Railroad Accident - Train Derailment, Worker Hurt with Neck and Back Injury
Attorneys and Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, Roz H., Paralegal, Sandra J., Legal Assistant
Court/Date: May 2013
Case Description: Railroad Accident - neck injury, syrinx – fluid filled sac beside spinal cord.
[This disclosure is limited by a confidentiality agreement demanded by the railroad so only certain details can be presented.] Our client was working in train transportation service when his train derailed. Part of his body struck metallic parts of the train and he was dazed for some seconds before a co-worker asked him if he was alright. The railroad worker was not responding appropriately and therefore medical attention was sought and he was seen in an Emergency Room later that day. Apparently he had brief loss of consciousness because he could not recall exactly what he hit his head on or what his right shoulder struck. He began having persistent headaches in the weeks and months after the injury and tingling pain down his right arm into his fingers. Eventually he treated with a neurologist and despite having undergone a series of neck epidural injections; he still had lingering pain, headaches and problems. Finally a repeat MRI was conducted of his neck/cervical spine area, which showed a condition called myelomalacia or spinal cord syrinx. A syrinx is a fairly rare medical condition marked by a fluid filled sac of spinal fluid that escapes and collects beside the spinal cord. The question was whether it was caused by the sudden impact during the railroad accident.
One of the key issues was to develop whether a trauma such as this can cause a fluid sac and syrinx that affects the cervical spine. We followed up with the treating doctor and had a conference with him on how these are caused and what the likelihood is that it was a result of the railroad accident. We learned that in the week or two after the accident a first MRI was conducted which did not show the syrinx, but that after a year went by this syrinx benign fluid sac slowly formed very close to the spinal cord. The doctor stated that this is a very dangerous condition that can grow and cause pain, weakness, stiffness, and can affect the arms and legs. Surgery could be required depending on whether the syrinx pressed on the spinal cord but the doctor refused to allow the worker to return to any type of railroad transportation service. The doctor gave work duty restrictions that included no heavy lifting and no conditions that made him more likely to have a head or neck injury because of a fall. This excluded railroad work, no lifting over 50 pounds, and exclusion from various activities like roller skating, roller blading, ice skating, etcetera.
This case was difficult to settle but ultimately just weeks before the jury trial, we were able to settle the case with the railroad defendant for $190,000.00. Our client was working in a lighter duty job and his offsetting lost wages were not tremendous but the injuries caused a change in his regular activities, and prevented any work in his chosen job for the railroad.