For around a hundred years, railroads were the primary long-distance transportation mode in the United States. To meet growing demand, the nation’s railroad network expanded rapidly. This rapid growth also propelled the growth of serious railroad workers injuries. To care for these victims, lawmakers approved the Federal Employers Liability Act in 1908.
Automobiles and airplanes have largely replaced railroads. But trains are still a cost-efficient way to move people and cargo over moderately long distances, like between cities. Since demand has declined, investment has declined as well. So, many railroad equipment and facilities are almost as old as the FELA law.
Aging equipment, along with an aging workforce, significantly increases the number of serious railroad worker injuries. If you or a loved one is a victim of such an injury, a Lexington personal injury attorney may be able to obtain substantial compensation in court. These victims need this compensation to pay medical bills and otherwise move on with their lives.
FELA vs. Workers’ Compensation
In the early 1900s, states began passing workers’ compensation laws. These laws provide no-fault insurance that replace lost wages and pay medical bills. However, since railroads are interstate operators, they don’t fall under a single state’s jurisdiction.
FELA fills in the gap. It only applies to injured railroad workers and a few other federal employees. However, FELA is different from workers’ compensation in some key areas.
Unlike workers’ compensation is not no-fault insurance. Injured victims must prove that employer negligence contributed to their injuries. That’s different from proving negligence caused their injuries. Assume Sam falls when he tries to jump onto a moving train that’s travelling above the set speed limit. He might be mostly responsible for the accident. But the train’s excessive speed contributed to his fall.
Additionally, injured railroad victims are not just entitled to compensation for their economic losses. They are also entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other noneconomic losses. Usually, these damages are about two or three times as great as their economic losses.
Slip-and-fall injuries and falls from a height are the most common railroad injuries. Most railroad tracks are surrounded by ballast. These tiny pebbles are easy to slip on, especially after a rain. Moreover, a fall from as little as four stories above ground is normally fatal. Many towers at rail yards are at least that high. Many train cars are almost that tall. Some common fall injuries include:
- Head Injuries: Frequently, the motion of a fall and landing causes a head injury. When people fall, their brains slam against the insides of their skulls. We feel a bit of that effect when we pace. Pacing stimulates brain activity. Falling could destroy brain activity.
- Broken Bones: Falls normally shatter bones. That’s especially true if, as is usually the case, victims try to break their falls with their arms. Doctors must use extensive surgical procedures to reconstruct these shattered bones. As a result, physical therapists must work even harder to restore lost function.
- Internal Injuries: The aforementioned motion causes internal organs to mash against each other. The friction usually causes extensive bleeding. Since this bleeding is invisible, it’s difficult to diagnose and treat.
Falls also cause emotional injuries, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Exposure to extreme stress, like a serious fall, creates a chemical imbalance in the brain. The effects include depression, flashbacks, anger, and other PTSD symptoms.
Like almost all other business owners, railroad operators want to make their product as attractive as possible. So, longer and faster trains are the norm. When these large trains derail, almost everyone in or near the train is seriously injured or killed. Some train wreck injuries include:
- Head Injuries: We discussed these injuries above. Train wreck head injuries are even more common, because of an additional causation factor. These wrecks usually make noises like explosions. Sudden, loud noises trigger shock waves that disrupt brain functions.
- Burns: Trains usually carry hundreds of gallons of highly-flammable diesel fuel. Diesel burns at a different temperature from gasoline. So, the resulting burns are often catastrophic. Generally, these victims require lengthy and expensive care at specialty burn centers.
Over the years, railroad companies and their lawmaker allies have repeatedly tried to overturn FELA, or at least dilute its protections. All these efforts have failed.
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