Asbestos Cancer Lawyer Advice - Bringing a Railroad Asbestos Cancer Claim | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

If you worked for a railroad (example: CSX, Norfolk Southern, Burlington Northern, etc.) prior to 1990, then you were probably exposed to asbestos. The big railroad companies knew, since the 1930s, that asbestos exposure could result in cancer. Yet, they did virtually nothing to protect you, and other rail workers, from being exposed to these toxic fibers.

Asbestos Cancer Lawyer Explains the Process for Bringing a Railroad Asbestos Cancer Claim

It can take between 15 to 50 years before you even notice symptoms of asbestos disease and before signs of asbestos exposure appear on a chest x-ray. That means you could be well into your golden age of retirement before discovering that you have cancer such as mesothelioma.

If you or a loved one worked for a railroad and were later diagnosed with cancer, below is a general outline for bringing an asbestos cancer claim against the railroad. In general, there should be medical records showing:

  • a positive chest x-ray showing scarring of the lungs
  • a positive Pulmonary Function Test (PFT)
  • confirmation of clinical symptoms by a medical doctor (such as a pulmonologist)

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To have a viable asbestos cancer claim, you must have: some clinical sign or symptoms of lung disease (e.g., difficulty breathing, chest pains), be examined by a doctor who confirms those clinical symptoms and performs a positive PFT obtain a chest x-ray. Unfortunately, the presence of some scarring in the lungs, or pleural plaques, is not enough, on its own, to bring a viable asbestos cancer claim against a big railroad company.

Types of Cancers Resulting from Asbestos Exposure

Some of the most common cancers caused by asbestos exposure include asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.


Asbestosis is a scar formation in your lung. These scars interfere with your lung function such as blocking the transport of oxygen from the air in your lungs to the blood vessels that travel through your lungs. Oxygen can only cross the membranes of the lung if they are very thin and asbestosis causes them to become extremely thick.

Some railroad workers can have so-called “mild asbestosis” and have no serious breathing issues. Unfortunately, other rail workers with more extensive asbestos exposure can develop asbestosis so bad that they get out of breath with just mild exertion (e.g., walking up a flight of stairs). As a general rule, the greater the exposure – the more the disease effects your life.

Eventually, these lung scars become visible on chest x-rays. There is a system of grading the degree of asbestosis on the chest x-ray called the ILO classification. Specially trained physicians (known as “B” readers) administer the tests to determine the severity of your asbestosis.

The scars can also be detected on pulmonary function testing. Asbestosis makes your lungs stiffer and smaller, so the volume of air in the lungs decreases.

Sadly, once this scar formation takes place on your lungs, it is irreversible. Furthermore, because of the lung damage, workers struggling with asbestosis are at a higher risk of developing serious lung infections.

Lung Cancer

Railroad workers exposed to asbestos are at a much higher risk of developing lung cancer. For example, insulators who worked for a railroad for 15 or 20 years and have never smoked have a risk that is 5 times greater than non-asbestos workers for developing lung cancer. Even worse, an insulator who smoked during their life has a 50-to-90-fold increased risk of developing lung cancer. Why? Because cigarettes and asbestos act together “synergistically” to cause cancer.


Mesothelioma is arguably the worst kind of cancer to get since, at this time, it is incurable. It develops in the lining of your lungs. Railroad workers exposed to asbestos get mesothelioma at a rate far greater than non-exposed persons.

What To Do Next

Contact our asbestos cancer law firm to set up a confidential, no-cost consultation. We have a long history of representing railroad workers who had their lives turned upside down after a cancer diagnosis. Check out this page to see our track record of results with railroad cancer cases: