In the railroad industry, a “carman” is someone who repairs, builds, and/or scraps railroad train cars. Given the complex and dangerous nature of this work, it is no surprise that railroad carmen suffer some of the highest injury rates in the industry.
Every railroad, including passenger railroads, have repair facilities referred to as “car shops” that contain the powerful tools and equipment needed to perform this work. Thousands of pounds of rolling steel pass through these shops every day, and when railroad employers fail to adhere to proper safety practices, carmen can suffer catastrophic injuries. These injuries are commonly caused by not providing workers with the appropriate tools to complete a task, or failing to maintain safe workplaces and equipment.
Car shops, in general, are often very old and deteriorated buildings, which are rife with safety hazards. Even when safety concerns are brought to the attention of management, they usually fall on deaf ears. For example, Doran & Murphy has represented multiple workers from the same car shop that were injured on the same poorly maintained wheel truing machine in similar ways. Despite numerous FELA claims, railroads rarely address the dangerous conditions that are causing injuries. Similarly, we recently represented a worker in a car shop who was expected to move 300-pound rolls of steel wire regularly and without assistance. After he tore his rotator cuff and bicep, our allegation was that the company continued to refuse to provide him with the proper lifting equipment, even after his return to work.
Aside from traumatic injuries, carmen are also at risk of developing various diseases from toxic exposures in the workplace. Powerful solvents, degreasers, and other chemicals that are commonly used in car shops can be particularly hazardous. In addition, workers in car shops are continuously exposed to noxious dust and fumes such as welding fumes, metal dust, and asbestos without the benefit of respiratory protection. These exposures can cause a wide range of diseases, including cancer, long after a worker retires. Under the FELA, workers who develop health conditions associated with these exposures may be entitled to significant compensation. In 2007, for example, the widow of a railroad carman obtained a $19,170,000 verdict after he died of pulmonary fibrosis. The lawsuit alleged that on-the-job exposure to contaminants such as welding fumes, metal dust, silica, sawdust from sandblasting, and asbestos from brake shoes and gaskets caused his illness. It further claimed that the railroad failed to provide a safe work environment for its employees by not providing adequate respiratory protection.
If you or a loved one is a railroad carman that has been injured on the job or suffers from an occupational disease, contact us today to find out how much you may be entitled to.