FELA Lawsuits and the Role of Expert Testimony | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

A recent settlement by another law firm of a Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) claim in California demonstrates the complicated nature of these railroad worker injury claims as well as the necessity for qualified expert testimony in career ending claims. The plaintiff was a 33 year old train conductor whose left foot was crushed by a railroad car he had fallen from. The plaintiff suffered a partial amputation of his foot; however, subsequent infections led to a below knee amputation of the left leg.


The plaintiff retained a vocational analyst who reviewed the plaintiff’s medical records and conducted testing to determine if the plaintiff had any skills which were transferable to other jobs. The expert determined the Plaintiff had low reading comprehension and spelling abilities which effected his return to work.

The plaintiff was also found to have a low reasoning level. The expert opined that since the plaintiff had only worked physically demanding jobs (which his injury prevented him from performing) vocational rehabilitation was necessary to maximize his future job options.The plaintiff advised the expert he had an interest in obtaining an associate’s degree. Based upon this information, the expert developed a plan that involved the plaintiff’s completion of a remedial program at an adult’s school before retiring to pursue the associate’s degree.

The expert reasoned that if the plaintiff could not complete the adult school program he would be limited to semi-skilled and unskilled jobs with his injury. The expert also concluded the plaintiff had an 89.3 percent probability of employment before the injury and 10 percent probability of employment after the injury. The expert’s work and testimony contributed to a confidential seven figure settlement the Plaintiff reached with his employer.

Our firm regularly works with railroad workers who have been disqualified from their jobs by injuries. Once the disability has been established medically and work restrictions are set, we send the clients to a vocational specialist. We work with some of the best vocational experts in Virginia, who know railroad job duties and railroad workers from past experience. The vocational specialist helps us prove to the railroad claims agent, and if needed the judge and jury, the limited occupational status of the railroad man, given his serious physical impairment from the accident. This vocational evidence is critical to handling significant litigation against the railroads, like Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Amtrak.

FELA lawsuits are complicated high stakes cases!!