Workplace injuries typically are covered by state workers’ compensation systems, but when railroad workers suffer injuries or illness in the workplace, those benefits may not be available. Instead, these workers must look to federal law for compensation for their injuries. Due to the potential severity of railroad signal maintainer injuries, medical treatment and financial support are likely to be a necessity. Most workplace injuries that a signal maintainer or other railroad workers may sustain are eligible for coverage under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act or FELA. However, injury victims must prove that the railroad company was negligent and caused their injuries before qualifying for FELA benefits. A skilled railroad injury lawyer can mean the difference between a full recovery and an insufficient recovery of damages in a FELA claim.
Common Railroad Injuries for Signalmen
Signal maintainers are responsible for installing and maintaining signal devices along railways. Signals are lights or other markers that lie along train tracks. Train dispatchers, who work in central railroad stations, use these signals to communicate with train crews.
Railroads operate around the clock, which means that signal maintainers must work in all types of adverse conditions. Their job duties expose them to the full range of hazards that working in and around trains can pose. In addition to creating concrete tower bases to hold signals, signalmen may cut and weld metal towers to support the signals. They also may repair and replace lights, electrical lines, and fiber optic cables in some circumstances.
How Do Signal Maintainers Get Injured on the Railway?
As a result of their job duties, signal maintainers may suffer injuries when they experience electrical accidents and burns, train crashes, falls, and malfunctioning equipment. Track welding operations may expose these workers to occupational lung disease due to the toxic substances inhaled during welding. These injuries to signal maintainers are significant and can trigger liability for railroads under FELA.
FELA Claims for Signal Maintainers
Unlike workers’ compensation benefits, there is no cap on FELA benefits for injured or ill railroad workers, including signal maintainers. FELA benefits also are more expansive than workers’ compensation benefits. Instead of providing only partial wage replacement and medical expenses, FELA benefits offer compensation for pain and suffering and other items, as well.
How Do Railroad Employees Qualify for FELA Benefits?
Qualifying for FELA benefits can be substantially more difficult than for workers’ compensation benefits. While workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, in that workers are eligible for benefits regardless of fault on the part of the employer, employee, or any other party, FELA benefits are different. Injured signal workers must prove that their rail carrier employers were negligent in creating the condition or accident that led to their signal maintainer injuries, illnesses or diseases.
Seeking Compensation For Damages
Damages under FELA can be extensive once injury victims qualify for benefits. Injured or ill workers who have suffered a permanent disability due to their job conditions can collect benefits or damages for the remainder of their lives. For instance, FELA can provide benefits for medical expenses reasonably related to the original illness or injury.
Other potential damages that may be available for injured signalmen under FELA can include:
- Current and future loss of wages and benefits
- Compensation for long-term injuries or permanent disability
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Costs of vocational rehabilitation and training necessary for working in another occupation
The total amount of damages that injury victims may qualify for under FELA varies tremendously based on the severity and permanency of an injury or illness. Furthermore, if injured signal maintainers were partially at fault or bear some responsibility for the incident that led to their injuries, their total damages award could decrease.
How an Attorney Could Help after Signal Maintainer Injuries
FELA claims for damages are subject to stringent time limits under federal law. Injured workers have only three years from the date of the injury or illness to file their claim for signal maintainer injuries or diseases. Since establishing a specific injury date can be challenging in cases involving a disease that has developed over time, getting legal advice on this issue can be crucial.
Railroads are likely to do everything they can to limit your recovery for work-related injuries or illnesses. Their profit margin depends on denying or drastically reducing your claim for FELA benefits. As a result, you may find the most effective means of obtaining the benefits that you need is to consult legal counsel today.