Common Railroad Worker Injuries

Working in a railyard, around locomotives, or around railroad tracks is inherently a dangerous form of employment. Train engines and railcars are extremely heavy and roll on steel wheels.  Railroad workers are exposed on a daily basis to a variety of different hazards, some of which have the potential to cause serious and even catastrophic injuries.

If you get hurt while working for a railroad company in Virginia, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses by filing a claim under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA). An attorney from Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers could explain how railroad worker injuries may provide compensation for the worker harmed as a result of the railroad’s negligence.

Worker Injuries from Accidents

Machine malfunctions, negligent operation, or train derailments can lead to horrible physical injuries in a railyard, out on the road, or on other railroad worksites. Some of these injuries include traumatic damage to the brain and/or spine, internal organ trauma, third-degree burns, and loss of an arm or leg. Even if an accident in a railyard does not have permanent effects, the short-term damages associated with broken bones, ligament strains, and back injuries can still have a significant impact on a railroad worker’s life, especially if he must take time off work to recover.

Causes and Effects from Rail Yard Injuries

Between moving train cars and locomotives, heavy machinery that may malfunction, ballast, debris, and uneven surfaces that present a myriad of slipping and tripping hazards, and risk of exposure to live electrical systems, rail yards are full of dangerous conditions that could cause serious harm to an unfortunate worker. Common injuries that rail yard workers in Virginia experience due to workplace accidents include:

  • Deep lacerations
  • Spinal injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Traumatic brain damage
  • Back and neck injuries potentially leading to nerve damage
  • Crushing injuries that may lead to internal organ damage and/or loss of limb

In addition to the risk of physical injury from a one-time accident, exposure to the numerous toxic—and often carcinogenic—substances in rail yards can cause equally severe harm in the long term through the development of chronic illnesses. Accordingly, current or former rail yard workers who contract asbestosis, mesothelioma, leukemia or lung cancer as a result of the conditions they were exposed to at work could potentially seek money for the harms and losses through a FELA claim or lawsuit.

Railroad Workers Injuries Causing Disability

Compounding injuries, especially those to the back and shoulders, may cause a railroad worker to be eligible to claim disability from the United States Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). For instance, if a worker suffers a torn rotator cuff, that might not be enough to get them a permanent disability because that can be surgically corrected. However, if they have bad knees, a bad back, and heart problems on top of that, a combination of all of those conditions could get them disability.

There are two types of potential RRB disabilities for railroad workers. A worker can apply for what is called an occupational disability, if they have 20 years of service on the railroad. This kind of permanent benefits is for those who become injured to the point that they are no longer able to do their old job, then they can go out on an occupational disability.

If the railroader has less than 20 years of service but they have more than 10, then they can apply for what Railroad Retirement Board refers to as a total and permanent disability. This means the railroad worker cannot do any job in the community, not just their old job on the railroad.

How Railroad Work Could Lead to Long-Term Illness

Beyond physical injuries related to accidents, long-term health problems like cancer are also linked to the railroad work environment. For example, exposure to asbestos, a fire suppressant material that can still be found in many older trains and railyard buildings, is strongly correlated with mesothelioma, as well as with other lung cancers.

Likewise, exposure to toxic chemicals like benzene can increase a railroad worker’s risk of leukemia, and exposure to diesel fumes is linked to a number of forms of cancer. Railroad carriers in Virginia may be liable under the FELA for worker occupational diseases, so contact a knowledgeable injury lawyer if you have cancer and worked at the railroad.

Pursuing a FELA Claim After an Injury

FELA establishes the standard that rail yard owners and operators must meet in the interest of minimizing the risk of harm to employees. A railroad must provide a reasonably safe place to work. If a railroad company carelessly fails to meet this standard and contributes in some way to an employee suffering a work-related injury and illness, FELA allows the impacted employee to file suit against his employee based on that negligence. Violation of a safety statute or regulation also may give rise to railroad company liability.

To win a strong financial recovery under FELA for an injury in a rail yard your FELA lawyer should collect as much documentation regarding the injury as possible, including medical records, any accident report(s) filed with the employer, photographs of the injury, and potentially testimony from witnesses to the incident that caused the injury. Following this, a railroad accident lawyer could negotiate on an injured worker’s behalf for a full and fair settlement or seek a favorable verdict in civil court.

Seeking Compensation in Virginia for Common Railroad Worker Injuries

These common railroad worker injuries do not constitute an exhaustive list of all the ways an employee may suffer harm through an accident or due to hazardous working conditions for railroaders. If you can trace your work injury or occupational illness back to negligence by a railroad company, you may be able to hold them accountable for your losses through a FELA claim or lawsuit.

However, getting the most out of this type of claim can be challenging without assistance from a lawyer who knows FELA cases. Don’t deal directly with the railroad claims agent as they are looking out for the company not you. If you want to effectively pursue the compensation you need, reach out to a personal injury attorney from Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers as soon as possible. We will provide a free initial consultation that is private and without obligation.

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