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Railroad Injury Law Blog

Railroad worker injuries focus of a recent lawsuit

Most employees in Connecticut are able to file claims for workers' compensation benefits if they're involved in workplace accidents that result in their own injuries. Railroad worker injuries, however, are not covered under workers' comp for all railroad accident situations involving employees, which are handled under the Federal Employers Liability Act. A railroad worker in another state has brought a situation to the court's attention, accusing his employers of negligence on the job.

The man was injured during the normal course of his duties in 2014. He also suffered personal injury in another workplace accident the following year. In a lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court, the worker claims Union Pacific Railroad Company should be held legally accountable for his injuries because it failed to provide a safe working environment in both incidents. 

Aging equipment can lead to dangerous railroad accidents

Passenger trains have been a popular means of transportation for individuals in Connecticut and elsewhere for many years. Individuals who live in areas of heavily congested traffic often rely on trains to reach their destinations on time. The workers who operate these trains generally have demanding schedules intended to ensure customers aren't disappointed. Recent issues with similar modes of travel have raised concerns regarding safety and a possible need to take precautions to reduce the chance of railroad accidents.

Recently in a neighboring state, issues with derailments have caused serious delays in schedules at a major rail hub. These accidents are reportedly the result of older equipment that has yet to be replaced. Although delays can be troublesome, the biggest issue among similar incidents is the safety of passengers and railroad employees alike.

Tracking paths to recovery after railroad accidents

Many Connecticut travelers choose commercial trains as their modes of transportation. Others not only ride the railroad on vacation but make their livings working there as well. There may be many perks to working on a railroad; still, this type of work continues to rank high on lists of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. When railroad accidents occur, the road to recovery may physically, emotionally and financially challenging.

Many people do not realize that railroad workers' on-the-job injuries are not covered by workers' compensation insurance. This is because the Federal Employers Liability Act is a source of remedy that allows an injured railroad employee to sue an employer for negligence. As most know, workers' compensation insurance protects employers from personal liability lawsuits.

Don't confuse FELA with workers' compensation

If you were to take a quick survey on the street in Connecticut, asking passers-by what they think the most dangerous jobs in the nation are, many would mention work in construction and farming. Some, however, may also include railroad work high on their lists, for statistics prove train workers are always at high risk for injuries. If your family history in the United States stretches back several decades or more, you likely have a relative who used to work (or currently works) on the railroad.

Perhaps, you followed in your grandparent's or great-grandparent's footsteps by making your living on the railroad as well. As is part of most high-risk jobs, there's always a chance an accident may occur while you're working on the railroad. Other workers throughout the nation are typically eligible for workers' compensation benefits when they suffer injury on the job. Railroad workers, however, function under an entirely different set of rules.

Railroad worker injuries central topic of ongoing lawsuit

A brief study of U.S. history shows the significance of the development and installation of a transcontinental railroad. Life in Connecticut and throughout the nation changed in many ways, once trains became available for transporting goods (and people). Along with ease of travel and new mercantile opportunities, a more negative consequence of train transportation in America was railroad worker injuries.

Working on a railroad poses many personal safety risks. Unlike many jobs that provide workers' compensation benefits to injured employees, railroad workers are protected by the Federal Employer's Liability Act. FELA allows injured railroad workers to recover damages typically associated with a lawsuit, such as medical expenses, pain and suffering or lost wages. 

Railroad worker injuries result from unregulated shuttle services

Working in the railroad industry in Connecticut and across the United States is among the most dangerous jobs a person can have. In fact, to emphasize the importance of workplace safety, the railroad industry does not participate in workers' compensation insurance coverage. Instead, a worker must prove the injuries are the result negligence on the part of the railroad. Instead of insurance companies paying for railroad worker injuries, the railroads themselves are held responsible. This motivates railroads to strive for safety.

However, the safety of railroad workers often depends on the standards of private shuttle services contracted to transport employees. One man in another state has fought for five years for tougher safety measures for railroad transport companies, and his state's legislature is close to signing a bill to provide those measures. The man was compelled to work for stricter standards after a rail yard accident involving a shuttle van nearly took his life and left three others dead, including the driver of the van.

Injuries from railroad accidents and working for the railroads

Most people here in Connecticut and elsewhere associate work injuries with one-time events. True, many injuries occur due to railroad accidents, and they are often work-related. However, some injuries occur over your time working for the railroads, which could present a challenge when proving they are work-related, but it is possible.

For instance, repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel develop over time, yet can still be considered work-related. In addition, you may work around asbestos fibers or other toxic substances. Exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, and exposure to toxic substances causes several types of cancer. Since it could take years for these illnesses to manifest, proving they are related to your work could require the help of an attorney, along with medical professionals.

What is FELA and how does it apply to railroad worker injuries?

Employee safety should be the goal of any employer regardless of whether here in Connecticut or elsewhere across the country. Even when it is, injuries occur and the injured employee has a right to workers' compensation benefits. Except, railroad workers are not eligible for those benefits, so what happens with railroad worker injuries?

In 1908, the federal government recognized that the hazards facing railroad workers across the country needed to be addressed, along with what happens if they are injured. That year, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act to provide a way for injured railroad workers and their families to seek restitution. Injured parties can file suits in state or federal court against their employers and/or the railroad companies.

Tracking the risks of railroad work in Connecticut and beyond

The economic, political and social changes that occurred in the United States with the development of a transcontinental railroad system are clearly evident in historical literature and discussed often, even to this day. In fact, many people in Connecticut and other East Coast states continue to make their livings on the railroad. The United States was a young nation when the Industrial Revolution and construction of elaborate railroads changed its landscape (and its citizens) forever.

One of the greatest benefits a working railroad system provided was lower shipping costs, which came as a delight to both merchants and consumers alike. Something that perhaps was not so anticipated, however, were the various hazards involved in working on a railroad. Fast forward to 2017 and you find railroad work even more dangerous today than it was back then.

The risk of railroad accidents concerning ethanol tank cars

Over the past month alone two separate train cars transporting ethanol have derailed. While the first incident did not involve any injuries and no hazardous materials were spilled, the second crash was more severe. Several cars ruptured and erupted into flames following the event, and a reported 1,600 gallons of the product was released into nearby waterways. These events have caused officials in Connecticut and across the country to take a closer look at the practices involved in transporting ethanol, and the potential of dangerous railroad accidents in relation.

Responders were not immediately able to investigate the second accident due to the amount of explosions that took place. They instead were forced to let the fires burn themselves out before approaching the scene. While the area in which the accident took place seems to have been isolated, a similar accident could wreak havoc on a populated area. Along with the possibility of catastrophe in a residential area, these accidents also pose a  significant threat to railroad employees.