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Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
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Loss of arm or leg injuries in railroad work

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Railroad workers face the real threat of having the loss of a limb occur as a result of unsafe job conditions on the railroad. I know this because I am a law partner in an injury firm whose practice is focused on injuries to railroad workers who get hurt on the job. There are over 150,000 people each year who lose a limb.

Railroad workers face the real threat of having the loss of a limb occur as a result of unsafe job conditions on the railroad. I know this because I am a law partner in an injury firm whose practice is focused on injuries to railroad workers who get hurt on the job.

Rail equipment such as rail cars, locomotives, and large maintenance of way machines weigh 10’s of thousands of pounds or even 100’s of thousands of pounds each. If a train conductor has something go wrong with a coupler holding two cars together and somehow gets caught under the wheels of a car, his leg or arm can easily be torn off.

There are over 150,000 people each year who lose a limb. Amputations, the severing of a body part, can lead to horrible bleeding, sending a person into shock and posing a major risk of infection. Death is not an uncommon result depending upon which arteries or blood vessels get cut. Our law firm represented a young man who worked for the railroad in Ohio (OH) and died after having his leg cut off, as two pieces of railroad equipment pinned him. Sadly, he left behind a widow and young children. The whole reason that the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was created was to provide special legal protection for the men who worked in railroading, which is one of America’s most important, but most dangerous, industries.

Like many of the nicknames used by railroad workers for each other, there is a term for these loss of limb cases on the railroad. Luther Yopp, one of our old investigators, who was himself a Norfolk Southern trainman for many years before he came to work in the injury law business, used to refer to them as “leg off” cases. That term always stuck with me because the abruptness of it reminds you just how quickly a terrible injury like that can occur in the railroad business.

I will also never forget talking the Virginia (VA) bar exam in Roanoke, Virginia (VA) right after I got our of the University of Virginia’s law school in 1988. I didn’t know it at the time but Roanoke was a huge railroad town and one of the main transit points for Norfolk Southern railroad with lots of carmen and rail activity. One of the images that first struck me about Roanoke was that I saw a number of prosthetic supply stores. The idea that one quiet Virginia (VA) city should have several places to buy an artificial limb seemed strange to me. I now realize that having a prosthesis and a place to repair, and replace it periodically is part of life for railroaders who had a “leg off” injury. Prosthetics typically cost 10’s of thousands of dollars. Even with health insurances, and some family support system, living with the loss of a limb is a real challenge.

As I have been practicing injury law for over 18 years, I have come to realize, that there is a big difference between a below the knee and an above the knee amputation. If you have an amputation below the knee, you are much more likely to be able to keep a normal life, because you still have the bulk of your leg. If you are unfortunate enough to have an above the knee amputation, the process of working with a prosthetic to be able to walk, and do activities of daily living, is much more difficult. Although, the technology is improving, it still must be a devastating injury to have to live with. Many amputees still have “ghost pains” in their body part that is missing. Hearing this from one of my clients from Richmond, Virginia (VA) still haunts me.