Our client was a railroad worker at a facility operating in interstate commerce. As a result, the railroad facility, and the workers, were subject to the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). This is a federal law permitting railroad workers who suffered personal injuries to settle with or file a civil action against their railroad employer for negligence. During 2016, our client was working at a railroad facility, wearing his hard hat, when he was injured after walking into a solid metal rod that was protruding about a foot downward from a low ceiling in the facility. The collision with the metal rod almost knocked his helmet off, and left him with a concussion, headache, light sensitivity, and nausea.
Our client was taken to a nearby emergency room and underwent CT scans and a series of other tests before being released to follow up with an appropriate doctor. He attempted to return to work for a day, but began to suffer further headaches, nausea, and ongoing neck pain so he went to a second urgent care and was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome, prescribed various medications, and referred for a neurological consultation. At that follow-up consultation, an MRI of the brain and neck was ordered and revealed various abnormalities. His physician also ordered bilateral occipital nerve blocks which he underwent to help with his symptoms. He was also referred to physical therapy and underwent facet joint injections, cervical ablation procedures, and continued with medications. His neurologist also suggested a series of acupuncture treatments. He remained out of work while undergoing medical care outlined above.
Eventually, he underwent a functional capacity evaluation (also called an “FCE"), which is a physical therapy evaluation that can last one or two days. The FCE tests an individual's ability to work at specific workplace levels. When our client attempted to return to his railroad job, he developed a new medical issue with his spine which his physician believed was serious, but unrelated to his original injuries at the railroad. Because the new condition prevented him from returning to his railroad job, we attempted to settle the case for his lost wages up until his medical diagnosis with the unrelated condition. Unfortunately, the initial efforts to settle the case were unsuccessful.
Key Legal Strategies
Our railroad worker injury law firm filed a FELA lawsuit, but we withheld going forward with the suit to engage in further negotiations with the claim's representatives for the railroad. Although our assessment of lost wages differed substantially from the railroad, we ultimately were able to arrive at a settlement of the case which took into account his pain, suffering, and medical treatment, as well as his lost wages of over a year prior to his diagnosis with the unrelated condition.
The railroad involved, our client's specific job, geographical location of injury, and the court where the complaint was filed are confidential under terms of a settlement agreement.
Details Relevant to FELA/Federal Employers Liability Act Railroad Injury Cases
In many cases involving railroad worker injury claims, there are two important issues relating to negligence (the lack of ordinary care):
(1) Was the railroad (or any of its employees) negligent or careless in any way?
(2) If the railroad was negligent, was the railroad worker contributorily or comparatively negligent or careless in anything given rise to the injury suffered.
Both of these negligence issues are important in FELA cases. In this particular case, we developed substantial information that there was negligence on behalf of the railroad and we had interviewed a railroad worker who gave us reasons for the protruding object that extended through the ceiling of the area where our client was working. But there was argument that our client had contributed to causing his own injury, and this is called comparative negligence. Under the Federal Employers Liability Act, pure comparative negligence applies, meaning that if a worker is himself or herself negligent, a jury at a trial can determine the percentage of negligence of the railroad and then the percentage of negligence, if any, on the worker. For example, if a jury decided to return a $1,000,000.00 verdict and it found the railroad was 90 percent negligent, and the worker 10 percent negligent, the worker would receive 90 percent of the $1,000,000.00 verdict. The verdict is reduced by the percentage of the railroad worker's own comparative negligence. However, if a railroad or its employee violates a railroad safety statute or regulation, then the comparative negligence of the railroad worker injured is nullified.
In the same example above, the railroad worker would receive the whole $1,000,000.00. The comparative negligence determination is nullified if a railroad or its employee violates a railroad safety statute or regulation that leads to a worker’s injury. Railroad safety statute or regulatory violations of the Safety Appliance Act, Locomotive Inspection Act, Hours of Service Act, or any other railroad safety statute or regulation, impose liability on railroads and nullify contributory negligence of the worker, so it is vital to obtain a confidential review of any potential case, as a skilled railroad injury/FELA attorney can often analyze whether an injury was caused by a regulatory violation-and many such regulations are not known to workers.
Also, the railroad federal employers liability act not only covers accidents on the Road but covers contraction of occupational diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances, including but not limited to asbestos, diesel exhaust fumes, radioactive materials, toxic chemicals and the like.
If you or a family member have any questions relating to any railroad worker injury case, our firm provides free confidential consultations, you can send us a contact or feel free to call our law firm to discuss the issues.