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Railroad Accident Lawyer

Railroad workers are at high risk of occupational diseases, chronic conditions, and catastrophic injuries. Meanwhile, railroad passengers face serious injuries or death in the event of a train accident.  Our railroad accident lawyer with Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers is ready to help you seek financial compensation if you sustained injuries or lost a loved one in a railroad accident in Virginia caused by a negligent railroad company.

Railroad workers and passengers face dangers every day. Derailments and collisions can injure or kill hundreds of people. Catastrophic accidents make the news, but the public rarely hears about the countless less dramatic accidents that happen more frequently. Incidents in the railroad yard, on the train, and on the tracks can kill railroad workers or leave them with serious injuries. In addition, railroad workers are at risk of developing occupational diseases because of their exposure to chemicals, dust, and fumes.

Many of the injuries and deaths on railroads result from negligence by the railroad company. If you sustained an injury or lost a family member in a railroad accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation from the railroad company. Standing up to a big company such as Amtrak, Norfolk Southern Railway, or Brightline might seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to go it alone. 

Our FELA lawyers with Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. 

A Leader in Railroad Accident Litigation in Virginia

Our legal team at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers has decades of experience representing people injured or killed by the negligence or recklessness of others. We have successfully recovered millions of dollars in damages through verdict awards and settlements. Our past results do not guarantee future success but highlight our commitment to our clients. Here are a few of our case results:

  • $6.5 million settlement for a car accident victim who became a paraplegic after a three-car collision 
  • $2.8 million settlement for a highway worker who a drunk driver hit
  • $6 million recovery for a veteran who became a paraplegic after a slip-and-fall accident

Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers handles many types of personal injury and wrongful death cases, including railroad accident cases. John Cooper, our leading railroad attorney, has over 30 years of experience advocating for personal injury victims from railroad accidents and incidents. John has served multiple terms as chair of the FELA Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice, the largest plaintiffs’ attorney organization in the United States. Among his many honors, John has been selected as a “Top 100 Trial Lawyer in VA” and listed as a Virginia “Super Lawyer” for personal law, which only 5 percent of lawyers achieve.

Generally speaking, anyone who sustains an injury because of another party’s negligence can seek financial compensation from that party. Railroad workers have specific legal protection under the Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA. This act protects railroad workers by requiring railroad companies to provide a safe working environment, giving employees the right to recover compensation if injured on the job, and giving family members the right to recover compensation if their loved one dies from job-related injuries. 

While there are some similarities between FELA cases and other personal injury cases, they are different processes. Railroad workers and their families may feel more comfortable working with a railroad injury lawyer such as John Cooper, who understands the nuances of FELA cases. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers offers online resources and the free book, Your Rights When You Are Injured on the Railroad, to explain more about the risks railroad workers face and their rights under FELA.

Types of Railroad Accident Cases We Take

Railroad-related injuries can be acute, such as injuries sustained in a derailment or a railroad crossing accident, or chronic, such as the health conditions many workers develop after years on the railroad. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers handles many types of railroad accident cases, including:

Railroad Worker Injuries

Railyards and railroads can be dangerous places, and railroad work is physically taxing, so railroad workers are at risk of serious physical injuries. The heavy machinery and equipment, with many moving parts, put workers at risk of railroad injuries such as broken bones, spinal cord injuries, crushed limbs, and more. Outdated equipment and insufficient staffing also cause accidents and injuries that can put employees out of work for weeks or even permanently.

Through FELA claims, we fight for fair and just compensation if you’ve been injured on the job. If you’ve sustained an injury while working for a railroad, call us at 757-333-3333.

Railroad Worker Illnesses

Railroad workers are at increased risk of developing health problems. Chemicals, dust, and fumes associated with trains can cause various chronic health problems and lethal diseases, and the physical stress of railroad work can cause stress injuries. Railroad companies are legally obligated to protect their employees from potential hazards by providing protective equipment, proper safety training, and warnings about potential health hazards.

In many cases, the symptoms of railroad worker illnesses do not show up for years, but our lawyer can demonstrate that the root cause was hazardous exposure by the negligent railroad company. Here are a few examples of railroad worker illnesses:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A 2012 review published in the journal Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine found that exposure to diesel exhaust increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a lung disease that can make breathing difficult. According to the American Lung Association, there is no cure for COPD, which worsens with time, although treatments can help manage symptoms.
  • Lung cancer and other lung diseases: Railroad workers may inhale asbestos fibers, fumes, dust, and other substances that can irritate and injure the lungs. A 2007 review in the journal American Family Physician states that railroad workers are at high risk of asbestos exposure, which can lead to lung diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural plaques, benign pleural effusion, and malignant mesothelioma. A 2004 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that railroad workers are at greater risk of dying from lung cancer, most likely because of exposure to diesel exhaust.
  • Neuro-musculoskeletal injuries: Many railroad workers use power tools that vibrate, exposing the workers to hand-arm vibration, or HAV. A 2020 study published in the journal Industrial Health found that HAV can lead to injuries to the upper extremities, back, neck, and lower extremities.

Employees who have worked on the railroads for many years have been exposed to conditions that cause lung disease, repetitive physical stress injuries, cancers, and a host of medical conditions. Workers are exposed to asbestos, diesel exhaust, coal dust, silica, dangerous chemicals such as chlorine, and industrial cleaners, both known and unknown. 

The attorneys at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers know how to fight for fair and just compensation for employees and their families that suffer career-ending medical conditions caused by these hazardous exposures. While no amount of money can restore their health, many workers and their families have recovered multi-million-dollar payouts from railroad companies through railroad disease and cancer lawsuits.

Our railroad injury lawyers understand the severity of railroad illnesses and the suffering they cause to railroad workers and their loved ones. We work with a team of experts to develop strong, aggressive legal strategies and arguments, and we can also help you properly document your condition by recommending physicians who understand both traumatic and cumulative trauma injuries.

Railroad Crossing Accidents

Railroad crossings can be dangerous places. Trains cannot stop quickly, even if the crew notices a hazard on the tracks. Information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows more than 1,600 collisions between trains and vehicles occurred in 2021, killing 133 people and injuring 644. Sadly, many of these accidents were preventable.

Too many railroad crossings in Virginia lack proper markings or have not been properly maintained. If the warning signal fails to sound or the warning signs are covered with brush, drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians may unwittingly cross the track as a train approaches, with disastrous results. Railroad companies are responsible for marking and maintaining some railroad crossings, but some neglect to do their job. 

Our railroad crossings accident attorneys are ready to help you seek damages if you were injured or lost a loved one in a railroad crossings accident. We can also help railroad workers who develop PTSD and other psychological trauma after witnessing a railroad crossing accident caused by negligent railroad companies.

Railroad Passenger Accidents

Many people travel by train to save money or avoid the inconvenience of air travel, and some simply prefer the relaxing pace of rail travel. No one gets on a train expecting to get in an accident, but railroad passenger accidents are more common than you might think. 

National Public Radio reported that defective train tracks, broken train tracks, and failed wheel axles lead to regular train derailments that do not make the news. Furthermore, industry groups and labor unions such as the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers accuse railroad companies of contributing to these incidents by cutting corners on safety to save money.

The impact of these accidents can be severe. Several people have been killed, and hundreds have sustained railroad passenger injuries in recent years. Our railroad accident lawyers in Virginia can advocate for you to recover fair and just compensation for your injuries or the death of your family member in a railroad passenger accident.

John Cooper of Cooper Hurley

Ask The Car Crash Experts , What Should I do if I'm a Railroad Worker Who Was Injured?

John Cooper Personal Injury Lawyer

“I am a railroad work injury lawyer. That means if a railroad worker gets hurt on the job, we can help them to get all the rights and protections they’re entitled to. So, for instance, you get hurt on the job, you may not realize you don’t get workers comp, you get something better. It’s the FELA, and it’s based on your lost wages.

Railroad workers are blue collar workers who are earning a $100,000 a year, give or take, sometimes more depending upon the craft, and so these workers have very valuable jobs. If they get hurt, if something happens to you and you can’t lift 50 to 100 pounds, you probably can’t work your old job on the railroad.

So there’s 2 kinds of cases, both based upon how much the lost wages are. One is called a time lost case; that’s where you get hurt, maybe have surgery or something, and you go back to work. That’s one kind of case. Another kind of case is a career-ending case, and those are much more serious, where you’ll never be able to lift 50 to 100 pounds or go back to the dangerous railroad work environment.

So railroad workers realize that your job, as you as you well know, is providing for your family. It’s a good living, but it’s a tough job. If you get hurt on the railroad, protect yourself, protect your job, protect your rights, and call an FELA lawyer. That’s what we do. We represent railroad workers.

How Can a Railroad Accident Lawyer Help Me?

A railroad accident lawyer can help you with every aspect of your case, from gathering evidence to build a case against the negligent railroad company to estimating your losses. We collect evidence by interviewing eyewitnesses and conducting site inspections of the accident scenes. We substantiate your financial claim with medical records, bills, and expert medical testimony. We can also take over communication with the railroad company.

Our team has decades of experience dealing with railroad companies, so we understand the common pitfalls associated with injury cases and the steps companies will take to avoid paying you what you deserve. For example, railroad companies might pressure you not to fill out an injury report form or to make statements on the report that absolve the company from liability. Our lawyers can advise you on the steps you should take to get the best possible outcome after a railroad accident. 

We have successfully resolved many railroad accident cases for railroad workers injured on the job. Many of these settlements include a non-disclosure agreement that requires us to keep the settlement terms confidential. These confidentiality agreements shield the companies from public scrutiny, but they are sometimes a necessary evil that allows our clients to get the compensation they deserve.

Establishing Negligence

In most cases, you must establish that the railroad company was negligent in order to recover damages from it after an accident. There are four elements necessary to show negligence:

  1. Duty of care: You must show that the railroad company had an obligation to keep you from risk of harm. Under FELA, railroad companies are legally obligated to provide employees with a safe working environment and additional safety obligations under the Safety Appliance Act and the Locomotive Inspection Act. Railroads also have a legal obligation to avoid placing passengers at risk of harm while riding a train and to keep pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicle occupants from risk of harm at train crossings.
  2. Breach of duty: You must show that the railroad company violated its duty of care by placing you at risk. For example, railroads may violate the duty of care by failing to provide workers with necessary safety equipment or not warning them of the risks associated with their jobs. They may violate the duty of care to passengers and workers by failing to maintain safe tracks, trains, and railroad crossings. 
  3. Causation: You must show that you sustained your injuries because the railroad company breached its duty. In other words, you would not have suffered any injuries if the railroad company had not put you at risk.
  4. Damages: You must show that you suffered losses because of your injuries. Medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering are all losses that qualify for compensation.

Potential Damages from a Railroad Injury

At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we have years of experience handling railroad injury cases like yours, so we understand the far-reaching effects of railroad injuries, illnesses, and wrongful deaths. We can estimate the total value of your losses so that you can seek fair compensation from the railroad. You may be entitled to compensation for the following:

  • Past and future medical expenses for treatment you have already received and ongoing or future treatments you require
  • Past loss of income for the unpaid time you had to take off work because of your injuries
  • Future loss of income if you cannot return to work in your previous position or if you cannot work at all
  • Pain and suffering for the physical pain and emotional trauma caused by your injuries

Wrongful death damages such as the future income and benefits your loved one would have provided had they not died as a result of their railroad accident injuries or illness

Who Is Liable in a Railroad Accident in Virginia?

In many cases, the railroad company is liable for railroad accidents in Virginia. Railroad companies are legally obligated to train their employees properly, provide safe working conditions, and maintain their trains. However, there are other potentially liable parties:

  • Railroad employees: They sometimes make poor choices at work that endanger their coworkers, train passengers, and others. They may disregard their safety training or established rules of the railroad company to perform tasks more quickly or easily or skip critical tasks altogether. In other cases, railroad workers may show up to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A railroad employee who causes an accident through negligent behavior may be personally liable for resulting injuries and deaths.
  • Outside contractors: Railroad companies often outsource tasks such as track maintenance and installing and maintaining warning signals at train crossings. If these contractors perform these tasks negligently, they may be liable for any resulting accidents.

Governing bodies: In some locations, a city or county bears responsibility for maintaining railroad crossings and warning signals. It may be liable for any accidents resulting from failing to adequately maintain the crossing or signal.

Commonly Asked Questions About Railroad Accidents in Virginia

Railroad accident cases can be complex and confusing. Feel free to contact our railroad accident attorneys with specific questions about your case. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about railroad accidents in Virginia.

What Is FELA?

The Federal Employers Liability Act, commonly referred to as FELA, is a federal law that protects railroad workers from negligence by railroad companies. It requires railroad companies to provide a safe working environment and allows railroad employees to recover damages from on-the-job injuries. It also gives family members the right to recover damages if their loved one dies on the job or because of job-related injuries. 

Under FELA, railroad employees can report on-the-job injuries, file a claim against the railroad company, hire a railroad injury lawyer, and testify against the railroad company without fear of retribution. Injured employees have the right to seek compensation for their past and future medical expenses, past and future loss of income and benefits, permanent disability, and pain and suffering.

FELA vs. Workers’ Compensation

FELA and workers’ compensation laws both protect employees and give them a route to seek compensation for on-the-job injuries, but there are differences between these laws.

Workers’ compensation is a program run by Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Commission that allows employees to recover certain lost wages and medical expenses for a job-related injury. 

FELA is a federal law that specifically protects railroad workers. In general, railroad workers cannot seek compensation through workers’ compensation. FELA is more comprehensive than workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation only covers medical bills and some lost wages, whereas FELA covers medical bills, past and future loss of income, and losses due to pain and suffering.

What is the RRB?

The Railroad Retirement Board, or RRB, is an independent federal agency responsible for administering retirement-survivor and unemployment-sickness benefits for railroad workers and their families. Railroad workers who become temporarily or permanently disabled in a railroad accident can apply to the RRB for benefits. 

In general, the RRB administers two types of long-term disability benefits: occupational disability and total disability. Occupational disability benefits are available to disabled railroad employees with 20 or more years of railroad service who can no longer perform the tasks required by their previous occupation for the railroad. People with occupational disabilities may be able to work in a different career path. Total disability benefits are available to disabled railroad engineers with five or more years of service who can no longer work in any occupation, regardless of whether it is related to the railroad.

The RBB also administers short-term disability benefits to railroad employees who must take time off work because of on-the-job injuries. Workers who receive short-term disability benefits through the RRB but then make a claim under FELA must pay back the RRB.

While the RRB’s mission is to provide benefits to railroad employees, the railroad companies often attempt to convince the RRB to minimize payouts and favor the railroads. A railroad accident lawyer with Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers can help you understand your rights with the RRB and under FELA and can advocate for your best interests.

What Is the Locomotive Inspection Act?

The Locomotion Inspection Act is a federal law requiring railroad companies to test and inspect their locomotives, ensuring that they are in proper condition, safe to operate, and will not put anyone at risk of personal injury. Engineers, conductors, and other railroad employees who are hurt or killed by a locomotive that was broken or not in good working order may be able to file a claim under this act as well as under FELA. Our railroad accident attorney can review your case’s details and determine whether you have a valid Locomotion Inspection Act claim in addition to a FELA claim.

What Is the Safety Appliance Act?

The Safety Appliance Act is a federal law that requires trains to have air brakes, automatic couplers, and secure grab bars or handholds on the ends or sides of each car. Trains lacking this equipment or with improperly functioning equipment put railroad workers at risk of harm. Our railroad injury lawyers in Virginia have experience handling Safety Appliance Acts cases and can help you seek fair compensation if you were injured on a train with defective or missing equipment.

Rough-riding trains and physically stressful tasks can cause repetitive stress injuries to railroad workers over months or years of service. Strain on the neck, back, shoulders, knees, hips, and other parts of the body often affect a rail worker’s health permanently.

Sometimes a railroad worker will require surgery in his early 50s for his body being worn out by his cumulative trauma in his rail career. Patients may also require total hip replacement or spinal fusion surgery due to repetitive stress injuries. If your railroad career has been cut short by the railroads overworking you, you may have a claim.

Similarly, repeated exposure to environmental toxins causes serious railroad worker illnesses such as cancer and lung disease. Rail workers are at high risk of developing mesothelioma, a lung cancer caused by inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers. They may also develop cancers caused by exposure to diesel fumes and silica dust.

Contact a Skilled Railroad Accident Lawyer Today

Our railroad injury lawyers in Virginia are ready to help you stand up to the big railroad companies and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers today for assistance with your railroad accident case. 

Our team has years of experience helping people like you who have sustained injuries or lost a family member because of negligent railroad companies. Our attorneys work on contingency, which means you pay nothing unless we win your case. Reach out to us online or call our office today at (757) 333-3333 to schedule your free case evaluation. 

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