A low-speed derailment permanently and totally disabled our client, who was working as a freight train conductor at the time of the accident.
An investigation showed that our client’s train was traveling at just under 10 mph when it passed over a track switch in Winchester, Virginia (VA), and derailed. The locomotive in which our client was working did not roll over, but he was shaken violently. Despite experiencing immediate pain and tightness in his back and neck, our client was able to inspect the rail cars to ensure that none had incurred significant damage or leaked hazardous chemicals.
Our client went on medical leave the day after the derailment and was never able to return to work. Multiple doctors treated him for back and neck pain without success. Even injections of pain medications into the muscles and nerves lining his spinal column failed to provide relief.
Ultimately, two physicians declared our client totally disabled and ruled that he could not resume working as a train conductor or perform gainful work on a regular basis at all.
Key Legal Strategy
After the disabled conductor hired our Virginia-based railroad injury law firm, we opened an investigation into the derailment. Our investigators determined that the switch where the derailment occurred was “lined” properly for the train’s movement but also that significant damage to the rails and a degraded rail bed on the day of the accident made the area dangerous.
Experts on railroad liability retained by our firm concluded that Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rules required replacing a switch with the degree of wear shown on the one where our client’s train derailed. Additionally, heavy rain in the hours before the derailment had left the ground waterlogged and the soil loose, which created a gap between the rails and the ground. The rail bed had not been rebuilt months later when our inspectors visited.
The railroad that had employed the conductor contested all these findings. The company also argued that our client’s injuries were not significant or disabling, and it refused to settle claims brought under the Federal Employers Liability Act.
We filed a lawsuit against the railroad in West Virginia and took depositions from railroad supervisors who admitted that there were FRA switch violations. We also collected and organized extensive medical evidence to prove that our client was totally disabled as a result of the back and neck injuries he suffered in the derailment.
The railroad ultimately did settle the FELA case and agree to pay our client $370,000. The company did not admit fault, but the outcome was positive.
Our personal injury and wrongful death law firm has helped disabled railroad workers and the families of deceased rail employees all over the United States. We have a particular focus on back and neck injuries caused by train crashes, derailments and repetitive stress.
Court and Date: Second Judicial Circuit Court, Marshall County, West Virginia, March 2005
Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, attorney