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Despite continued calls for railroad safety, railroad workers continue to perform their jobs in often dangerous conditions. These conditions frequently result in serious injuries to workers and even more tragically, their deaths. Last year alone, there were more than 25 railroad workers killed while on the job.
Whenever a railroad employee is injured, any compensation is covered under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). FELA was enacted in 1908 to provide railroad workers and their families federal protection and process for legal recovery in the event of injury or death.
- Virginia Railroad Worker Injuries and FELA Law
- Railroad Tactic Seeks to Reduce Railroad Worker Injury Verdicts
- FELA Enforcement Leads to Safer Workplace
Although FELA offers protections to railroad workers that are similar to workers’ compensation insurance, which protects and provides injured workers in other industries, there is a major difference when it comes to liability. Unlike workers’ compensation, which does not require an injured worker to prove the employer is liable for their injury, FELA is based on a fault-based system. This means an injured railroad worker must prove that their injury was caused due to the negligence on the part of the railroad. However, FELA does allow an injured railroad worker to sue the railroad for damages, which is something someone covered under workers’ compensation cannot.
Wrongful Death and FELA
When a railroad worker dies from their injuries sustained on the job, their family or estate representative can file a lawsuit under FELA to recover damages. The party filing the lawsuit is a personal representative of the decedent, which can be a spouse or close family member although others can serve in that capacity. Please note, the statute of limitations for filing this claim is only three years from the date of injury or death, so it is critical to contact a Virginia FELA attorney as soon as possible.
The exact date will be determined by the type of injury the victim suffered. When the death was caused by sudden trauma, the three-year date is evident, but when the death was caused by a slow-developing injury, such as an asbestos-related illness, it can be much more complex to determine the three-year period. Your attorney will be able to make that determination for you.
The first step a FELA attorney will take is to determine what act of negligence on the railroad’s part or safety violation caused the victim’s death. Once he or she has established the railroad’s liability, they will then determine what compensation the victim’s family can pursue. FELA allows survivors to obtain financial compensation for the following damages:
- The medical, funeral, and burial expenses the family incurred as a result of the victim’s death.
- The pecuniary (financial losses) the family will suffer as a result of the victim’s death. This can include lost future wages, benefits, and services the victim would have provided for his or her family had they survived. Some of the different services the victim provided their family which can be included in a FELA wrongful death lawsuit can include childcare, household duties (i.e. landscaping, home maintenance, etc.), and any other activities the victim provided the family which they will now have to pay someone to perform.
- The pain and suffering the victim experienced from their injuries before they died, including psychological injuries in fear of impending death and conscious pain and suffering.
Unfortunately, the Federal Employers Liability Act differs from typical state wrongful death statute by prohibiting recovery of grief, loss of consortium, and loss of companionship to the surviving spouse or close family members.
Contact a Virginia FELA Wrongful Death Attorney
In many cases that involve the tragic death of a railroad employee, the railroad may contact the victim’s family to try to offer a quick settlement. The amounts they offer are usually far below the actual amount the family would recover with the help of a FELA wrongful death attorney. Families should never sign or agree to any settlement without first consulting with a Virginia FELA attorney.
At Shapiro & Appleton, we have extensive legal experience advocating for railroad workers and their families. If your loved one has been killed in a railroad accident, call our firm today to find out how we can help your family get the legal and financial justice you deserve.
A jury in Tyler, Texas awarded more than $8 million to a truck driver from East Texas who suffered serious injuries in a railroad accident in May 2015.
The truck driver was injured while he was unloading a feed truck into a train car at a trans-loading facility in Mt. Vernon, Texas. The railroad conductor told the truck driver to get on the top of the train car, but he then moved the car without telling the truck driver. He fell more than 15 feet and suffered serious personal injuries that left him without the ability to work.
The key moment in the personal injury lawsuit came when the conductor provided contradictory testimony regarding the accident.
The man who was injured told the media that he was relieved that he had been compensated for his injuries so that he could begin the healing process.
Our railroad injury and personal injury attorneys in Virginia are pleased that this injured truck driver received ample compensation for his railroad accident injuries. In the type of railroad work accident described, it is very important that the railroad conductor and the truck driver communicate clearly to avoid a serious accident. Because that did not happen, the truck driver is now dealing with life-changing personal injuries.
Personal injury lawsuits constitute the majority of civil lawsuits in the United States. Many of these accidents occur on the job and can often be avoided.It is important to avoid workplace accidents because they, of course, injure workers, but also cost companies a lot of money. Here are some tips to avoid workplace accidents:
- Have a safety and wellness plan. This is the foundation for a safe workplace. The program should cover all aspects of employee safety and health. The above case could have been avoided if there was a protocol in place to prevent the train car from being moved when someone was on top of it.
- Educate staff. It is important to constantly cultivate a culture of safety with employees and management. There should be regular training about the importance of following safety procedures to prevent personal injuries and lawsuits.
- Study safety vulnerabilities. Every business and industry are unique, so you should ensure that you study the ways that accidents can happen in your specific workplace. That way you can avoid them.
If you were injured in a workplace or other type of accident, you may be able to receive compensation if someone acted negligently, as in this $130,000 neck injury settlement we handled a few years ago.
A New York federal judge in Long Island ruled last week that the Long Island Railroad Company must face a negligence lawsuit due to poor medical advice it allegedly provided to an employee who hurt his back on the job. The judge ruled that there is enough evidence to possibly hold the railroad liable for his injuries.
US District Judge Edgardo Ramos denied the motion by the railroad for summary judgement to dodge three negligence claims that the employee asserted against the railroad under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. The worker sued the railroad for injuries that he suffered when he was drilling into a section of railroad track to repair what is called a heat kink. He also allegedly suffered further back injuries in the physical therapy overseen by Long Island Railroad Company.
Ramos ruled that there was sufficient evidence to proceed with the first negligence claim, as LIRR did not provide him with a safe workplace. The judge added that the railroad did not maintain the track, which led to the heat kink forming.
The railroad worker was a signal maintainer for 10 years before he had a herniated disc in his back in 2012 on the job. He was doing crossing inspections when he had to fix the heat kink in the track. This involves replacing and reclamping a drill bit, which means he must lug around a 50 pound drill for several hours, which was when he suffered the back injury.
On the second negligence claim, the judge agreed that the ‘work hardening’ aspect of his physical therapy may have worsened his back injury. Critically, the physical therapy was overseen by LIRR supervisors who are not doctors or physical therapists.
Our railroad workplace injury attorneys in Virginia certainly hope that this injured worker is successful in his lawsuit and recovers fully from his injuries. From the news report, it sounds entirely possible that the railroad could be negligent and this led to his back injury. It is particularly alarming that the man’s supervisors who are not medical professionals oversaw the man’s rehabilitation. A herniated disc is an extremely serious condition and must be handled very carefully by qualified medical personnel.
If you have been hurt on the job at a railroad, please review our guide A Railroad Worker’s Rights When Injured on the Job. Many railroad workers regard our guide as the bible on the Federal Employers Liability Act. This federal statute is critical when an injured rail worker gets hurt while working. Understanding this statute is vital in obtaining maximum compensation in a FELA lawsuit, as in this case that we settled for $825,000.
A former railroad car inspector in Philadelphia PA whose workplace injuries forced an early retirement won a $597,000 verdict by a jury.
The former railroad worker had to end his employment after 38 years with CSX Transportation in June 2013 because of various shoulder and knee injuries that resulted from having to handle heavy objects in unusual positions for years.
The worker filed the lawsuit against CSX and also Consolidated Rail Corp, alleged that both companies had violated the Federal Employer Liability Act.
The defendants argued that the man’s injuries were because of age and a thyroid condition. They also challenged that he could have worked until age 67. Further, the defense questioned if the man really was that injured because he still ran 5k races before and after his employment ended. His attorney countered that running straight forward is not a problem for the man, rather side to side motion causes pain.
An ergonomics expert stated in the trial that the 220 pound equipment that he had to lift on his own should have been handled by two or more workers.
Our Virginia railroad injury attorneys know all too well the tricks and and tactics that railroads attempt to use to deny legitimate railroad worker injury claims. That is why we have written this guide – A Railroad Worker’s Rights When Injured on the Job. If you have suffered an acute or chronic railroad worker injury, be sure to download this guide so that you know your legal options. We routinely represent injured railroad workers in Virginia, and recently had this $825,000 settlement.
We also have written another guide called What Railroad Claim Agents Don’t Want You To Know. This guide will help you to know the types of deceptive tactics that railroad claim agents may use to deny your railroad workplace injury claim.
The US Labor Department levied a $250,000 fine against New York-based Metro-North Railroad after it retaliated against an injured railroad worker. The Labor Department ordered Metro North to pay the punitive damages award to a train coach cleaner who hurt his leg on the job in November 2011 in Connecticut.
The federal government stated that a Metro North supervisor told the injured worker that management would file disciplinary charges and deny promotions to anyone who reported being hurt at work.
The $250,000 fine is the biggest that has ever been awarded for punitive damages for retaliation in the history of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The railroad also must pay $10,000 to pay for the worker’s attorney costs.
During the case, the Labor Department cited other instances where the railroad apparently threatened to retaliate against injured workers. One case involved a woman who crushed her foot with a barrel. Rather than file an injury report, the hobbled woman came to work on crutches.
We are railroad injury attorneys in Virginia who have seen railroads routinely attempt to deny claims for on the job injuries. We have to say however, that the above attempt at retaliation against an injured worker on the job truly is a new low. We are glad that the Labor Department assessed such a large punitive award; hopefully it will warn other railroads to not attempt to intimidate injured workers!
A recent injured railroad worker case in Virginia we handled involved a railroad conductor who suffered a serious back injury after he fell due to an insecure ladder on a train car. Of course, the railroad denied responsibility, but we were able to show that the handhold on the ladder was insecure and that this was a regulatory violation. We also brought in a top notch railroad safety expert, who pointed out the specific regulations that had been violated. In the end, we were pleased with the $825,000 settlement in favor of our injured client.