What Damages Are Railroaders Entitled To?

If an employee is injured or killed because of the railroad's negligence or violation of the Safety Acts, the employee or his surviving family members can recover a sum of money as "DAMAGES". There are a number of elements for which a jury can award money damages:

THE NATURE, EXTENT & DURATION OF THE INJURY

The amount of compensation awarded will be based upon the type of injury sustained, the severity of the injury and whether it is permanent in nature.

THE DISABILITY & DISFIGUREMENT INVOLVED

The railroad is required to pay for any disability or disfigurement that an employee suffers as a result of an injury. There are various degrees of disability. Damages may be awarded for injuries that are only partially or temporarily disabling. Disfigurement means scarring or even the loss of a limb.

PAIN AND SUFFERING, BOTH PAST AND FUTURE

This is the most crucial element of damages in many cases. Often an injury that is not as "dramatic" or "graphic" as, for example, the loss of a leg, can actually result in incredible pain and suffering. This element is also the most difficult to prove - no one can really know how much pain an injury produces except the person suffering from it. If a physician indicates that the employee will permanently suffer from pain, then he is entitled to additional money to compensate him for that future pain and suffering.

AGGRAVATION OF A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION

Many times an employee will injure a part of his body that he had hurt in the past. Repeated back injuries, for instance, are very common on the railroad. Often, the claim agent will try to convince the employee that he cannot recover from the company if the injury involved a "pre-existing condition". This is not true. If the new railroad-related injury aggravated or made the pre-existing condition worse, the employee is still entitled to compensation for that aggravation.

LOST WAGES, PAST AND FUTURE

If an injury forces an employee to miss work, he is entitled to the wages he lost up until his return to duty. He will be entitled to his future lost wages if the injury prevents him from returning to work. Future lost wages are based upon present cash value, cost of living adjustments, insurance and health benefits, income taxes and other complex factors. FELA attorneys know qualified economists who can accurately determine the value of future lost wages and benefits.

IMPAIRMENT OF EARNING CAPACITY

This is different from lost wages. Simply stated, lost earning capacity is the loss of the ability to perform certain jobs due to physical impairment.

MEDICAL EXPENSES

Under FELA, the railroad is responsible for paying all medical expenses incurred as the result of an injury. If the employee will continue to need medical care in the future, the railroad owes the value of those future medical costs.