Railroad Worker Injuries
At REDDY LAW, we fight for people with serious injuries.
Railroad Worker Injuries
The most common injuries we see are back or neck-related. However, we have experience representing clients with a wide range of serious and permanent injuries, such as:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and post-concussion syndrome.
- Shoulder injuries, including complex rotator cuff tears.
- Knee injuries such as torn MCL or ACL.
- Limb crush injuries, such as a crushed arm, hand or foot resulting in amputation.
- The traumatic loss of a limb.
- Ankle injuries.
- Heel fracture.
- Elbow injuries.
- Multiple bone fractures.
- Neck injuries, including those requiring anterior cervical interbody fusion (ACIF).
- Back injuries, including those requiring spinal fusion.
- Dropped foot from spinal injury.
- Eye injuries.
- Facial injuries requiring oral and maxillofacial surgery, plastic surgery, and dental implants.
- Degloving injuries.
- Skull fracture.
- Severe puncture wounds.
- Comminuted calcaneus fractures.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Burn injuries.
- Respiratory illnesses, Asthma, and Reactive Airway Disease (RADs).
- Wrongful death.
- Impinged nerves.
- Brachial plexus injuries.
Railroaders say crew transportation by outside companies is one of their biggest safety concerns. The drivers often appear tired or unskilled, and the vans appear poorly maintained. Their lives are literally in these drivers' hands, often at night, in terrible weather conditions. When an employee is injured while deadheading, the railroad may blame everyone but themselves. But don't be fooled; when these outside operators are transporting you while at work for the railroad, these operators are agents of the railroad. The railroad is responsible for their negligence.
The Railroad’s Responsibility
If you or a loved one has been injured in a deadheading incident, do not accept the railroad's representation that it is not responsible for the acts or omissions of the cab company it hired to transport its workers. Suppose the cab company is engaged in an operational activity of the railroad, such as transporting outlawed workers back to their home terminals. In that case, any negligence on the cab company's part is the railroad's responsibility. After all, it is the railroad that hired this company. While the law makes the railroad responsible, the railroad will often go to great lengths to argue that it is not accountable.
Arguments We’ve Encountered
- Because the injured worker had exceeded the maximum hours of service, they were no longer on duty and therefore were not covered by the FELA.
- Because the railroad had no direct control over the actions of the cab driver, it is not responsible.
- The contract between the railroad and the cab company requires the cab company to take out insurance, and therefore the railroad has no further responsibility.
- The employee chose to be transported back to their home terminal, and therefore was no longer in the course and scope of his/her employment and is not covered by the FELA.
This is a partial list, as the railroad will make any argument to avoid responsibility. Of course, when its other ideas fail, the railroad will fall back on the argument it invariably raises – blame the injured worker.
Brian Reddy encountered a real-life example of this when he represented a locomotive engineer who was injured while being transported by a cab company at night in a snowstorm. The cab driver was not paying attention and missed the proper highway exit. Rather than continuing to the next exit, the driver decided to reverse back toward the exit ramp. The locomotive engineer noticed headlights from a large vehicle approaching in their direction. The cab driver hit the brakes and stopped his van straddling the lanes of oncoming traffic. The engineer decided that it was safest for him to jump out of the van before being hit by the oncoming vehicle. When he opened the door to jump, the cab driver hit the gas, throwing the engineer out of the van and onto the road. He broke his nose and some teeth but, fortunately, was able to get up and out of the way before being hit by the oncoming vehicle, a semi-tractor-trailer.
Despite these facts, the railroad said the incident was entirely the engineer's fault. Shortly before the trial, the railroad offered to settle, but Brian's client felt the amount was unfair. Brian tried the case, and the jury awarded the engineer $413,000. $13,000 was for the loss of earnings, and $350,000 was for pain and suffering. This verdict far exceeded the offer made by the railroad.
What To Do If You Are Hurt While Deadheading
If you or a loved one is injured while deadheading, immediately contact Brian Reddy at (419) 482-1467 for a no-cost, no-pressure legal consultation. Brian Reddy has 28 years of experience representing injured railroad workers in lawsuits against the railroad.
As soon as the railroad learns of your injury, claim agents from the risk management department will begin protecting the railroad's interest and working to limit any compensation you may be entitled to. You must get a tough lawyer on your side to protect your interests.
In most situations when you are a railroad employee transported in railroad-provided transportation you are covered under the FELA. However, you could be injured due to another driver's negligence and without fault on the part of your driver or vehicle. If the railroad or its agents are not negligent, you will not recover under the FELA. If the other driver has little or no liability insurance coverage and no assets, you could be seriously injured, be permanently unable to return to work, and yet have little or no monetary recovery. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you purchase supplemental underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage ("SUM") with as high coverage limits as you can afford. This will allow you to seek recovery from your insurance company if the negligent driver does not have sufficient insurance to compensate for your injuries. Talk to your insurance company or agent for more on this.
Unsafe Walking Conditions
Every year, unsafe ground/walking conditions injure many railroaders. Slips, trips, and falls are the most common types of injuries on the railroad. Virtually any foreign object on the ground in a rail yard or along a railroad track can create an unsafe ground condition.
Below are a few examples:
Poor Lighting At Night
Just like the post office, the railroad never stops. This means many workers are on duty at night. Although there are industry recommendations for minimum lighting standards in rail yards and other areas where railroaders may walk at night, it is our experience that these standards are often not met, even when the worker has a railroad-issued lantern.
Railroads often do not maintain adequate ballast or do not correctly grade ballast. As a result, when the ballast slides or gives way underfoot, it may cause falling injuries and more severe injuries or death if a railroader falls onto the tracks.
Railroad debris often takes the form of discarded railroad ties, track spikes, trash, and cargo that has fallen from moving rail cars. Debris near a railroad track is hazardous, particularly where it is hidden in or under ballast. Debris or vegetation can cause a fall onto railroad tracks where trains are moving. While railroads are responsible for clearing dangerous debris and vegetation, they often do not. Removing these hazards costs money.
Railroads often hire outside contractors to repair railroad tracks. These contractors frequently leave tools and other materials lying around, creating unsafe walking conditions for railroad workers. The heavy equipment these contractors use will often leave holes and depressions in the ground. When these holes are covered (by ballast, snow, mud, etc.) they create tripping hazards near railroad tracks where unsuspecting railroad workers can be injured or killed. Because the railroad hires these contractors to work on railroad property, the railroad is responsible for ensuring that their work gets done safely and that their materials and equipment are adequately cleared before railroad workers are assigned to work there.
Unsafe Tools & Equipment
Railroad workers must use various tools and equipment, ranging from backhoes and jackhammers to radios and wrenches. These tools are provided to them by the railroad. Over the years, improvements have been made to many of the tools railroaders could use to perform their jobs. Unfortunately, railroads frequently will not provide their workers the newer, safer, but more expensive tools.
How can a railroader be injured by unsafe tools?
Unsafe tools and equipment can cause injuries depending on the tool or equipment involved. Below are some examples of how unsafe tools and equipment can cause harm to railroad workers.
Improper Tools For the Job
To get the job done safely, you need the proper tools. Workers should be wary of situations where the proper tool is not provided, yet the supervisor says you need to get the job done. If that is the case and you are afraid of being fired for insubordination, you should tell your supervisor that you are concerned for your safety and request that you be provided with the proper tool. If you are instructed to do the job anyway, at the very least make a note of the time and who you spoke to about your concern. Preferably, have a co-worker with you so he can corroborate that you expressed concern and requested different equipment. At the end of your shift, you should consider emailing your boss and other managers in your territory explaining what occurred.
Injuries from tool malfunctions often take the form of single, traumatic incidents. Tool malfunctions can cause a variety of injuries, from shoulder injuries (malfunctioning air wrench) to crush injuries (malfunctioning tamping machine) to more severe injuries or death (malfunctioning radio), to name a few. Tools and equipment on locomotives and railcars can also malfunction, causing injuries. When this happens, those injured workers are usually protected by the Locomotive Inspection Act or the Safety Appliance Act. Tool malfunctions may be the result of the railroad refusing to pay for updated and safer equipment or the railroad not properly inspecting, maintaining, and repairing the equipment it has.
When a railroader is injured, the railroad usually tries to blame the worker. However, such injuries frequently occur because the railroad did not provide proper training on the safe use of the tools or equipment involved. It is the railroad's duty to see that its employees are adequately trained before they are assigned to use tools or equipment.
Diesel Exhaust Exposure
In the 1950s, the railroad industry began phasing out steam-powered locomotives in favor of diesel-powered locomotives. Today, locomotives nationwide use diesel engines, which emit harmful diesel exhaust.
What Is Diesel Exhaust?
Diesel exhaust is a complex mixture of hundreds of hazardous particles and vapors from diesel engines. Diesel exhaust contains harmful substances, including human carcinogens, benzene, hydrocarbons, arsenic, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde.
What are the recognized health effects of diesel exhaust exposure?
Short-term diesel exhaust exposure symptoms include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, chest tightness and wheezing, pulmonary function changes, headaches and lightheadedness, and heartburn and vomiting. Individuals exposed to diesel exhaust can show other symptoms as well. An individual will not likely exhibit all of these symptoms despite being exposed to diesel exhaust. Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust can cause significant and permanent pulmonary injuries, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, bladder and lung cancer.
While research on the full effects of exposure to diesel exhaust is ongoing, the state of California has identified diesel exhaust as a known human carcinogen. Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified diesel exhaust as likely carcinogenic to humans. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies diesel exhaust as probably carcinogenic to humans. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has designated diesel exhaust as a select carcinogen and can identify no permissible exposure level for diesel exhaust.
How are railroaders exposed to diesel exhaust?
While many railroad workers are exposed to diesel exhaust, locomotive engineers and conductors often suffer the most significant exposures. Diesel exhaust can enter the cabs of the locomotives in many ways, such as holes in the floor, firewall cracks, engine manifolds, electrical cabinets, and broken seals around windows and doors. Often railroad workers will work ten hours per day, six days per week, for forty years, all the while unknowingly inhaling harmful diesel exhaust.
The railroad industry has known for years that diesel exhaust could harm its workers. We have obtained minutes of the meetings of the American Association of Railroads dating back to the 1960s, reflecting the railroad industry's knowledge that exposure to diesel exhaust could injure railroaders. As concern over the health effects of diesel exhaust exposure mounted, the Federal Railroad Administration has at least taken some action. It authored several federal regulations to protect railroaders from diesel exhaust, including the requirement that combustion products, including diesel exhaust, be released entirely outside of the locomotive cabs. Proper inspection and maintenance of locomotives takes time in a locomotive shop. When the engine is in the shop, the wheels are not running, and revenue is not being generated. Sadly, this can result in the railroad industry's most valuable asset, its workers, being exposed to harmful diesel exhaust.