Railroad Worker Injuries

Railyard Injury Attorneys

Representing Clients Across the Country

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reports show that almost half of all railroad accidents, and more than one-third of all railroad worker injuries, occur in railyards. According to studies that compared railroad worker fatalities to those of other industries, the injury and fatality rate for railyard workers is more than double the national average.

Railyard Injury Facts

These statistics might seem surprising at first, but not after considering the nature of the industry. Vast amounts of the country’s freight move by rail, all of which must move through multiple railyards. The constantly moving freight, combined with massive forces, hazardous walking and lighting conditions, aging equipment, and railroad management often looking to cut corners create inherently dangerous conditions in railyards. Risk factors increase as many inexperienced new hires start out working in railyards; FRA statistics show that railyard workers under age 35 suffer a higher percentage of injury.

Studies by the FRA also show the following:

  • The greatest number of injuries occurred during nighttime shifts
  • The highest injury rates occurred during May, July, and August in warmer areas, and during winter months in colder areas
  • Injuries most often affected arms, hands, knees, backs, and shoulders
  • The highest number of injuries involved physical acts of walking, running, or stepping over an object, most likely impacted by poor lighting and poorly maintained railroad walkways
  • The most common triggering event involved being struck by or against an object
  • Every day, railroad workers face hazards that include moving equipment, poorly maintained switches, heavy machinery, exposure to toxic cargo, and many others.

Railroad brakemen, signalmen, and switch operators perform the bulk of train side and yard work. This may include operating track switches to route cars to different areas of the yard; setting warning signals; signaling locomotive operators; helping couple and uncouple cars to make up or break up trains; and inspecting couplings, air hoses, and handbrakes. Because these tasks require being on the ground or on equipment, they often put railroad workers in harm’s way: Between cars and out of locomotive operators’ sight, relying on hand signals and radio communication with the locomotive operator who could be a quarter mile away. Nearly half of railroad brake, signal, and switch operator fatalities resulted from being struck by a railway vehicle.

Train side work is not the principal function of conductors and yardmasters; however, a third of this group’s fatal accidents involved being struck by a railway vehicle. Onboard accidents accounted for more than half of conductor and yardmaster fatalities.

FELA is an injured railroad worker’s only means of compensation. Navigating the complex movements, regulations, and rules that govern railroad operations requires a seasoned, experienced attorney. Count on the knowledgeable attorneys of Bolt Law Firm.

FELA - Railroad Worker Injuries

Railroad workers routinely work in some of the most hazardous conditions of any industry in the country. Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) in 1908 to address dangers railroad workers face daily. For over 100 years, FELA has been the sole remedy of railroad workers injured or killed while working.

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States reaffirmed the strength of FELA, stating that railroads are responsible for injuries if their negligence played any part, no matter how slight, in causing the injury. Bolt Law Firm attorney Joe Sayler authored a brief that was twice cited by Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion.

Despite attacks by the railroad industry, FELA continues to provide a fair compensation system that allows injured railroad workers to recover their full damages rather than be subjected to severely capped compensation available through with state-mandated workers’ compensation schemes.

Most law firms do not have the knowledge of the railroad industry or the resources to fight the railroads on FELA claims. Good FELA attorneys are familiar with the railroad industry, have a wealth of documents and knowledge related to FELA claims, and know how to navigate these hard-fought cases. The FELA attorneys at Bolt Law Firm have proudly represented injured railroad workers from every major union and craft.

FELA Damages

If the railroad found to be responsible for your injury, you or your family may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Lost Wages
  • Future Wage Loss
  • Loss of Benefits
  • Disability Pay
  • Scarring
  • Emotional Pain and Suffering
  • Medical Expenses
  • Funeral Costs
  • Loss of Quality of Life

Railroad Negligence and Strict Liability Under FELA

Unlike FELA, workers’ compensation schemes do not provide adequate compensation to meet the needs of severely injured workers and their families.To recover under FELA, however, it is necessary to first establish some negligence on the part of the railroad. This differs from state workers’ compensation laws where no such proof is needed. There are several ways to prove that a railroad wrongdoing was the cause of an injury.

The first and most basic claim is when the railroad fails to provide reasonably safe equipment or place to work; when a railroad fails in this regard and their actions cause an injury, they must compensate the injured worker. FELA does require, however, that the negligence of the railroad carrier be compared to any negligence of the injured worker. This means that if the railroad was 50 percent at fault and the worker was 50 percent at fault, the railroad only pays 50 percent of the damages. This is called comparative fault.

The second way of proving negligence is by determining that the railroad violated federal laws or regulations. If this second method applies, the railroad is strictly liable and 100 percent at fault, regardless if the worker was also partially negligent.

There are four categories of proving strict liability:

Examples of Strict Liability

The Safety Appliance Act requires railroads to maintain properly functioning safety equipment, such as knuckles and handbrakes. If defective equipment causes an injury to a worker such as brakeman or conductor, the railroad must completely compensate the worker for all proven damages.

Other examples include debris left on a locomotive floor that violates the Locomotive Inspection Act ballast and walkways that violate state regulations, such as Washington and California.

Each FELA case is unique, and an experienced FELA attorney can determine railroad negligence or violation of federal laws, as well as evaluate potential damages.

Regardless of whether there has been negligence or a violation of a regulation that requires strict liability, railroad claims departments often send claim agents and managers to the scene of an accident to secure evidence and immediately begin building a claim against you. Evidence can go missing or is not secured properly. Therefore, it is critical to contact a FELA attorney to review your claim.

Contact our law office today to discuss the specifics of your case. Our attorneys have excelled at not only obtaining compensation for workers’ injuries, but holding railroads accountable for destroying or not securing evidence, and have written scholarly articles on laws prohibiting such conduct.

Contact us to set up your initial consultation.

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