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FELA Compensation for Railroad Workers with Asbestos Lung Cancer

Asbestos Attorneys with FELA Experience Can Help You File a Claim and Maximize Results

Railroad workers grappling with lung cancer due to toxic asbestos exposure often find it difficult to secure compensation for their job-related illnesses. Unlike many other American workers covered by no-fault workers’ compensation programs, railroad workers must navigate a fault-based system established by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA).

This system often poses significant barriers to fair compensation for railroad workers exposed to asbestos, resulting in lung cancer or mesothelioma. Not only must asbestos lung cancer victims prove acts of negligence that occurred on the job 20-30-40 or more years ago. But they must also demonstrate the degree of negligence of each liable employer or manufacturer encountered over their career.

Railroad workers may only get one shot at filing a claim, so it’s important to build a strong case and make sure there are no errors in the process. It’s important to consult an experienced railroad asbestos lung cancer lawyer about your individual circumstances. But everyone should have a general understanding of their FELA rights and the relationship between railroad employment and asbestos lung cancer.

Overview of FELA and its impact on railroad workers

At the turn of the last century, work was “at your own risk.” Any type of work-related injury or illness was considered the worker’s fault. That started to change around the time FELA was drafted. Established by Congress in 1908, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act grants railroad workers the right to seek compensation for work-related injuries and illnesses, addressing hazardous conditions in the industry and emphasizing the necessity for legal protection.

It was groundbreaking legislation for workers’ rights and inspired similar programs. Three years after FELA passed, the government had created new forms of injury recovery for some federal employees and nine states were among the first to establish workers’ compensation programs.

However, the newer pieces of work injury compensation legislation had one huge difference compared to FELA – for the most part, they were all no-fault systems. With a few exceptions, regardless of fault, injured employees’ medical expenses are paid and their wages are compensated. Meanwhile, FELA applies a type of comparative negligence to cases. It considers the worker’s fault in their injury or illness and deducts from the award accordingly.

FELA is the only option for railroad workers seeking compensation for occupational diseases and injuries. While challenging, FELA claims have the potential to be more rewarding than workers’ comp claims because, unlike most workers’ compensation programs, FELA allows for the collection of pain and suffering and there is no cap on award amounts. An experienced FELA lawyer can help asbestos lung cancer victims get the most out of their claims.

Asbestos and lung cancer among railroad workers

The link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer among railroad workers is firmly established, supported by multiple studies, medical reports, and surveys.

Asbestos is a natural occurring mineral that breaks apart into tiny fibers when disturbed. When these fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs, leading to inflammation and scarring. Over time, this can cause genetic damage to lung cells, potentially resulting in the development of lung cancer. Asbestos exposure in the railroad industry is high. The toxic substance was used in the manufacture of many railroad parts and materials regularly handled, cut, ground, burned, or otherwise disturbed by workers. This includes:

  • Brake linings and clutch facings
  • Fumes and vapors
  • Insulation on train cars, boilers, pipes
  • Office buildings
  • Silica dust in the yard from the trains themselves, ballast, rails, and office buildings
  • Steam engines

Railroad workers were – and due to the use of older materials, still are – at a high risk of asbestos exposure due to inhalation.

Types of asbestos lung cancer common in railroad workers

On railroads, asbestos-containing materials were often disturbed during daily tasks, releasing hazardous dust into the air. In railroad workers, asbestos exposure is known to cause several lung cancers, including:

  • Asbestos lung cancer – a form of cancer caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers, commonly contracted by railroad workers due to their frequent exposure to asbestos-containing materials such as insulation, brakes, and various other components in the railroad environment.
  • Mesothelioma – a rare and aggressive cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, often contracted by railroad workers through inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers present in materials used in their work environment, including insulation, brakes, and other components.
  • Pleural cancer – a type of cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue surrounding the lungs (pleura), which railroad workers are most likely to get due to their frequent exposure to asbestos fibers present in materials like insulation, brakes, and other components used in their work environment, leading to damage and cancerous growth in the pleural lining.
  • Asbestosis – a chronic lung condition characterized by scarring and inflammation of lung tissue due to prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers, commonly contracted by railroad workers through inhalation of airborne asbestos particles present in materials like insulation, brakes, and other components used in their work environment.

Despite some improvements in workplace safety, many railroad workers continue to suffer the long-lasting consequences of asbestos exposure, requiring legal support for compensation and justice.

Identifying high risk groups and providing aid

Railroad workers faced substantial asbestos exposure – especially before the 1960s. Most railroad workers filing FELA claims for asbestos lung cancer are retired, over age 63, and were recently diagnosed with cancer. They worked for railroad companies of all sizes and in all types of occupations. Railroad workers involved in carriage construction and repair were at a particularly high risk of asbestos exposure due to the presence of asbestos-containing materials in various components such as engine, boxcar, and caboose insulation, boiler insulation, pipe insulation, refrigeration units, brakes, clutches, and gaskets. Other types of railroad workers at higher risk of asbestos-related lung cancer include:

  • Apprentice
  • Boilermaker
  • Brakeman
  • Carman
  • Car repair shop, mechanic
  • Carriage construction, repair worker
  • Clerk
  • Conductor
  • Engineer
  • Fireman
  • Flagger
  • Gandy dancer
  • Guard
  • Machinist
  • Maintenance worker
  • Railroad machinist
  • Rail bender, bonder, setter, grinder
  • Road foreman
  • Roadhouse master
  • Secondman
  • Signal maintainer
  • Supervisor
  • Switchman
  • Trackman
  • Welder
  • Yard foreman

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. A short amount of time working in railroads – even in an office job capacity – can cause this latent form of lung cancer to develop decades later. Experienced asbestos exposure lawyers and FELA attorneys help former railroad workers and their families collect evidence that connects asbestos exposure to lung cancer diagnoses.

Companies and manufacturers linked to asbestos claims

Some of the railroad companies and manufacturers that exposed workers to asbestos are gone or they’ve merged with other corporations. However, they are still liable to workers for negligence. Railroad companies, operators, and manufacturers that have been linked to asbestos exposure-related cancer among workers include:

  • Amtrak
  • BNSF
  • Conrail
  • Central Railroad of New Jersey
  • Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD)
  • Great Northern Railway (a predecessor to BNSF)
  • Illinois Central Railroad Company
  • Long Island Railroad (LIRR)
  • New Jersey Transit
  • Norfolk Southern Railway Co.
  • Penn Central
  • Southern Pacific Railroad (later merging with Union Pacific)
  • Western Pacific Railroad (Union Pacific)
  • Witherspoon Scrapyard (CSX Transportation)

Asbestos exposure in railroad operations was widespread across the country, with numerous companies beyond those listed here being linked to such incidents. Asbestos exposure has profound legal and health implications for railroad workers, highlighting the need for strong legal representation and compensation access under FELA.

Importance of experienced FELA legal representation

The stakes are high when seeking asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma compensation. Thousands of FELA claims are filed every year. Settlements and jury awards that consider a worker’s medical expenses, lost wages, as well as their pain and suffering can be anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars. Depending on circumstances and prognosis, damages a victim could potentially recover include:

  • Medical expenses. Coverage for current and future medical treatments related to the asbestos lung cancer diagnosis.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life. Compensation for the loss of ability to participate in activities and enjoy life as before the diagnosis.
  • Lost wages. Compensation for income lost due to the inability to work during treatment or recovery periods.
  • Pain and suffering. Financial support for the physical and emotional distress caused by the illness.
  • Punitive damages. In rare cases, additional compensation may be awarded to punish the liable party for negligence or misconduct leading to asbestos exposure and subsequent lung cancer.

While many claims are filed, over 15 percent end up in court. Hiring an experienced mesothelioma lawyer with a proven track record in handling railroad industry cases is critical in such situations. A skilled FELA attorney can offer invaluable assistance in gathering evidence, navigating legal procedures, and advocating forcefully on behalf of victims to secure the compensation they rightfully deserve.

Trust our 30 years of FELA asbestos lung cancer claim experience

If you or a loved one worked in the railroad industry and have been diagnosed with lung cancer, contacting Ferrell Law Group for a free case evaluation can help you gain clarity on your situation and legal options. We are a national law firm with extensive experience in handling asbestos-related cases within the railroad sector. Our lawyers understand the complexities of FELA claims and can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. Our dedicated legal team will work tirelessly and fight vigorously to secure the compensation and justice you deserve.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this article, “FELA Compensation for Railroad Workers with Asbestos Lung Cancer.”

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