When someone calls us because they were diagnosed with cancer after a career of working for the railroad, they often want to know the value of their case under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). Despite the fact that our office has represented railroad workers for occupational cancer for decades, each case is unique.
Cancer impacts different people’s bodies differently. There are different cell types that might be more or less aggressive than others. People’s bodies respond to different treatments – whether it is an immunotherapy, surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, each person has a different journey while undergoing their treatment. Our office hopes that everyone has a good response to their cancer treatment – and, it does seem that people are having better and better responses as time goes on. However, we might have two clients that have the exact same cancer, and worked the same craft for the same railroad, but one achieves remission, and the other unfortunately succumbs to the disease, passing away and leaving a widow. These cases are very different, and it often isn’t known how a person will respond to the treatment for quite a while.
Most of our clients with cancer are retired railroad workers. However, we have represented many younger workers still active with the railroad. Those young workers may be unable to provide for children, whether they are in kindergarten or college.
Other times, we may represent a retiree who has taken on a job, whether full or part-time, after leaving the railroad. Their cancer diagnosis may take them out of work for a period of time for treatments, or they may be unable to work at all after the diagnosis. Each of these unique situations must be handled differently.
Pain and suffering
Not only do individuals experience pain differently, but cancer treatments can bring significantly different side effects to different patients. One person may be nauseated from chemotherapy, while another has tremendous constipation. One client may lose all of their hair, another doesn’t lose a single hair from their head. Whether it is joint pain, change of taste/smell, fatigue, exhaustion or any side effect of treatment, each person’s body responds differently to treatment.
Smoking, Drinking and other Contributing Causes
The FELA provides recovery for railroad workers injured due to the railroad’s negligence. Sometimes, a worker might also have been negligent in smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or another dietary contributing factor to cancer. Smoking, drinking or eating red meat do not impact a worker’s ability to bring a claim, but the railroad may use such facts to try to decrease the value of that claim by arguing that those activities are negligence on the part of the worker, and contributed to the development of cancer. A worker’s treating physician may assist in a claim by explaining the occupational cause of a cancer, but only if the worker has told the doctor about his exposures to toxic substances at the railroad. Doctors generally do not know the details of each craft on the railroad and the exposures that come with it. Once the doctor knows about the various substances a worker was exposed to at the railroad, that doctor may then explain to the jury how railroad exposures, or some combination of both smoking and occupational exposures caused a worker’s cancer.
If you, or a loved one, have been diagnosed with cancer and worked at the railroad, call our office for a free consultation to discuss your unique situation.