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Shapiro & Appleton

$309,000 Settlement for Track Worker Who Suffered Back Injury

What Happened:

Our client was a track worker for a major railroad who was injured during 2010 when he was involved in lifting activities. The track worker was only 25 years old and worked for the railroad for less than three years.  

He and a coworker were lifting track equipment when our client felt the pain in his back, not during work, but by the time he got home that night.  Over the weekend, his back pain became very serious and he scheduled an appointment with a doctor.  He later filed an injury report after learning he likely suffered a herniated disc.
 
Our track worker client tried to work a couple of days on light duty, but could not do any lifting activities, and eventually, was pulled back out of work by his doctor.  He was very soon after referred to a surgeon, who told him he needed low back surgery.  

The first surgeon wanted to conduct the procedure with an artificial disc that was not approved by health insurance. As a result, there was a delay of a number of months before he was referred to another surgeon who ultimately conducted disc surgery on his low back.  

However, the track worker did not recover properly in the first couple of weeks after surgery and had to go back to the surgeon. Ultimately, a second surgery was done to clear more bone away from the nerve root in our client's low back.  Following the second surgery, and considerable rehabilitation, our client was left with a 10 to 20 pound lifting restriction which disqualified him from working as a track worker for the railroad.
 
Key Strategy:
 
After looking into the circumstances of our client's lifting activities, we were familiar with a number of railroad industry standards relating to ergonomics. Ergonomics dictates that heavy lifting should be done in certain ways.  All major railroads were aware of ergonomics no later than the early 1990s.  Lifts of heavy objects that are made above shoulder height can be very dangerous. For this reason, railroads looked for alternative methods to avoid back injuries to workers like our client. 

Our ergonomics professional wrote an extensive report outlining how the railroad did not follow prevailing industry standards on avoiding heavy lifts. 
We also retained an economist to calculate just how much the track worker would lose by not earning his regular pay from the railroad, and the number was a staggering $2.5 million when carried out through age 65.  

However, our client was retraining to get into some other kind of work that does not require lifting, and we also obtained a vocational rehabilitation counselor to analyze what our client could earn once he finished his community college education.  Considering the type of job that our track worker client might be able to do in the future, the lost wages still were over $1.3 million.  After we conducted various depositions, and provided the railroad involved with a number of our expert reports, we entered a voluntary mediation session with the railroad in an effort to resolve the case without a jury trial.  

At the mediation session, the parties settled the case for $309,000.00.  Because our client had not reported his injury on the day it occurred, and because the allegations relating to the railroad's liability for violating railroad industry standards was hotly contested, our client felt that the settlement offer was fair and would help compensate him to retrain to get into another line of work.
 
Results: $309,000.00 mediation settlement.

$309,000.00

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