What Happened

Our Virginia railroad injury client was working for Amtrak as a train attendant in Richmond, VA, when she slipped and fell on an icy walkway. She badly injured her knee and was eventually forced to take a job outside of the railroad injury.

The fall happened while our client was on duty. She did not see the icy patch on the walkway, which was often wet due to an unrepaired leak from a nearby pipe.

Our client immediately sought medical treatment and reported her injury to her supervisor. She then took leave and returned to her home in Jacksonville, Florida (FL), to recover. Physical therapy and medications failed to resolve persistent weakness and pain from damage to the cartilage in her knee that was diagnosed as chondromalacia patella.

The train attendant subsequently underwent two orthopedic surgeries, but she continued experiencing problems like having her knee lock up and pop. The impairment forced her to resign from her position with Amtrak and move to Ohio, where she could live more economically.


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Key Legal Strategy

The injured former train attendant hired our Virginia railroad injury law firm when Amtrak started the process of canceling her insurance coverage. Under the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), however, the railroad corporation had responsibility for covering the medical bills stemming from her work-related knee injury.

FELA clearly states that railroads must provide safe workplaces and working conditions. Amtrak failed to meet that legal duty because it failed to repair the leaking pipe, failed to check whether ice had formed and failed to warn any workers to watch out for black ice on the walkway.

Amtrak reluctantly covered our client’s ER visit, physical therapy, medications, and first orthopedic surgery. The rail corporation only did that, however, while giving the woman a constant runaround regarding “proper forms” and “approved providers.”

When our Virginia railroad injury client arrived in Ohio, Amtrak argued that it could no longer approve her insurance claims. FELA lawyers affiliated with the American Association for Justice helped us put our client in contact with a local orthopedist who was able to perform the second knee repair and achieve results that allowed the woman to return to work outside the railroad industry.

Faced with a lawsuit over its failure to meet its legal obligations to its former employee, Amtrak entered into protracted negotiations over the settlement of all past and future injury claims, as well as for lost lifetime wages. The railroad finally greed to pay our Virginia railroad injury client $150,000. The woman considered this fair and adequate to allow her to live without medical debt and to re-establish herself in a new career.

We were glad that we could resolve this complicated FELA case without going to trial. Railroad corporations often try to shirk their legal duties and insurance obligations to injured workers, which Amtrak attempted to do by unnecessarily complicating insurance coverage issues. Fighting for an acceptable settlement held Amtrak accountable and put our client on a solid path to a financially secure future.

Court and Date: Richmond Circuit Court, Richmond, VA, 2007

Staff: Staff attorney