FELA and Railroad Cancer/Injury: Your Right to Justice
When we think about the risks associated with working on railroads, images of potential accidents might first come to mind. However, there’s a more silent, but equally deadly risk lurking in the rail yards: occupational diseases like cancer. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer or other injuries due to exposure while working in the railroad industry, you may have the right to compensation.
The Federal Employers Liability Act, commonly known as FELA, is an exclusive legal pathway for railroad workers to seek compensation when injured on the job. Unlike typical workers’ compensation which operates on a no-fault basis, FELA is a fault system. This means to successfully bring forth a FELA claim, it’s essential to prove that negligence on the part of the railroad company, its employees, or third parties contributed to the worker’s injuries. Although this might sound daunting, the burden of proof required is less stringent than in standard negligence claims.
Difference Between FELA and Workers’ Compensation
At its core, FELA is a fault-based system exclusive to injured railroad workers and their families. In contrast, the workers’ compensation system operates on a no-fault basis, ensuring compensation without proving employer negligence.
To file a FELA claim, injured railroad workers should initially approach the railroad company or the employer responsible. If issues arise – such as non-payment or denial of the claim – the injured party can take the matter to state or federal court.
Railroad Hazards and Health Concerns
Workers in the railway industry, particularly train and heavy equipment operators, face regular exposure to diesel exhaust and fumes. This prolonged exposure has been linked to an increased risk of serious lung cancer and COPD, exacerbated by the presence of benzene compounds found in many industrial degreasing products.
Another significant contributor to lung diseases in this sector is asbestos exposure. Although asbestos is no longer widely used in contemporary manufacturing, the enduring consequences of past exposure continue to affect railway workers. Decades after being exposed to asbestos, some of these workers are now grappling with lung cancer and lung diseases. Consequently, individuals who have spent substantial time in rail yards are at heightened risk of conditions like mesothelioma and various forms of lung cancer.
While the risk is most pronounced for workers closely associated with engines, it’s important to acknowledge that other railroad employees can also develop these debilitating diseases. Depending on their work history and specific circumstances, railroad lung cancer lawyers may assist individual workers in determining the viability of their legal claims.
Railroad Cancer Risks:
Railroad workers face unique risks due to prolonged exposure to harmful substances. A few key risks include:
Lung Cancer and Diesel Exhaust: Diesel exhaust emits a toxin known as benzene, a recognized cause for lung cancer. Studies indicate that railroad workers who operate trains have a 40% higher risk of developing lung cancer.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma: For decades, asbestos, a potent carcinogen, was prevalent in the railroad industry. Exposure sources range from brake pads, sealing cement, clutches to floor tiles. Workers exposed to asbestos, especially those in roundhouses, are at elevated risk for mesothelioma.
Lead Exposure: Apart from cancer, railroad workers might face risks due to lead exposure. Lead paint, although banned now, still exists on many railroad structures and equipment. Chronic exposure can lead to nerve damage, high blood pressure, reproductive issues, and more.
Why Seeking Legal Assistance is Crucial:
While FELA provides an avenue for justice, navigating its intricacies can be challenging. Proving negligence and ensuring rightful compensation requires expertise and dedication. That’s where a FELA attorney becomes crucial.. A competent and knowledgeable attorney almost always obtains better results than a self-represented person. This is because the railroads use their deep pockets and high-powered attorneys to limit or dismiss claims.
A specialized FELA attorney can:
Conduct Thorough Investigations: Right from the outset, when an injury or illness is reported, railroad companies initiate their investigations. Having an experienced attorney ensures a thorough independent investigation to safeguard your interests.
Fight Against Injustices: In many cases, railroad companies might try to attribute some fault to the employee to reduce compensation. An attorney can ensure you’re not unjustly blamed.
Provide Expert Guidance: From understanding if you qualify for a claim, gathering evidence, to representing you in court, an attorney can guide you every step of the way.
Navigating a FELA Claim
When a railroad worker believes they’ve been injured due to workplace negligence, they start by filing a FELA claim directly with the employer or railroad company. This claim seeks compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other associated costs. If the claim faces denial or other complications, the injured party can take it to state or federal court.
However, proving negligence can be challenging. Demonstrating that a company failed to provide a safe working environment or acted negligently requires evidence and understanding of both the law and the railroad industry. This is where the expertise of a FELA cancer attorney becomes indispensable.
How a FELA Cancer Attorney Can Assist
Investigative Skills: Once hired, an experienced attorney can run an independent investigation. They will look into how the injury occurred, the company’s role, and any possible negligence.
Legal Expertise: They can help in determining the legal strategy, ensuring the injured worker is not unfairly blamed, and guide the claim through the complex legal landscape.
Compensation Advocacy: A knowledgeable FELA attorney can help workers get both economic and noneconomic losses when they make successful claims.
If you or someone you know has faced health issues potentially linked to their work on the railroads, it might be time to consult with a specialized attorney. They can offer guidance, support, and the expertise needed to seek justice and compensation. Remember, while the railroad might seem vast and intimidating, with the right support, justice can be achieved.
Don’t let complexities deter you from seeking the justice you deserve. Your fight is valid, and with the right legal representation, it’s winnable. Secure your future and that of your family. Reach out today for a free consultation with experienced attorneys who can provide the guidance and support you need.