Until fairly recently, railroad yards were arguably the most dangerous places in America. But America was built on railroads, so slowing down was not an option, at least according to many people. So, in 1908, lawmakers approved the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.
FELA actions have some elements of a workers’ compensation claim and some elements of a negligence claim. Like workers’ compensation, FELA is essentially no-fault insurance. Most victims must only prove cause. And, like negligence victims, injured railroad workers are entitled to both economic and noneconomic damages. Some of the most common railroad worker trauma injuries are examined below.
However, FELA claims are not quite as straightforward as workers’ compensation claims. These additional complexities demand that injured workers partner with an experienced Lexington personal injury attorney. Otherwise, these victims may not be able to get maximum compensation for their serious injuries.
These injuries, whether they are falls from a height or a slip-and-fall, are among the most common workplace trauma injuries. Railroad clerks and other office workers are especially at risk for slip-and-fall injuries. These individuals routinely trip over loose carpeting or bang into open drawers. Outdoors, a fall from as little as four stories up could be fatal.
Like other railroad trauma injuries, falls are relatively easy to prevent. Yet many employers take shortcuts in the area of worker safety in order to save money.
Workers with pre-existing conditions are especially vulnerable to fall injuries. Fortunately, a variation of the eggshell skull rule protects these victims. Insurance companies cannot use an individual’s generic, physical, or other vulnerabilities to reduce or deny compensation.
Hitches and other safety equipment should prevent railroad cars from slamming together. But these safety devices are not always present, as mentioned above. Other times, they do not work properly. Legally, these claims could involve FELA or a defective product action.
These claims are quite similar in many ways. Manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause. That defect could be:
- Manufacturing Defect: To save money, some product makers take shortcuts during the manufacturing process or substitute reliable components for cheap substitutes. Manufacturers are usually responsible for shipping defects as well.
- Design Defect: Some products are dangerous before they get off the drawing board. The 1970s Ford Pinto is the classic example. Engineers placed the gas tank behind the rear axle, thus increasing the number of deadly fireball collisions.
Procedurally, these two types of claims are much different. FELA claims usually involve individual injured victims. Most defective product claims, on the other hand, are mass tort claims. Hundreds or thousands of victims are able to pool their resources and take down large companies.
These accidents are especially common at railyards that are being built, renovated, or demolished.
An old story states that a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building is fatal to a pedestrian on the ground. That story is mostly untrue, but partially true. As objects drop, they pick up speed, and speed multiples the force in a collision. So, imagine what a hammer can do if someone drops it from a scaffold.
FELA does usually not apply to worker-on-worker assaults, However, employers are generally still legally responsible for these injuries.
Negligent hiring is hiring incompetent people to do a job. The incompetency could be a bad work record or a criminal assault record. Negligent entrustment is failing to properly supervise workers. That could include failing to intervene in petty disagreements before they become violent.
Motor Vehicle Crashes
Most railroad construction projects are in remote locations where inexperienced drivers operate heavy machinery in a noisy environment. These ingredients often lead to serious injury.
Some form of driver impairment causes many of these crashes. The latent effects of alcohol, drugs, and fatigue often last for hours. Damages in these claims tend to be rather high, because these workers arguably intentionally disregarded a known risk by showing up to work impaired.
Moving violations, like a failure to maintain a proper lookout, cause many other motor vehicle crashes. Since these victims are usually far from help, their injuries are usually quite serious.
Railroad employees risk serious injury every time they go to work. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.