Serious Railroad Injuries

Railroad workers work in one of the most hazardous work environments in the country. The sizes and forces they encounter, the distances and scope of their work, and railroad management often not taking safety seriously, exposes railroad workers to potentially catastrophic injuries. These serious injuries leave workers significant lost wages, medical bills, and worrying about losing their homes and providing for their families. Unlike workers’ compensation schemes, compensation is not automatic and even severely injured workers must prove the railroad was negligent or violated a safety statute. If these injuries are caused by the railroad you have the right to seek just compensation under the FELA, and the help of a good FELA attorney is instrumental.

A few of the common types of serious injuries that railroad workers suffer because of the nature of their jobs are:

Amputations

Because of the forces and sizes of the equipment involved, all too many railroad workers suffer amputations. Amputations are life-changing injuries, leaving workers with the loss of their railroad jobs and massive future care and medical plan needs for items such as prosthetics. There are many resources available to amputees, but there is little that can be done to salvage a railroad. A good railroad attorney will advise amputee clients that a FELA claim can compensate them adequately to cover their lost income and the huge future medical costs that amputees will encounter. We also have experience directing amputees support groups and resources, as we know these injuries can be overwhelming for new amputees. Feel free to contact us, regardless of your case status, for guidance to these resources.

Burn Injuries

Burns are among the most excruciatingly painful injuries anyone can suffer from. Treatment for second and third degree often includes debriding (scraping) and irrigating wounds, skin grafts, risks of infections, and possibly amputations of limbs. Explosions, fires from accidents, leaking hazardous materials, chemical burns, hose ruptures, engine fires and electrical burns are some of the common burn injuries railroaders suffer, but burns injuries can occur in unexpected and catastrophic ways. For example, lead Bolt Hoffer Boyd railroad attorney Joe Sayler represented a conductor who was catastrophically burned when the locomotive he was on encountered a burning railroad bridge. By the time they could stop, the flames were engulfing the locomotive. The severe burns and PTSD meant the end of the conductor’s career, months of treatment such as skin grafting, counseling, and scarring. It turns out a welding crew that the railroad had contracted to work on the bridge had not followed set safety procedures, leaving smoldering material on a composite railroad tie.

Fractured, Broken, and Strained Joints, Bones, and Ligaments

Fractured and broken bones result in recovery periods lasting several weeks or months. Sometimes they do not heal correctly and surgery is needed. Missed time for these injuries means lost wages for railroad workers. The common ways these injuries can occur are too many to list, given the size and force of the equipment railroad workers use and work around.

Traumatic Brain Injuries, Concussions, and Head Injuries

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • TBIs were a factor in the deaths of more than 50,000 people in the United States
  • More than 280,000 people with TBI were hospitalized
  • 2 million people with TBI visited an emergency department

These figures are likely an underestimate of the true number of TBIs as they exclude people who did not seek medical attention at the emergency room. All too frequently railroad workers suffer head injuries. These occur in many ways, such as slipping on oily locomotive floors, falling off of defective equipment, falling, equipment or freight that breaks or falls, and many others. Victims suffer from changes to their personality, reduced cognitive ability, difficulty understanding and expressing emotions, as well as a persistent headache, slurred speech, and loss of coordination.

Sometimes these injuries are vividly apparent, such as when an accident victims fractures his skull or cheek bones. Often though, brain injuries are invisible to the naked eye, and need to diagnosed with MRI and DTI scans, testing, and family members noticing big differences in the emotional and cognitive functioning of the victim. Mild traumatic brain injuries are normally referred to as concussions, and they are common among railroad workers. Many of these injuries will go untreated and will not develop full symptoms for some time after the accident. Concussions are classified according to severity, and symptoms include headache, blurred vision, and difficulty balancing, as well as difficulty concentrating and personality changes. These injuries can be devastating because they ruin careers, alienate victims from friends and family, leave victims changed mentally, and symptoms such as loss of memory and depression are hallmarks of even mild traumatic brain injuries. Because these injuries are hard to detect, railroads fight them fiercely, typically claiming that the injured railroad workers is faking his injury. For example, lead FELA attorney Joe Sayler represented an engineer who slipped on crew packs that were left on the floor of a trailing locomotive, in violation of the locomotive inspection act. When he slipped, he fell down the metal steps of the locomotive and hit his head. The railroad, BNSF, accused this long-time employee of almost forty years of lying about the accident and faking his injuries. In fact, while the engineer was in the hospital, BNSF claim agents threw away the crew packs that had been on the floor and shoved one out of the walkway and then took pictures. Not knowing that the claims representatives had already changed the scene, a trainmaster came and got rid of the remaining crew pack and took his own pictures. Fortunately—and unknown to BNSF—the conductor working with the engineer had taken pictures of the scene right after the accident had happened. Caught red-handed, the railroad then turned to calling this loyal employee of almost forty years a liar, saying he was making up his injury. Halfway through the trial, with the railroad exposed and their accusatory tactics on display for the jury, BNSF decided it had enough and offered eight times its pre-trial offer.

Resources for Traumatic Brain Injury:

Back, Neck, and Spinal Injuries

Back and neck injuries are some of the most frequent injuries railroad workers experience. These injuries often lead to extensive medical treatment such as injections, therapy, and surgeries such spinal fusions and discectomies. The can leave workers with chronic pain and may require work restrictions that disable railroaders from their jobs. Frequently, these injuries force railroad workers into early retirement or to switch careers into lesser paying jobs that fit their restrictions.

Heavy lifting like knuckles, hoses, tying bad handbrakes, and throwing bad switches, can spinal disc herniations and bulging discs. Just one inflamed disc can result in surgery and weeks of bed rest and extreme pain. Certain permanent back injuries have been known to result in numbness or weakness, even without causing paralysis. A spinal cord injury can provide someone with a complete lack of independence or mobility. Locomotive vibrations and rough riding or defective tracks has also long been known to cause disc, back, and neck problems that cut railroad careers short.