If you’ve been hurt on the railroad your first question is probably, do I have a case? Once you decide the answer is yes, almost assuredly, the next question is how much is my back injury claim worth? How much is my finger injury worth? How much is my knee injury case worth?
They’re important questions, because you want to make sure that the value of what you could recover from a settlement or trial is worth your time and sharing a portion of any recovery on legal fees.
There isn’t a calculator where you can enter an equation like:
Shoulder injury x 2 surgeries x 4 months off the job = Y dollars
But you can get some idea of the worth of your claim by looking at several factors that we’ll take a look at in this post. These include:
- Lost wages (straight and overtime) Find out your wage loss here.
- Out of pocket expenses, if any
- Severity of the injury (Surgery? How many? Hardware? More surgery likely?)
- Age (Do you have a long life and career ahead of you?)
- Effect of injury on future ability to earn?
Let me give you three examples across the spectrum.
At the low end is the signalman, who cut his leg.
He was cutting a vault with a concrete saw when it kicked back and cut the top of his leg, and the blade was so hot that it cauterized the wound immediately. The wound required 10 staples to close up. He lost 12 days from work and owed a lien of $3,200 to the carrier.
In the middle is a FRA Track Inspector, who suffered finger injury.
The track inspector is doing his job walking the tunnels. He trips over a spike that is sticking up, doing nothing. As a result of the fall, he loses over 50% of the index finger on his dominant hand. As a result of the injury, he lost 4 months of work, returned for 5 months and then retired 2 years early because he could not perform his job properly.
At the severe end is a track worker, who suffered a potentially career-ending eye injury.
At only 31 years old, a piece of shrapnel pops up and hits the newbie track worker in the eye, quickly removing a quarter of his iris. He has emergency surgery in an effort to save his vision. It works. But he misses 17 weeks and has three more surgeries. He goes back to work, but then has a fifth surgery which causes him to lose another 12 weeks. All in, his wage loss is about $28,000. But he is also at a greater than 40% chance of getting glaucoma. He has 43 years left to live and worry about getting that silent disease. And did I mention that he is also a mixed martial arts fighter, who owns his own gym where he coaches and trains upcoming fighters? All that gets figured into the value of his case.
The following questions apply to every one of the scenarios above and all other railroad injuries.
- What is the railroad's negligence, that is, what did they do wrong?
- How much responsibility, if any, is on you?
- How did the railroad’s negligence lead to the injury?
- What is the absolute most that a jury could reasonably award you in a verdict?
- What is the reasonable range that you can expect at trial?
- What is a good final number for settlement?
- What is a good opening number to start negotiations?
- How will you know if you are being treated fairly?
I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know where each of those three scenarios went.
- First, the leg injury settled for $15,000.
- Second, the finger injury settled for $900,000.
- Third, for the eye injury a jury awarded $3.75 million.
But does that mean your finger injury will result in a $900,000 recovery? Or that your back injury could recoup even more for you? Not necessarily. Prior results are never a guarantee of future success. The point here is that there are many factors you and your attorney will consider before suing the railroad for your injury.
In the case of the trackman with the eye injury, the wage loss was of little consequence, because it was the number of surgeries he had (and the likelihood of more), his loss of his passion as a martial arts fighter and his increased chances for disease and disability which led to the jury award of $3.75 million.
When you are faced with an injury, before you decide to sue, take time to assess your wage loss, along with the questions outlined in this post and talk to a qualified FELA attorney.
Photo by Marc Wietzke