Site Inspection at a Richmond, Virginia Railyard
On a foggy morning in late October, 2020, I am on my way to a site inspection at the CSX ACCA Railyard in Richmond, Virginia. The purpose of the investigation and site inspection is to get evidence to prove that the railroad was at fault in causing an injury to one of its workers. When a railroad worker gets hurt on the job they do not get workers compensation like others in Virginia would. They actually get something better, which is the F.E.L.A. The F.E.L.A is called the Federal Employers Liability Act and it has been in effect for over a century protecting workers in this very dangerous occupation of railroad work.
It is not enough that a worker got hurt or killed on company property while doing their job as a railroader. Rather to collect from the railroad under the F.E.L.A. the injured worker or his family must prove that the railroad did something wrong that caused the accident. Normally, this is proved by showing that the railroad was negligent in failing to provide the worker a reasonably safe place to do their job. It can involve problems with the methods of doing the work, the equipment, or the physical plant. Normally the way we prove liability against the railroad is by hiring experts, like former Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) inspectors, who are aware of railroad procedures and rules to show exactly what was done improperly that led to the injury or death.
Specifically, today we are going to be looking at whether the physical layout of the railyard contributed to a tragic event. There can be issues of lighting for workers who are asked to work on third shift in the middle of the night. There may be issues about the grade of the railyard. One of the things that makes railroading so dangerous is that each car or locomotive weighs hundreds of thousands of pounds. An object that heavy, well enough several of them, can easily cause hazards that result in the loss of life or limb.
The Railroad does not allow anybody to be on their property without permission. Accordingly, when we do a site inspection, we coordinate through the railroad’s legal department, claims office, and outside lawyers. We arrange access specifying who we are bringing with us as far as expert witnesses to do measurements, videotaping, and in some cases reenactment by operating rail equipment. It is crucial to get out to the location of the accident as soon as possible before anything is changed. The railroad companies, whether Norfolk Southern or CSX, who we often sue on behalf of workers will immediately get out to the scene after someone has been killed or seriously hurt. They will do similar testing, measurement, and reenactment. The reason for our site inspections is to make sure that we have equal access to the critical information before things are changed or moved. Being ready to go within days of an event is critical. Because we, at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, have experience investigators and expert witnesses that we are in contact with regularly, we can get a team out to a railroad yard quite quickly.
The site inspection is one of the early steps in preparing a case against the railroad when one of their workers ls hurt. After that, we analyze the data and develop our list of mistakes made by the railroad company that caused the accident. By doing this thorough investigation we force the railroad to compensate the worker and/or the family more fully because we show ourselves to be ready, willing, and able to go to trial.