According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s 2017 Office of Safety Analysis Report, train crews spent 433 million employee hours maintaining the nation’s transit lines. Last year, these hard-working employees helped 691 million riders arrive at their destinations safely.
Unfortunately, crews face numerous occupational hazards and unsafe job conditions. Transit companies often require employees to work overtime shifts due to employee shortages. Many railroad professionals suffer from sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue because of the long hours.
These issues can lead to deadly accidents. Some sustain injuries when they use faulty equipment. Others suffer trauma in devastating falls or crashes. A few train workers die in the most dangerous accidents. Among the serious, ongoing problems that the federal bureau’s 2017 study found:
- 4,177 employees received injuries in job-related accidents.
- 11,671 railroad accidents took place in 2017.
- Train accidents killed 12 employees last year.
The U.S. government realizes that railroad professionals endure hazardous conditions. They enacted the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to help injured railroad workers get back on their feet. Sadly, many railroad companies try to avert any legal liability when injured workers attempt to seek compensation.
Were you recently injured in a railroad accident? Our Nebraska personal injury lawyers help clients get the FELA compensation the law entitles them to. Email The Robert Pahlke Law Group today, or call our offices at (308) 633-4444 to schedule a free consultation.
Our Law Firm Gets Results in FELA Cases
The Robert Pahlke Law Group gets justice for injured railroad workers. Our legal team has a proven track record of success in personal injury cases. We have more than 85 years of collective experience in personal injury law, and our firm has received several accolades and awards for our client advocacy. The Robert Pahlke Law Group received Martindale Hubbell’s highest AV rating in 2011 and 2012, and we currently enjoy a four-star peer rating. While we cannot promise specific results in any case because each client’s circumstances are unique, rest assured that The Robert Pahlke Law Group strives to represent clients with passion, dedication, and honesty.
Railroads are one of the few industries regulated by the U.S. government, and considered interstate commerce companies. In 1908, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to protect injured railroad workers. Under FELA, companies must:
- Inspect work areas to make sure they have no hidden dangers
- Provide regular training and supervision
- Abide by federal safety rules and regulations
- Protect employees from other workers’ dangerous acts
- Establish a safe work environment with functioning equipment
FELA is a fault-based system. Employees must show that the railroad company was partly negligent to collect damages.
How Does FELA Differ from Workers’ Compensation Policies?
The two fundamental differences between FELA and workers’ compensation policies:
- Workers’ compensation is insurance coverage. Companies must pay premiums for worker’s compensation policies. FELA doesn’t require that a formal policy covers employees.
- FELA is fault-based compensation. Employees must prove their trauma arose from the railroad company’s negligence, its contractor, or faulty equipment. Under workers’ comp policies, an injured worker can collect regardless of fault.
Occupational Dangers Rail Employees Face
Railroad workers face many job-related hazards. Serious accidents regularly take place, causing catastrophic injuries and disabilities. The Federal Railroad Administration says train accidents fall into three primary classes:
- Rail equipment accidents
- High-rail grade crossing incidents
- Casualties (including fatalities, injuries, and diseases)
The top occupational dangers that crew members face include:
- Back injuries – Railroad workers carry freight and other equipment on the job. Employees can injure their backs when lifting heavy items. They may need surgeries, pain medication, and time off to heal from their trauma.
- Broken bones – Orthopedic injuries are common issues rail workers face after accidents. These injuries occur when crew members fall from cars and shatter their bones. Freight equipment can also smash workers’ limbs during an accident. Some serious fractures can kill if they sever major arteries.
- Burns – Victims can suffer second- and third-degree burns during an accident. These injuries happen when workers touch electrical lines, hot rails, or caustic chemicals. Some people have lost limbs after serious burns. Others require extensive skin grafts.
- Cancer risk – Another danger that crew members face is cancer. Many transit employees use caustic, hazardous materials to maintain train tracks. Prolonged toxin exposure increases chromosomal mutations and damages blood lymphocytes. Others face an increased risk of developing serious bone marrow diseases like leukemia.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome – Employees use poisonous compounds to keep train tracks operating. These caustic chemicals cause chromosomal changes that weaken peripheral nerves. Victims experience mobility issues related to their arms, wrists, and hands.
- Crush injuries – Railroad cars can roll over limbs and shatter bones during an accident. These crush injuries can cause permanent disabilities and nerve damage. Some victims never regain use of their limbs.
- Electrocution – Live wires electrocute many rail workers every year. Electrocution damages the central nervous system and causes critical burns. A high voltage may trigger heart attacks, killing employees.
- Hearing loss – The Federal Railroad Association says “noise is one of the most intrusive aspects of locomotive operations.” Every year, crew members suffer from hearing loss. Most rail stations have loud work areas where noises can rise to more than 96 decibels. This unsafe sound pressure can harm the inner ear and lead to deafness.
- Herniated discs – Railroad workers lift heavy freight and equipment at work. This can damage the vertebrae and cause spinal discs to herniate. This painful condition often requires long-term recovery and surgery.
- Neck injuries – The neck is one of the most sensitive regions of the body. Employees can suffer whiplash injuries due to sudden stops. Neck trauma occurs when large freight strike workers’ bodies. These victims experience headaches, nervous system issues, chronic pain, and mobility problems. Many people need occupational therapy and chiropractic treatments to recover.
- Neuropathy – Railway painters have higher incidences of nerve damage than other workers. Exposure to toxic paints can harm peripheral nerves, causing weakness and numbness.
- Spinal cord injuries – The spinal cord is a neural network that allows the brain and body to communicate. Severe spinal cord damage can cause life-altering consequences. Some victims lose mobility and can’t feel their extremities. Others can’t walk or move their limbs.
- Torn ligaments – Railroad workers can suffer torn ligaments or tendons in accidents. Workers need extended rest to heal from their trauma.
- Traumatic amputations – Dangerous train accidents can cause irreparable damage to limbs. Railroad employees suffer catastrophic injuries that require amputation. Amtrak employee Robert Zimmerman faced this devastating scenario in February 2018. The employee touched an electrical wire that sent 12,000 volts through his body. Doctors amputated his seared hands. Many victims must undergo long-term rehabilitation processes to relearn basic motor skills. Some learn to use their prosthetic limbs. Many amputees are unable to work after their train accidents.
- Traumatic brain injuries – Every year, crew members suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in train accidents. The Mayo Clinic says TBIs have devastating impacts. Injured people experience mood swings, migraine headaches, and vision problems. Other victims suffer from personality changes and speech difficulties. Most patients never recover from these injuries.
Determining Fault in FELA Cases
FELA requires workers to show their employer engaged in at least partial negligence to collect damages for their injuries. Their claims must meet three areas under federal law:
- U.S. federal law applies to their situation.
- A company’s negligent act caused their accident.
- They suffered serious injuries.
Many rail companies hire seasoned lawyers to help them reduce their liability. Don’t speak to their representatives—protect yourself by hiring an experienced legal team like The Robert Pahlke Law Group to do that for you.
Damages Rail Employees Can Collect
Many workers’ compensation policies limit damages that injured employees can collect. These insurance policies may only allow victims to recover lost wages and medical expenses.
Rail workers often collect larger financial damages under FELA. The federal law also provides extra protection to crew members. FELA allows victims to file their cases state or federal court. They are also entitled to jury trials. In addition, there are no statutory damage limits in railway cases.
Injured employees can sue for the following damages:
- Lost wages (past and future).
- Past and ongoing medical costs.
- Past and future damages associated with mental issues after the accident.
FELA also allows workers to file claims for asbestos exposure, traumatic injuries, and repetitive stress. Spouses and children can sue for compensation if their relatives died at work. If deceased workers don’t have an immediate family, FELA awards go to their extended relatives.
Railroads Will Fight Your Claims
Most injured people incorrectly believe their employers will willingly pay for accident-related expenses. Many transit companies, however, want to limit their financial liability. Businesses like railroads hire experienced attorneys to prove the injured person’s negligence caused the accident.
Company representatives may visit victims while in their hospital rooms. These crafty investigators act concerned and speak to injured people when they’re unable to make clear decisions. The railroad’s attorneys take statements from victims when they’re on pain medicine. The investigators ask them to sign documents when they’re mentally confused.
Don’t agree to see any investigators without obtaining solid legal advice. Hire a team like The Robert Pahlke Group to protect your interests.
Trust The Robert Pahlke Law Group
Schedule a free consultation with The Robert Pahlke Law Group online now. Our veteran legal team will review your case, and if we agree to work together, our associates take FELA cases on a contingency fee basis. This means we only recover attorney fees from any settlement or judgment obtained on your behalf.
The Robert Pahlke Law Group can show you how to get results for your FELA claim. Our veteran team is committed to ensuring railroad workers obtain compensation for their injuries, and we’ll fight to get the justice you deserve. Contact The Robert Pahlke Law Group online, or call to schedule a free consultation at (303) 633-4444.