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What To Do If Injured While Working on the Railroad

Working on the railroad at the turn of the century was a dangerous occupation. As a result, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA, 45 U.S.C. 51) in 1908. Despite the passage of many subsequent workers compensation acts, which limit awards to a listed schedule, FELA allows railroad workers to recover if they can prove that their railroad employers negligently failed to provide a safe working environment. Even if a railroad worker is partially at fault for his or her own injury, this will not prevent a recovery under FELA.

Advantages of FELA

FELA lawsuits are more favorable for employees because of how they are decided. Workers compensation cases are decided by administrative law judges, who generally approach the case in an unemotional and analytical manner. On the other hand, a FELA lawsuit is decided by a jury of your peers, who may consider issues such as pain and suffering or other elements of damage that can greatly increase a potential damage award.

Railroad negligence

Within the past decades, new theories of liability have evolved regarding railroad negligence. From the 1960s through the 1990s, many railroad employees were exposed to toxic materials such as asbestos, silica dust, creosote, and toxic solvents such as benzene and cleaning fluids. Medical experts have established a causal link between exposure to many of these materials and occupational diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and silicosis. Recently, railroad companies have paid settlements for chronic toxic encephalopathy, an illness causing mild to severe brain damage. Although liability has not yet been proven in court, medical experts have linked this disease to exposure to toxic solvents used by the railroads. Toxic encephalopathy often includes symptoms such as short-term memory loss, anxiety, and depression. One of the nation's largest railroad companies has confirmed that it has paid up to $35 million to settle 466 claims of toxic solvent exposure.

According to medical experts, thousands of railroad workers may be suffering from toxic encephalopathy, which is often misdiagnosed by medical care providers. If you have been exposed to toxic materials while in the employ of a railroad company, you should consult with an attorney experienced in FELA law.