The size and weight of trains, along with the possibility of equipment failure, track defects and plain old human error, tend to increase the chances that railroad accidents will occur and result in severe injuries and/or death.
In the first quarter of 2009 alone, about 1,650 people were injured and 150 were killed in train accidents in the U.S. (according to the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis).
Given the possibility of railroad injuries, it's vital that railroad workers:
- Familiarize themselves with their legal rights, which are laid out in the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)
- Seek emergency medical attention, should they be injured on-the-job
- Meet with an experienced personal injury attorney, once their health is stable, to find out if they are entitled to a settlement via FELA
Common Railroad Injuries
Railroad employees are likely to experience any of the following types of injuries following a train accident:
- Back and Neck Injuries
- Burn Injuries
- Crush Injuries
- Loss of Limbs
- Permanent Disabilities
- Shoulder Injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injury
Railroad Injury Statistics (first quarter of 2009)
- Nearly 2,500 train accidents occurred
- Combined, human error and track defects cause over 63 percent of fatal train accidents
- Over 95 percent of all railroad accident deaths occur due to highway-rail and trespassing incidents (A highway-rail incident is an accident that results when a highway passenger comes into contact with a railroad at a crossing or on the tracks)
- Highway-rail incidents only represent 21 percent of all reported cases of railroad accidents
Railroad Injuries Compensation
Due to the inherent dangers of railroad occupations, a specific law – distinct from traditional workers' compensation laws – protects them in the event they are injured while working.
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) entitles railroad employees to compensation if:
- They are injured on the job.
- They can prove their injuries resulted from the negligence or recklessness of an employer, co-worker or equipment manufacturer.
In most cases, railroad injury settlements awarded via FELA are greater than compensation provided by workers' compensation laws.
Railroad Worker Health Disorders Due to Solvents
According to transcripts and other internal documents, the railroad industry has been aware of the neurological disorders suffered because of solvent exposure to workers since the 1960s. At a 1965 annual meeting of the nation’s railroad medical directors, a warning letter from a Mayo Clinic doctor to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was noted, the company that later became part of CSX Transportation Inc. The doctor indicated he had seen a number of patients with possible peripheral neuritis, which is a nerve inflammation of the arms and legs. These patients had been exposed to hydrocarbons and solvent mixtures.
The transcript shows the B&O medical department asked the Mayo Clinic doctor for clarification of the relationship between the solvent exposure and peripheral neuritis. The response included an example of a patient with severe neuritis because of the solvent exposure at work, which was no longer present when the exposure to the worker was stopped. At the same meeting, the B&O medical director noted the railroad workers in the pits had become unconscious because of the inhalation of volatile hydrocarbons, including trichloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride and 1,1,1-trichlorethane (TCA).
Railroad Companies Continue To Deny Solvents Cause Brain Damage
In an August 17, 1981 memo, the CSX company industrial hygienist wrote to the chief medical officer that mixing the industrial solvent TCA with alkaline substances produced fumes much more toxic than from TCA alone. CSX officials told the Courier-Journal, a paper that did an investigative series on solvent exposure and brain damage, that they were not aware workers have ever mixed the solvents or taken part in workplace practices that could be a health detriment. Railroad companies have continued to deny a link between solvents and brain damage, though internal documents have been used in FELA lawsuits to support otherwise.
The 1981 memo indicated the industrial hygienist was concerned about the formation of irritant gases hydrogen chloride, phosgene and dichloroacetylene. Although Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) limits exist to protect workers from toxic exposure, railroad companies fought off federal workplace regulations for years, potentially exposing a high number of additional workers to serious health effects. Dichloroacetylene is considered so toxic that OSHA has set the maximum permissible exposure limit at one part per million. TCA’s maximum permissible exposure limit has been set at 350 parts per million, phosogene limits are set at 0.10 parts per million and hydrogen chloride is set at 5 parts per million.
Railroad Worker Illnesses Difficult To Diagnose
Railroad workers have been alleging serious railroad injuries from mild to severe cases of brain damage, toxic encephalopathy and other neurological disabilities are still being suffered because of negligent working conditions. Due to the complexity of diagnosing such illnesses as toxic encephalopathy, some railroad workers have been and still are diagnosed with other illnesses, often mistaken for Parkinson’s disease, depression, anxiety disorders and multiple sclerosis.
How Can a Railroad Injury Lawyer Help You?
During a free initial consultation, railroad injury lawyers will:
- Thoroughly evaluate your case to determine the precise cause of injury
- Determine if FELA entitles you to compensation for your injuries and losses
- Inform you regarding the process associated with winning a railroad injury settlement
- Advise you on the best manner in which to pursue your legal claim
Benefits of working with FELA railroad injury lawyers include:
- Access to a network of experts who can verify your claims when official testimony is needed
- Aggressive, professional representation in court, mediation and/or arbitration proceedings
- Delayed payment for legal services, as FELA attorneys work on contingency to alleviate your financial stress as you fight for your legal rights
Have you or a loved one suffered a railroad injury? If so, contact us today to talk to an experienced FELA attorney who will evaluate your case and help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Learn more about other types of railroad injuries and dangers: