The railroad industry work environment is one of the most hazardous in the country. Every day, railroad workers engage with massive equipment and tremendous forces. They may travel great distances and the scope of work is vast. Railroad management may not take safety concerns seriously. All of these factors increase the risk of potentially catastrophic injuries for railroad workers.
Serious injuries can result in significant lost wages and medical bills for the injured railroad worker, as well as concerns about losing a home or providing for family. Unlike workers’ compensation schemes, compensation is not automatic, and even severely injured workers must prove that the railroad was negligent or violated a safety statute.
If the railroad’s negligence or violation caused your accident, you have the right to seek just compensation under FELA. The guidance of an experienced FELA attorney is instrumental.
Common Serious Injuries Suffered by Railroad Workers
Many railroad workers suffer accidents that result in amputations because of the size and force of the equipment involved. Amputations are life-changing injuries, leaving workers with not only the loss of limbs, but potentially the loss of their railroad career. They may face lengthy medical treatment and expensive care needs, including prosthetics.
An experienced railroad attorney can guide an amputee client through the FELA claim process, which can provide adequate compensation to cover lost income and significant future medical costs.
The railroad attorneys of Bolt Hoffer Boyd understand the overwhelming nature of amputation injuries. We can direct you to amputee support groups and other helpful resources. Feel free to contact us for guidance, regardless of your case status.
Burns are among the most excruciatingly painful injuries anyone can suffer. Treatment for second and third degree burns often includes debriding (scraping) and irrigating wounds, skin grafts, risks of infections, and possibly amputations of limbs. Explosions, fires from accidents, leaking hazardous materials, chemical burns, hose ruptures, engine fires, and electrical burns are some of the common burn injuries railroaders suffer.
Burn injuries can occur in unexpected and catastrophic ways. For example, Bolt Hoffer Boyd Law Firm lead railroad attorney Joe Sayler represented a conductor who was catastrophically burned when his locomotive encountered a burning railroad bridge. By the time the locomotive was able to stop, the flames had engulfed it. Severe burns and post-traumatic stress disorder meant the end of the conductor’s career, months of treatment, including counseling and skin grafting, and significant scarring. The railroad had contracted a welding crew to work on the bridge. The crew had not followed set safety procedures and left smoldering material on a composite railroad tie.This resulted in the fire and the conductor’s severe injuries.
Fractured, Broken, and Strained Joints, Bones, and Ligaments
Fractured, broken, and strained joints, bones, and ligaments are common injuries for railroad workers. The causes of the accidents that result in these injuries are too many to list, given the nature of the equipment railroad workers encounter daily.
The recovery period for fractured or broken bones can sometimes last several weeks or months. Often these injuries do not heal properly and then require corrective surgery. Injured railroad workers miss time because of these injuries, which results in lost wages.
Traumatic Brain Injuries, Concussions, and Head Injuries
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013:
These figures are likely an underestimate of the true number of TBIs as they exclude people who did not seek medical attention at the emergency room.
Railroad workers suffer head injuries all too frequently. These accidents occur in many ways. A railroad worker might slip on oily locomotive floors or fall from defective equipment. Freight or equipment may break or fall.
Sometimes head injuries are apparent, such as with a fractured skull or cheekbones. However, brain injuries are often invisible to the naked eye, and require MRI and DTI scans and other testing for diagnosis. Family members may notice differences in behavior and interaction. Victims of traumatic brain injuries suffer from changes to their personality, reduced cognitive ability, and difficulty understanding and expressing emotions, as well as a persistent headache, slurred speech, and loss of coordination.
Common among railroad workers are mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions. Many concussions go untreated and do not develop full symptoms for some time.
Concussions are classified according to severity. Symptoms include headache, blurred vision, and difficulty balancing, as well as concentration problems and personality changes. These injuries can be devastating, as they can ruin careers, alienate victims from friends and family, and leave victims changed mentally. Symptoms such as memory loss and depression are hallmarks of even mild traumatic brain injuries.
Because these injuries may be hard to detect, railroads contest related claims fiercely, typically claiming that the injured railroad worker is faking an injury.
Lead FELA attorney Joe Saylor represented an engineer who slipped on crew packs that had been left on the floor of a trailing locomotive, a violation of the Locomotive Inspection Act. The slip caused the engineer to fall down the metal steps of the locomotive and hit his head.
The railroad, BNSF, accused this long-time employee of lying about the accident and faking his injuries. While the engineer was in the hospital, BNSF claim agents disposed of the crew packs that had been on the floor, shoved one out of the walkway, and then took pictures. Unaware that the claims representatives had already altered the scene, a train master removed the remaining crew pack and took his own pictures. Neither were aware that the conductor working with the engineer had taken pictures of the scene immediately after the accident.
Caught red-handed, the railroad in a desperate turn then called this loyal employee of almost forty years a liar, claiming that he fabricated the injury.Halfway through the trial, the railroad exposed and their accusatory tactics on display for the jury, BNSF abandoned their efforts and offered eight times the pre-trial amount.
Resources for Traumatic Brain Injury
Back, Neck, and Spinal Injuries
Railroad workers frequently suffer back and neck injuries, which can often lead to extensive medical treatments such as injections, therapy, spinal fusions, discectomies, and other surgeries. These injuries often result in chronic pain and work restrictions that may force railroad workers into early retirement or lesser-paying jobs
Lifting heavy equipment like knuckles or hoses, tying bad handbrakes, and throwing bad switches can cause spinal disc herniations and bulging discs. Just one inflamed disc can result in surgery, weeks of bed rest, and extreme pain. Certain permanent back injuries have been known to result in numbness or weakness, even without causing paralysis. A spinal cord injury can leave someone with a complete lack of independence or mobility. Locomotive vibrations and rough riding on defective tracks can also cause disc, back, and neck problems that cut railroad careers short.
Contact the experienced railroad accident attorneys of Bolt Hoffer Boyd for an initial consultation.