A man working on the railroad tracks in the 1100 block of Goff Street in Norfolk, Virginia (VA), suffered life-threatening injuries when a Norfolk Southern train struck him on the evening of January 14, 2018. Local police and rescue squads responded to the call a little before 5:30 pm and had the injured man transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in critical condition.
In talking with news reporters, police described the incident as an “industrial accident” but offered no other details. That characterization implies that the man hit by the westbound freight train was an employee or contractor of Norfolk Southern. The area where the wreck happened is a residential neighborhood, so a worker for another business that relies on Norfolk Southern services would not be likely to have been on the tracks there.
As Virginia-based railroad injury lawyers who have offices in Norfolk, my law firm colleagues and I keep a close eye on the safety practices of Norfolk Southern, as well as those of Amtrak and CSX, which also use the tracks in Norfolk. Trains colliding with trackmen, conductors and switchmen happen too often. Scheduling, communications and signaling systems are supposed to be in place and enforced to prevent such crashes, but managers and co-workers too often fail to follow procedures.
If the investigation into the train crash on the tracks running parallel to Goff Street in Norfolk reveals that the railroad or its people neglected to take measures to prevent the accident, the man hit by the Norfolk Southern train would have strong grounds for seeking compensation and damages under a law known as the Federal Employers Liability Act.
Usually shortened to FELA, the law is sometimes described as workers’ compensation for railroad employees. That analogy is not completely accurate, however, because fully exercising their rights under FELA requires rail employees to take companies that will not voluntary settle injury claims to federal court or to a state court authorized to act in place of a federal court.
FELA, as summarized by the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, authorizes an injured rail employee to file claims for the following harms:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future loss of earnings
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental injuries
My Virginia FELA attorney colleagues and I urge Norfolk Southern officials to cooperate with law enforcement and workplace safety officials to identify the exact cause of this crash on the railroad tracks through Norfolk. And, once a cause is found, to quickly implement any measures needed to prevent such incidents in the future.