What Happened: As often happens in slip and fall cases involving ice, the ice formed what is commonly called "black ice." There was no way for our client to see this danger on the walking area where she had to do her job. Amtrak had failed to keep a reasonably safe place to work for this train attendant. The company had failed to inspect the area, repair the leak, and/or warn about the danger of the ice that formed. Because of my years of experience as a lawyer in the world of FELA (Federal Employers’ Liability Act), I was not too concerned that we would be able to prove the fault of Amtrak causing the injury.
Our client immediately reported her injury to supervisor on the railroad. She received emergency medical treatment at an emergency room at a Richmond area hospital, Henrico Doctors Hospital. Initial conservative medical treatment back home in Jacksonville, Florida, like physical therapy and medications, were not enough to control the knee pain from the chondromalacia patella. Ultimately, she saw an orthopaedic surgeon who performed an arthroscopic operation attempting to repair the damage to her knee joint. Later the client was forced to move to Ohio because of her financial situation not being able to earn her regular income from her work at Amtrak. A second knee surgery was performed there to repair problems with the knee, such as chronic pain and popping, that were not better after the first operation. The orthopedic surgeon in Ohio was able to get a good result for the patient, but she still had a permanent impartial impairment which would prevent her from being able to return to her old job on the railroad.
Outcome: Our law firm was able to get a reasonable settlement for the client that she was satisfied with. The client then had enough money to get herself re-established and find a new job outside of the railroad industry. The negotiated payment from the railroad’s claims agent was an amount intended to compensate the woman for her lost wages and her continuing knee discomfort.
Key Legal Strategies: One of the main problems in this FELA case was that the client was having a hard time getting good medical attention that she needed. Initially the client was caught in the typical situation of an injured person after an accident where they are trying to tough it out and keep working and as a result, not getting around to getting to receive appropriate needed medical care. Additionally, the major railroads like Amtrak often play a game where they will cut off the injured worker’s health insurance claiming to need certain paperwork. Then the client has to be able to find a doctor to see them to fill out the paperwork but they don’t have any insurance or enough money to see the doctor to get the paperwork filled out.
When the client had to move to another state she needed a referral for a doctor to treat her knee. From my contacts with other FELA lawyers and some of the top lawyers in the country through groups like the AAJ (American Association for Justice), we were able to find her a doctor who would treat her, providing the best medical care available. Ultimately, the favorable report of the orthopedic surgeon in Ohio forced the railroad’s legal department to pay a reasonable amount for the claim.
Staff: John C., injury attorney, and Roz Hughes, paralegal
Court/Date: Settled before filing suit in the Richmond Circuit Court in 2007.