Railroad work is dangerous, and Union Pacific has a long history of injuries and deaths on its tracks. It has over 32,000 miles of rail line in 23 states west of Chicago, and it employs over 42,000 people. As recently as January 31, 2017, yet another Union Pacific worker was killed in a train yard accident in Wallula, Washington in Walla Walla County. An autopsy established the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head, trunk and lower extremities, and the accident occurred during switching operations.
Union Pacific transports about 25 percent of the nation’s freight. In order to protect the thousands of railroad workers throughout the United States, Congress implemented the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) in 1908. It provides a federal system of compensation for injuries suffered by railroad workers or the families of those who suffered fatal injuries on the job. The most common causes of injuries to railroad employees include:
- Coupling accidents without the use of coupling safety devices
- Pedestrian workers being hit by intended and unintended train or car movement
- Exposure to toxic chemicals or substances
Any of these types of accidents can be the result of crew negligence, failure to comply with safety regulations, braking issues, improper loading of cargo or speed violations.
Broad damages are available under FELA
As opposed to workers’ compensation statutes which are usually an injured employee’s sole and exclusive remedy for work-related injuries, railroad employees can bring an actual FELA lawsuit against their employers in state or federal court. If the employee can prove that the employer railroad was negligent, more avenues for compensation of damages are available than in a workers’ compensation case.
Common FELA injuries
The most common injuries suffered by railroad workers involve the back and spine. Those are from repeatedly lifting heaving equipment. Some other common injuries include:
- Knee injuries from walking and working on rock and gravel rail beds
- Hearing loss from high decibel levels
- Repetitive strain or motion injuries
- Neurological damage from chemical exposure
Railroad crossing injuries
A crossing fatality in south-central Washington revealed that a recommendation from 12 years earlier to replace potentially defective crossing signal parts was ignored. After a father of four was killed at the crossing, the subject parts were changed in the middle of the night before the grieving family’s attorney was scheduled to inspect the signal. A witness remarked that the signal appeared to have malfunctioned at the time of the crash.
Can a personal injury lawyer help?
We’re experienced and aggressive personal injury lawyers representing clients in Spokane and beyond in Washington and Idaho. Our mission is to hold any railroad accountable when they’re at fault. If you or a loved one has been injured working for a railroad company or injured at a railroad crossing, contact us for a free consultation and case evaluation.