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Shapiro & Appleton

Railroad Conductor Who Suffered Paralysis and Quadriplegia After Being Struck by Train Engine

Case Description: A conductor suffered paralyzing injuries when an engine hit him while he was inspecting his own train in a rail yard. The paralysis to the man's arms and legs was permanent, leaving him and his family with large medical expenses for his entire life.

Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, Attorney; Donald Case, Investigator; Roz Hughes, Paralegal

Resolution: The case was settled for a confidential seven-figure sum before going to trial. At the time, the amount awarded to our client was the largest voluntary settlement agreed to by a railroad.
 
What Happened: A railroad conductor was walking and inspecting his train along railroad tracks in a railroad yard when he was suddenly and without warning hit by a passing train engine that he had not been warned would be passing on the yard track next to him. The impact completely knocked the conductor down and and unconcious, and he was rushed by rescue squad personnel to a nearby trauma hospital. The conductor suffered paralyzing injuries to  multiple body parts, including his legs and arms.

Doctors at the hospital did everything possible to restore feeling to our client's legs and arms, but months of intensive treatment and theraphy let him the injured conductor with incomplete quadriplegia. He had very minimal use of one of both arms but virtually no use of either legs. It was critical that he had the very limited use of his right arm because this could allowed him to raise food to his mouth and feed himself without constantly needing another person to keep him from starving. Quadraplegia and other types of paralyzing injuries are horrible psychological injuries; they impose an incredible burden on a person's family members, who essentially become caregivers for the disabled person.

Key Legal Strategy:
In this Federal Employers' Liability Act lawsuit involving a rail yard accident that led to paralysis, our client could not assist us much in investigating and determining the liability of the railroad and the co-worker engineer. Soon after being retained by our client, we filed a FELA claim on the conductor's behalf, issued subpoenas and document requests, and demanded all types of evidence from the railroad to show the speed of the passing engine. We also wanted to know exactly what train movements had happened in the yard just before our client was struck by the yard engine. This required requesting dispatch records for all rail personnel who were engaging in train movements, central dispatch audiotapes, signal records for each signal in the yard nearby, the black box/event recorder from the engine, photographs and videotape obtained by the railroad to investigate the circumstances, and several other types of documents and forms of evidence..

Ultimately, we showed that the engineer operting the engine that struck the conductor was exceeding the timetable speed for the yard and that proper warnings were not provided to our client while he was working in the area. Also, we obtained many medical professionals' opinions about future medical expenses our client and his family would incur while fulfilling the requirements of the paralyzed conductor's life care plan. Paying all the medical expenses and related costs of caring for a person with partial with partial quadriplegia can quickly bankrupt any family.

Confidential multimillion settlement

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