounts, the rate of mesothelioma diagnosis has actually remained constant in the U.S. for decades. According to the American Cancer Society, the rate of mesothelioma diagnosis increased substantially between the 1970s and the 1990s and has remained fairly constant since then. Today, approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year.

Why have the rates remained the same despite the dramatic drops in asbestos usage? For one thing, even though new usage of asbestos has declined dramatically, old asbestos can still lurk in buildings undetected. Because of how prevalent asbestos used to be, there are many structures that could contain asbestos which might inadvertently harm workers who never even knew it was there. The time and expense associated with asbestos cleanup has deterred some people from taking action to remove the harmful substance.

Another reason why mesothelioma rates have not declined is that asbestos exposure can take years if not decades to manifest as mesothelioma. In some cases, even a short-term exposure to asbestos can result in the development of mesothelioma fifty years later.

Given this long lead-time, many people who worked in and around asbestos decades ago are only now being diagnosed with lung disease.