What Happened

The railroad engineer who our Virginia FELA attorney helped suffered a traumatic brain injury when another train collided with his locomotive in another Eastern state. The collision knocked him out of his seat, and he struck his head against the wall of the crew cab.

The engineer sought immediate and ongoing treatment for his visible head injuries, and he filed an accident report with his employer. That report and subsequent investigations indicated that the engineer had stopped his locomotive and was awaiting further instructions on where to move the engine when the train operated by another railroad company approached unexpectedly and could not brake in time to prevent the crash.

Very soon after the accident, the engineer began experiencing serious cognitive and memory issues. A referral to a neuropsychiatrist confirmed that the man suffered brain damage when he slammed his head against the interior wall of the locomotive. The specialist also gave the engineer a poor prognosis for fully recovering his mental acuity.


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Key Legal Strategy

The engineer filed injury and disability claims under the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), but the railroad corporation denied them on the basis that MRIs showed no conclusive evidence of structural damage to his brain. This caused him to hire an attorney and file a civil lawsuit.

Our Virginia FELA law firm’s managing partner was brought into the case as a co-counsel for the engineer. We have successfully represented railroad employees in personal injury and wrongful death cases since the mid-1980s, and we welcomed this opportunity to put our expertise into service for a brain-injured client.

A confidentiality clause in the settlement agreement prevents us from sharing many details about our legal strategy, but we can say that we built our client’s case on facts shared by medical experts in depositions and detailed reports. We also emphasized that the problems our client now had with recalling information, learning new procedures and communicating clearly would make it impossible for him to take another job for the rest of his life.

A few weeks before a jury trial was scheduled to begin, the judge assigned to the case ordered the engineer and the railroad corporation to attempt mediation. That process ended with our client receiving $1 million in settlement of all his FELA claims.

Date: May 2013

Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, staff attorney acting as co-counsel