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Railroad Injury Law Blog

Railroad worker injuries often permanently disabling

Many Connecticut children grow up singing songs about working on the railroad. While such ditties are often entertaining and amusing, the reality of railroad work is often quite dangerous. In fact, railroad worker injuries often occur that result in permanent disabilities.

That's what happened to a 22-year-old man who was working on a railroad in another state. It was a tragic incident that resulted in a catastrophic injury to the worker. During his recovery, he filed a lawsuit against his employer for negligence.

Can oil and leaves on tracks cause railroad accidents?

Some people say so. In fact, a man who was working for a railroad in another state claims that was a key factor that caused a terrible two-locomotive collision in which he was involved. As in this instance, railroad accidents in Connecticut and beyond often lead to litigation, as employees are protected by the Federal Employers Liability Act in their ability to sue their employers when injuries occur due to negligence.

This particular accident occurred in 2014. The man who has filed a lawsuit against his employers was working as an engineer on a freight train. His train was apparently called in to assist a passenger train that had become stalled on its tracks.

Railroad worker injuries have been occurring since the 1800s

When the first tracks were laid for the transcontinental railroad in the 1800s, many people took advantage of new job opportunities by securing work at various locations along the planned route. Many of the workers were immigrants, perhaps including some from Connecticut. It didn't take long for railroad worker injuries to occur, especially when mountains were blasted with dynamite to create enormous tunnels through which locomotives would eventually pass.

Entire books have been written on the topic, including graphic stories regarding tragic accidents that took the lives of many workers. Tales of faulty discharges from dynamites that suddenly went off when workers were sent in to inspect the situations and other mishaps are evidence of just how dangerous the work was. Everything was done for the sake of progress, and many railroad employees died before the first trains ever traveled the newly laid tracks.

What illnesses are associated with asbestos exposure?

Over the last 100 years, railroad workers here in Connecticut and across the country have worked around asbestos. Brakes, pipes and boilers are just some of the equipment insulated with asbestos in the railroad industry. Railcars used to be full of the toxic substance to insulate against heat and electrical components.

This means that railroad workers commonly contract illnesses associated with asbestos dust and fibers. The exposure could take place decades before symptoms manifest. You may already know about an asbestos-related cancer called mesothelioma, but that isn't the only disease associated with the substance. Each illness has serious health ramifications for their sufferers.

Amtrak service often affected by railroad accidents

Railroad work is definitely among jobs at risk for injury; in fact, many consider it one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. Connecticut railroad workers may relate to the devastation often caused to employees and families when railroad accidents occur. While Amtrak service is generally considered safe, the rail company has had its share of serious collisions over the years. 

A recent tragedy occurred in the nation's capital when two railroad workers disembarked a locomotive to check on a particular problem. They workers were then struck by an oncoming Amtrak train. The National Transportation Safety Board immediately launched an investigation to determine the exact cause of the tragic situation.

Navigating the aftermath of railroad worker injuries

Getting injured on the job in Connecticut is more likely in some industries than others. Working on the railroad ranks high on lists naming most dangerous jobs in the nation. Knowing where to turn for support when railroad worker injuries occur is a key factor in achieving the fullest recoveries possible.

Sometimes, a sudden and unexpected incident occurs that results in one or more people being injured on the job. Other people who suffer injuries on the railroad develop adverse conditions over time, such as those who have repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. Many workers find it hard just to make ends meet after an on-the-job injury occurs; some are completely unprepared to meet exorbitant expenses often associated with such situations.

Railroad worker injuries often lead to litigation

There's a difference between working on a railroad and other jobs, such as construction, agriculture or industrial, when it comes to obtaining recovery after workplace accidents. Most Connecticut residents are familiar with the workers' compensation program that provides benefits to employees injured on the job to help pay medical expenses and replace lost wages. Such benefits do not exist for those who work on the railroad because injured railroad workers can actually sue their employers for negligence in a civil court.

The ability to file a personal injury claim against a railroad employer is made available through the Federal Employers Liability Act, which was first enacted in the early 1900s, was then declared unconstitutional by the high court, but was made firm in legislation that passed Congress a couple years later. The major difference between workers protected by FELA and those eligible for workers' compensation is that employers are protected from personal liability lawsuits in the workers' comp system. Not so on the railroad, however, as made evident by a recent lawsuit filed against Norfolk Southern Railway Company by a conductor who suffered a back injury.

Where to seek support following railroad worker injuries

Traveling by train in Connecticut and throughout the nation remains a popular form of vehicular navigation. A successful train operation includes the people behind the scenes who work long hours and put forth much effort to maintain locomotive safety and efficiency. When railroad worker injuries occur due to accidents on the tracks or in some other aspect of the industry, it's important for injured employees to know where to turn for help.

Many railroad accidents involve people being hit by moving vehicles or falling off railroad cars onto the tracks beneath them. There are also many injuries associated with the various types of heavy machinery and equipment used to perform service and maintenance on train systems. As with any type of personal injury, the most important thing to do immediately following an accident is seek appropriate medical attention.

Train worker injury: Don't get railroaded into settling for less

Many children who love to lie on floors while playing with toy trains grow up to become conductors, engineers, track repair workers or other employees in the railroad industry. In fact, many say a childhood love of trains usually remains intact for a lifetime. Of course, much changes between youth and adulthood, and where playing with trains versus working on the railroad is concerned, the latter is far more dangerous than the former.

Railroad work is one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. Still, many railroad workers enjoy their careers and find the work quite rewarding. However, if a worker is not properly trained or something goes wrong on the job, the results can be utterly disastrous, as made evident by several very serious train crashes in the news over the past few years.

Railroad accidents often change lives forever

Many travelers choose trains as their preferred mode of transportation. Others make their livings on the railroad. Such work and travel often provides scenic beauty of pastoral Connecticut landscapes and surrounding countrysides and hills, but when railroad accidents occur, the devastation that results may linger in the minds of those who survive or were there to witness the scenes forever.

A woman in another state who was a freshman in high school some 50 years ago recently shared her recollections of a tragic day in her youth. Her father, a 37-year-old railroad worker at the time, was killed a horrific head-on train crash, leaving her and her siblings, the youngest of whom was a mere 11 months then, to be raised alone by their mother. The woman remembered how shocked and saddened she was after coming home from school that day to learn the news.