Repetitive Stress and Railroad Workers: Know Your FELA Rights | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are becoming a common occurrence among long-tenured railroad employees. For example, RSIs account for more than 60 percent of all occupational illnesses and impact roughly 1.8 million American workers. If you have been working for a railroad company such as Norfolk Southern, CSX, etc. for a number of years and are now struggling with tendonitis, hearing loss, carpel tunnel syndrome, chronic back pain, etc. you may have grounds to file a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act to obtain compensatory damages.

How an RSI Develops

Repetitive stress injuries are generally caused by the repeated use of a body part to perform a task that strains or overextends that body part. It’s important to recognize, too, that a worker does not have to be doing the same thing all day every day in order to develop an RSI. Much railroad work does not appear to be repetitive, but cumulative wear a joint or muscle group can also lead to an RSI.

The most common causes of RSIs are awkward posture or positioning, standing still for an extended time, poorly designed equipment, repetition of movement, vibrations, exposure to extreme temperatures, bending over and a lack of mandatory rotation of job duties. The article also laid out most common symptoms of an RSI injury:

  • Tendonitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • Tenosynovitis (inflammation of the synovium, the lining covering the tendons)
  • Hearing loss
  • DeQuervain’s syndrome (tendonitis at the base of the thumb)
  • Chronic back pain
  • Cumulative trauma disorder
  • Bursitis
  • Trigger finger
  • Ganglion cyst

Holding the Railroad Accountable

Large railroad companies are well aware of the modifications they should make to employees’ work tasks in order to prevent RSIs. Nevertheless, these railroad companies often fail to implement the changes necessary to protect workers’ health. Worse, rail corporations too often fail to warn their employees about the potential health risks of their jobs, including RSIs. In circumstances where an employer carelessly and negligently fails to prevent an RSI, the company can be held liable.

While it can be harder to connect an employer’s negligence to an RSI than would showing liability for a single-incident, catastrophic injury, our team of experienced personal injury attorneys have successfully handled many FELA cases. By looking at the right issues, we can show – through expert testimony on workplace safety and ergonomics – how and when a railroad should have maintained a safer work environment and was negligent in its duty of care for a worker.

The key is to perform a thorough ergonomic analysis, about which you can learn more by clicking here.

It is necessary for employers to conduct an ergonomic analysis of their workplaces and make any necessary changes the analysis reveal. The problem is that many companies negligently and carelessly fail to make the necessary adjustments. Some companies attempt to remain ignorant by failing to conduct the necessary analysis at all. Both of these circumstances provide a basis for potential liability.

The Clock is Ticking on Your Ability to File a FELA Claim

Any railroad worker should be mindful of the fact that RSIs claims against a railroad fall under FELA, which provides a 3-year statute of limitations from when the claim arises. In repetitive stress injury situations, careful legal analysis must be applied to determine when the 3-year statute of limitations begins to run — “accrues” in legal jargon. If you believe that you or a family member may have a repetitive stress injury, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible because the statute of limitations analysis usually requires legal advice and a careful analysis of not only the legal situation but a review of all applicable prior medical care for the injury involved.

Have Questions? Contact Our FELA Law Firm Today

If you have questions about your rights under the FELA to pursue compensatory damages for an RSI, our law firm is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential case review.