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Shapiro & Appleton

$1.5 Million for Railroad Bridge Worker Left With Limp After Leg Was Crushed

Case Description: Illinois Central/Canadian National Bridge Repair Worker Had Leg Crushed, Permanently Damaged on the Job

Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, Attorney; Kevin M. Duffan, Attorney; Herb Wooten, Investigator; R. Hughes, Paralegal

Location and Date: New Orleans, Louisiana (LA), federal district court, August 2011

Resolution: $1.516 million verdict

What Happened: Our client was a 33-year-old Illinois Central/Canadian National bridge repair worker who had been earning about $40,000 a year before a 1,600-pound bridge timber smashed and partly crushed his lower leg on an elevated bridge near New Orleans, Louisiana (LA).

The orthopedic surgeon who first treated the injured rail employee permanently implanted a rod through our client's lower leg, and our client was forced to embark on a long course of physical therapy totaling more than 100 sessions over nine months.

Because of the rod and screws, he developed early signs of reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which is also called complex regional pain syndrome. His neurologist testified that he had early signs of this complex. 

Clearly, the damage to the railroad worker's tibia, fibula and entire leg was extensive.

Although his doctor placed the injured man under restrictions that essentially disqualified him from his job, our railroad worker injury law firm's key strategy was to ensure that a functional capacity evaluation, or FCE, by the physical therapy clinic would make any argument from the railroad about his ability to do his prior job at a future trial immaterial and moot.

After the FCE was done, our client was medically disqualified from his job since he could only do about 25 percent of the necessary job duties. He continued to have pain in his lower leg, developed a limp and needed to use a cane every day even though he was just in his earliy 30s at the time of trial. The month before trial, he found a minimum wage job working for a used car operation and also enrolled in community college class to retrain for some work, perhaps in computers.

Our Virginia (VA) railroad injury attorneys filed suit in federal court in New Orleans. Two failed mediations occurred during which the highest settlement offer from the defendants was less than $400,000. So our injury attorneys proceeded to trial. Twenty-five days before trial, the railroad and its contractor that was swinging the bridge timber both admitted liability -- meaning they accepted fault -- but challenged the amount of all harms and damages to our client.

In the courtroom, the defense attorney attacked everything -- gaps in care and treatment for our client, that it was just a broken leg, and that the injured man was able to take a vacation once a year with his wife, who sat innocently watching the proceedings. 

After a three-day trial, our railroad worker injury lawyers realized that the only registered nurse on the jury held the verdict form. We didn't know what to expect. Fortunately, the decision was to award our client $1.516 million. This was a storybook ending considering that no offer from the defendants during trial had exceeded $575,000.

It was truly rewarding to fight for justice for this worthy young man so he can retrain for some new occupation or endeavor despite his impairment.

$1.5 million

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