Representing Railroad Families
Frequently Asked Questions
As attorneys we know that a lot of myths and half-truths exist about lawsuits, trial attorneys and even the legitimacy of certain types of injuries. The purpose of this page is to provide some facts about these types of issues and questions that we get asked frequently.
Where does Doran & Murphy, PLLC practice law?
Doran & Murphy has successfully represented clients from over 30 states. They are a national law firm, which means they will be able to assist your needs no matter where you are located.
There are so many personal injury lawyers on TV and in the phone book, what makes Doran & Murphy, PLLC any different?
Doran & Murphy does not advertise on television. They do not plaster their pictures on the sides of phone books or on billboards. Rather they get clients from referrals from past clients and other lawyers who know of their trial reputation and experience. They believe this says a lot more about the type of lawyers they are than any 30 second television ad could do. They are among the nations most experienced and best lawyers in the fields they practice.
It seems like the number of lawsuits is increasing year after year. Is this true?
Actually, it is not true. According to the Justice Department, the number of federal personal injury cases fell by 79 percent between 1985 and 2003. Additionally, the most recent statistics from the Administration’s Bureau of Justice Statistics show the number of trials at the state level has decreased as well.
It seems like the railroad is a dying industry. If people are suing them, won’t a large verdict put them out of business?
Actually, the commercial freight railroad industry is not dying and is quite healthy. With the ever rising costs of fuel, many companies have turned to the railroad to transport large amounts of goods, rather than use commercial trucks. For example, CSX Transportation, Inc. submitted fourth quarter earnings of $692 million in January of 2009 and revenue rose 4 percent to $2.7 billion. Similarly, Norfolk Southern Railway Company reported fourth-quarter net income of $452 million in January of 2009, with quarterly revenue up 2 percent to $2.5 billion.
Shouldn’t railroad workers expect certain risks just by the nature of their job? What gives them the right to sue the railroad?
There is no doubt that historically the railroad industry has been a relatively dangerous industry. However, when an employee takes a job on the railroad, the law requires the railroad to provide a reasonably safe place to work. If the railroad breaks this promise and an employee is injured, the railroad is held responsible. The law does not allow them to defend themselves by asserting that the employee knew it was dangerous when he took the job.
Why aren’t railroad workers covered by Workers Compensation insurance?
Unlike most American workers who are eligible for workers compensation benefits if they are injured on the job, railroad workers are not. Instead, railroad workers who want to seek recovery for a work place injury must file a lawsuit under the Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”). Railroad workers who are unsuccessful in bringing a FELA claim are left with no recourse, which makes it all the more important for them to hire an experienced lawyer in bringing FELA actions.
What type of diseases do people develop from exposure to asbestos or diesel fumes?
Besides mesothelioma, which is caused exclusively by asbestos exposure, studies have shown that exposure to asbestos and/or diesel fumes can cause significant other diseases. Studies have linked asbestos and/or diesel exposure to lung cancer, bladder cancer, esophageal cancer, laryngeal cancer, throat cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer and stomach cancer, as well as asbestosis and COPD.
I used to work on the railroad, how do I know if I was exposed to asbestos?
The railroad industry in general was a heavy user of asbestos throughout most of the twentieth century. Steam locomotives and some diesels locomotives were insulated with asbestos. Insulation was commonly used on and around locomotives, boxcars and cabooses, refrigeration units, pipes in and around the locomotive cabs, and steam and hot water lines. Asbestos was also commonly used by railroad workers in packing, rope, cement, gaskets, and in floor tiles for passenger cars. Railroad brakes pads and clutch linings also commonly contained asbestos. Doran & Murphy has worked with railroad employees in every craft and is knowledgeable about the various sources of asbestos exposure faced by persons in those crafts.
For years I worked around products that contained asbestos and now I have been diagnosed with cancer. However, I also used to smoke cigarettes. Does this mean I cannot bring a claim?
No. Epidemiologic studies have established tobacco smoke and asbestos exposures synergistically interact to enhance cancer risks. While those companies responsible for exposing individuals to asbestos often defend lawsuits by blaming the individual’s tobacco use exclusively, a knowledgeable attorney and the medical doctor can present these synergy studies, which have been accepted by courts throughout the country.
Diesel fuel is widely sold and used throughout the country, how can it be unsafe?
Like any product that is widely used and sold, overexposure can cause significant health problems. Many of us occasionally come into contact with diesel fuel and its emissions when we use heavy power equipment or when we follow a large truck up a hill. However, workers in industries such as the railroad, construction and trucking often breathe in large amounts of diesel exhaust every day on the job. Studies show that occupational exposure to diesel fumes is the leading cause of toxic exposure. Diesel fumes contain carbon monoxide and certain carcinogens, which can cause cancer. Respirators can help slow negative effects of inhalation when properly used.
How is mesothelioma different from lung cancer?
While both forms of cancer can be caused by exposure to asbestos, Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer which affects the mesothelium, which is the cellular lining of major organs. It shows up in the lungs, the heart, the area around the heart, and the linings of the abdominal cavity. While industrial, construction, and railroad workers were commonly exposed to asbestos, and thus the most likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, family members and people sharing a household with a worker who has been exposed to asbestos have also been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Symptoms include: shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest pain, hoarseness, fatigue, weight loss, and coughing up blood. Diagnosis can be difficult because it shares symptoms with many other disorders. Various tests can be used to diagnose mesothelioma, such as an X-ray, CT scan, and biopsy.
I’m always reading about new things that cause cancer, how do we know that mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos?
The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.
This is the 21st century, do people really still become sick from exposure to asbestos?
Yes. Medical science has shown that it often takes between 15 and 50 years before someone who was exposed to asbestos will start to show signs of the damage it has done. This means that workers exposed to asbestos in the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s or even the 1970’s might only now be beginning to show signs of the damage that asbestos exposure has done to them. While OSHA and the US government began to outlaw the use of asbestos many years ago, much of it has yet to be abated.Also, strikingly, in response to restrictions on asbestos processing and use in the US, some companies have continued to produce and use vast quantities of asbestos in Third World countries where few safety or environmental laws governing asbestos exist. In 2006 an estimated 2.3 million tons of asbestos were mined worldwide. Several sources predict that the use of asbestos will continue to increase in developing countries. Thus, in 20 to 30 year’s time, these countries will experience the devastating diseases that American workers now suffer from.
Why does asbestos cause harm to humans?
Bundles of asbestos fibers become airborne when they become disturbed or damaged. This leads to tiny particles becoming airborne which are easily inhaled by those around them. Inhaled asbestos particles cannot be easily expelled by the body. These foreign and toxic asbestos particles can remain in the body for decades, and can often times cause serious illnesses, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, as well as various forms of cancer.
We always hear about this toxic thing called asbestos, what is it anyway?
Asbestos is a name for several commonly occurring fibrous minerals. It was mined from the ground in huge quantities throughout the 20th century. Due in part to its adaptable properties, its resistance to heat and fire, its vast availability and its relatively inexpensive cost, many American companies incorporated it into their products. American industry used asbestos for everything from acoustic insulation, fire proofing, brake pads, gaskets, transmission parts, fire blankets, stage curtains, pipe insulation, brake blocks and heat shields, to various other everyday items.
Do I really need an experienced national law firm in a train derailment or train crash? How hard can it be, the train left the tracks, somebody is at fault?
After a disaster such as a train derailment takes place, many complex and fast moving issues come into play. Investigations by the NTSB and the FRA often take place as well as by the railroad and federal, state, and local agencies. Doran & Murphy has experience in working with those injured in train derailments and the families of those killed in train derailments, which can be vital to your recovery. Doran & Murphy understands that it is not just about recovery when a disaster strikes, but it is also about getting answers and making sure the same thing does not happen to somebody else. Make no mistake, after a large disaster such as a train derailment, the railroad hires the best national railroad lawyers they can. It is important for those passengers suffering to also hire the best national representation they can.
I know that the FELA protects injured railroad workers, but who protects injured passengers in train derailments?
While the FELA only applies to railroad employees who are injured on the job, many state and federal laws are in place to protect passengers injured in train derailments and railroad accidents. Depending on where the train derails and determining why the train derailed will be imperative to pursing the appropriate legal action.