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Railroad Injury Law Blog

Railroad worker injuries: What type of support is available?

It is no secret that working on a Connecticut railroad is dangerous. In fact, railroad workers throughout the nation are doubly at risk for fatal injury compared to other workers. When fatalities occur because of employer negligence, family members of decedents may seek financial recovery for their losses in court. Not all railroad worker injuries are fatal, however, so it is equally important that workers who survive their injuries understand where to seek support and how to claim benefits to help them during recovery.

Complicated issues often arise in the wake of a railroad accident. While most railway workers understand the risks involved on the job, it does not necessarily mean they have mapped out a plan for what to do if they themselves suffer injury in the workplace. The Federal Employers Liability Act governs matters pertaining to on-the-job railroad accidents and injuries.

Railroad accidents not always reported as they should be

There are thousands of miles of railroad tracks running through Connecticut and many other states. Most of these tracks carry freight and passenger trains, while some run commuter locomotives that travel back and forth between close-distance areas. When railroad accidents occur, injured workers are entitled to benefits to help cover their medical expenses and other costs associated with their injuries.

Problems can arise for workers if their accidents have not properly been reported to the Federal Railroad Administration. It is the railroad companies themselves who are tasked with filing such reports. There is no guarantee, however, that railroad employers can be counted on to follow the rules.

New system may reduce railroad accidents in Connecticut

Changes in the Connecticut railroad system are supposed to be completed before 2018 ends. Such changes will hopefully help reduce the number of railroad accidents, particularly on passenger trains throughout the state. The Federal Railroad Administration has demanded that the new safety requirements be met by Dec. 31.

The FRA expects all three passenger rail lines in the state to comply with orders to install positive train control systems. These systems may help avoid derailments and other serious accidents, especially regarding excessive speed or other problem factors. Positive train systems are set to automatically stop a moving train as needed.

Commuter train spokesman suggests way to avoid railroad accidents

Many railroad systems, including some in Connecticut, are constructed in such ways that tracks (and trains) exist and travel in suburban areas. In fact, a commuter system in another state has at least four sets of tracks that carry approximately 150 trains through local neighborhoods on a daily basis. There was recently a tragedy on one set of tracks, and a railroad spokesman says he believes he knows a way to help reduce the potential for similar railroad accidents in the future.

The recent incident involved two local police officers who were reportedly deployed to the area after shots were fired. They were engaged in a foot search for the person or people who might have been responsible for the shooting. Sadly, both officers lost their lives when a fast-moving Metra train hit them from behind.

Railroad safety: You can refuse to do work that violates rules

Working on a Connecticut railroad can be a rewarding yet dangerous job. Accident data from recent years shows just how hazardous railroad work can be, including derailments, collisions with motor vehicles at crossings or other mishaps (many of which were preventable) that placed railroad employees in harm's way. The more you know about railroad safety regulations, the better you can protect yourself on the job. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration are the two main governing bodies that oversee railroad safety in the United States. Acute injuries are common when train accidents occur; however, as a railroad employee, you may also be at risk for occupational injuries that develop over time. In either case, you are entitled to benefits under the Federal Employers Liability Act, if you suffer an on-the-job railroad injury.   

Railroad worker injuries due to acute or occupational issues

Most Connecticut employers purchase workers' compensation insurance to provide benefits to employees who are injured on the job. Railroad worker injuries, however, do not fall under such plans because all injury matters on the railroad are governed under the Federal Employers Liability Act, which is entirely different from workers' comp insurance. One thing that makes the FELA unique is that it guarantees injured workers the opportunity to file personal injury claims against negligent employers.

There are typically two types of railroad injuries -- those that occur in sudden accidents and those that develop over time, such as repetitive strain injuries. The latter is often referred to as occupational hazards, while injuries in the former category are acute. In either event, if a worker determines that his or her employer's negligence was a causal factor to injury, he or she may seek restitution.

Railroad worker injuries prompt litigation in another state

Connecticut railroad workers aren't always riding trains as they carry out the normal course of duty in the workplace. For instance, a man employed as a conductor for Union Pacific Railroad in another state was traveling on a bus that was being transported by the company. An accident occurred that resulted in railroad worker injuries.  

Thankfully, the conductor survived the accident. However, he says the driver fell asleep at the wheel of the bus, causing the vehicle he was riding in to crash into a nearby fence. The worker has filed a lawsuit against his employer and the company that hired the driver, stating that both companies failed to enforce safety policies. The man's claim also states that the defendants did not properly train, supervise or hire personnel.  

Railroad accidents like this one prompt serious safety questions

Connecticut railroad workers entrust their safety to their employers, co-workers, advanced technological systems and their own instincts. Sadly, railroad accidents involving track workers are often attributed to negligence. Nearly all of these work accidents are preventable. 

A man in another state had worked for the same railroad company for 10 years. He was performing maintenance on a section of tracks recently when a terrible accident occurred. The worker, who is a husband and father of three young children, was hit by a train, just after 10 a.m. on a Friday.

Lives often hang in the balance following railroad accidents

Many Connecticut residents live in neighborhoods that are close to railroad tracks. When railroad accidents occur, it often affects people beyond those directly involved. A couple in another state who are in their 70s were at home together when their whole house shook, accompanied by a loud noise. The man said it sounded like something had actually hit their house, which prompted them to outside to see what was going on.

It was later reported that the loud noise had come from an explosion that occurred on nearby railroad tracks. There were workers on the tracks at the time, two of whom were spot welding. Officials who commented on the incident said this type of task is quite common on the railroad. Spot welding involves using torches to make needed repairs along railroad tracks.

Emergency brake system not enough to stop train in time

If you've worked on a Connecticut railroad for some time now, you likely have a good understanding of how difficult it is to stop a moving train in time to avoid collision. Your employer may use advanced technology, such as automatic emergency braking systems, to help improve worker safety on the tracks.

That doesn't always provide enough support to avoid a crash, however. So many extenuating circumstances can suddenly and adversely affect railroad travel. Whether you are an employee or a passenger, you are at great risk for injury if a collision occurs. If you suffer injury, you will need a lot of support during recovery.