Since the 1970s, railroad worker injuries have decreased by about half. But that’s largely because the hours worked have gone down by half as well. Railroads simply aren’t as busy as they were, so fewer people get hurt. The facilities themselves are no safer. In fact, many of these facilities haven’t been significantly updated since the 70s, or even earlier.
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), which is basically a combination of workers’ compensation law and negligence law, protects these victims. Victims need not prove negligence or fault. They only need establish that the railroad contributed to the injury in some way. As for the negligence comparison, FELA victims are entitled to compensation for both their economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Since this law is so complex, it’s important to partner with an experienced Lexington personal injury attorney. Most of these claims settle out of court. So, a lawyer cannot simply “wing it” in court. Instead, an attorney must thoroughly prepare the case. That includes a careful evaluation of all the applicable law and facts.
The Fatal Four
As mentioned, many railroad facilities are very old and have seen lots of wear and tear. Additionally, hazards are everywhere. Today’s railroad cars are faster and heavier than ever before. Additionally, railroad tracks are usually covered with ballast. These tiny pebbles are hard to walk on. Finally, many railroad worker injuries happen in remote areas. The extra few minutes to a hospital could make a big difference to the victim’s recovery, or lack thereof.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that about half the fatal workplace trauma injuries are one of the following:
- Falls: These injuries are by far the most fatal railroad worker injuries. Ballast is not just hard to walk on. It’s even harder to land on. Furthermore, many of these victims are either on moving vehicles when they fall or they are working high above the ground. A fall from as little as four stories high is normally fatal.
- Caught Between: Heavy, fast-moving trains are almost impossible to stop. Furthermore, engineers are so high up that their visibility is limited. As a result, victims often get caught between two moving trains. If not fatal, the injuries these victims sustain are normally permanent.
- Struck By: This category goes back to the aforementioned high places problem. If someone drops a hammer on his/her foot, there may be little or no damage. But if someone drops a hammer from several stories high, a hapless victim on the ground could sustain a fatal injury, even if the victim was wearing a hardhat.
- Electrocution: Most railroad workers have little training in this area. But since railroad volume has dropped so much, as mentioned above, many workers must wear multiple hats. At a noisy, busy railroad yard, it’s often difficult to tell the difference between a live wire and a dead one.
Honorable mention, or perhaps dishonorable mention, goes to temperature and chemical burns. Close contact to a super-heated diesel engine is often sufficient to cause serious burns. Additionally, many railroad workers use industrial solvents which are quite strong.
A number of occupational diseases are often fatal as well. Toxic exposure is usually the highest risk.
Your Claim for Damages
As mentioned, a FELA claim is a lot like a workers’ compensation claim in many ways. This similarity includes the procedure in each claim.
Injured railroad workers must promptly report their injuries to their supervisors. In the aforementioned trauma injury claims, this requirement usually isn’t a problem. But it could be an issue in an occupational disease claim. Most victims don’t immediately see doctors the first time they have trouble breathing or experience other symptoms.
Speaking of doctors, FELA victims may normally choose their own doctors. Furthermore, employers usually have no right to access medical records. So, everything a victim tells a doctor is confidential.
That choice makes it easier to build a favorable medical record profile. Nevertheless, most Claims Examiners deny most of these claims, at least in part. They hope discouraged victims will either abandon their claims or settle them for pennies on the dollar.
Therefore, most claims advance to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. An ALJ can consider legal arguments. Furthermore, attorneys may introduce evidence and challenge evidence. So, victims have a much better chance of obtaining the compensation they need and deserve.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available. #goodelawyers