A CSX locomotive engineer suffered physical and brain injuries when debris from an engine valve that exploded without warning hit him in the head. He received emergency medical treatment for a massive contusion and later went back to the doctor complaining of headaches, mental confusion, difficulty remembering details and problems with performing normal activities.
A neuropsychiatrist eventually diagnosed the railroad employee with a mild traumatic brain injury (MBTI). This often happens after a person suffers a major concussion.
By the time the locomotive engineer hired our national railroad injury law firm, he had been medically disqualified from working for CSX and granted railroad retirement benefits. The freight rail corporation denied all responsibility for the catastrophic failure of the engine valve and fought our client’s claims all the way through a personal injury lawsuit brought under the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act.
Evidence presented by our FELA lawsuit attorney convinced jurors that CSX failed to properly inspect and repair the damaged or defective valve. As a result, the jury awarded the brain damaged former railroad employee compensation and damages totaling $365,000. Jurors were not allowed to factor our client’s retirement benefits into their decision.
Key Legal Strategy
Our railroad injury attorney faced two challenges when it came to winning the FELA lawsuit against CSX.
First, MBTI symptoms are often subtle. This form of brain damage does not show up on x-rays or CAT scans. Rather, it manifests in an impairment of what doctors and mental health professionals call an impairment of executive function. Mild traumatic brain injury victims have problems learning new information, difficulty remembering details, trouble maintaining emotional stability and difficulty expressing themselves clearly. Some people diagnosed with an MTBI can also struggle with self-care, finding it difficult to remember to eat and bathe or to properly dress themselves.
The other challenges faced by our FELA lawsuit attorney was the requirement under that law to show that the railroad acted negligently in a way that led to one of its workers getting hurt or killed. The best way to demonstrate negligence is to show that the railroad failed to comply with an applicable safety regulation.
The diagnosis and records from the neuropsychiatrist who was treating the locomotive engineer established the presence and persistence of an MTBI. Our attorney also obtained statements from members of the man’s family, who described the devastating effects the man’s cognitive and emotional struggles were having on their lives.
The railroad tried to prove that its former engineer was experiencing no brain damage by hiring a private investigator to film our client doing things like driving and shopping. Jurors believed the neuropsychiatrist and family members.
Regarding negligence, physical evidence and maintenance records showed that CSX had failed to comply with the Locomotive Inspection Act. Our railroad injury attorney also retained the services of a biomechanical engineer to analyze the speed at which debris from the exploding valve struck the engineer’s head.
As attorneys for railroad employees for more than 30 years, we know that rail corporations often fight injury and wrongful death claims with all the resources they can bring to bear. Sadly, brain injury cases give railroads many opportunities for corporations to deny the existence of a disability. We do all we can to ensure railroad workers can take on their former employers on an equal footing.
Court and Dates: West Virginia state court, 2001
Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, attorney