Asbestos exposure at work is one of the leading causes of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases among railroad workers. Asbestos, a known human carcinogen, can be found in old rail cars, in rail ties, in locomotives, and even in old railroad buildings. Exposure to asbestos fibers is serious, as they can get lodged in your lungs and cause issues years after exposure, as the dormancy stage is roughly 10-40 years. This means that if you were working in the railroad industry and you were ever exposed to asbestos (whether known or unknown), you may not experience the ramifications of that exposure until decades later.
If you know you were exposed to asbestos and were never warned of the dangers by your employers, you may be eligible to file a claim against them or the manufacturers of the asbestos products. This includes Maintenance of Way (MOW) workers, retired railroad workers, and current railroad workers.
Past and Present Asbestos Exposure in the Railroad Industry
Asbestos was widely used in the railroad industry from the 1930s to the 1980s until the dangers it posed became widely known. It was desirable for its resistance to heat, fire, and chemicals. With so many potential uses in the railroad industry, it was used for many things, including but not limited to:
- Brake pads and clutch plates
- Boiler linings and firebox casings
- Engine compartments
- Roofing and floor tiles
- Hoses used for hydraulics and steam supply lines
- Insulation in company buildings and railcars
- Rope, packing, and cement supplies
- Wallboard and paint
- Protective clothing like overalls, gloves, hats, and boots
Jobs held by those railroad workers most at risk included:
- Maintenance workers
- Locomotive engineers
- Locomotive firers
- Brake, signal, and switch operators
Who is Most At-Risk Today
Today, the railroad workers most at risk are those that make repairs on aging railcars and Maintenance of Way workers who perform maintenance on track equipment that contains asbestos insulation. Older railcars and track equipment can contain deteriorating asbestos, which can become fragile and release asbestos fibers into the air, putting workers at risk.
Bringing a Claim Forward After Retirement
Under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), railroad workers are covered for injuries while on-duty or if they develop a disease due to their working conditions—for example, if they were exposed to asbestos while working for a railroad company and developed mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease.
To file a FELA claim, you would need to prove that your employer was negligent, not warning you of the dangers of asbestos exposure or providing you with adequate protective equipment. These types are very unique, in that they only require the worker to prove that the railroad company had some role in the injury or illness, not that they have to be solely responsible. This means that the railroad companies could be held responsible for any role they played in your level of asbestos exposure.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations on these is related to when the injury or illness occurs, not when the individual last worked for the railroad.
However, railroad workers must file their claim within three years of diagnosis for their asbestos-related illness. If they don't file within that three-year period, their case could be dismissed, even if it's substantiated with evidence.
All railroad workers are covered under FELA, even if they are now retired. As long as the claim filed for an asbestos-related diagnosis within the three-year time limit, a retired railroad employee is entitled to file their claim.
A FELA claim may not be your only legal option, however!
How a Lawyer Can Help You File Your Claim
A lawyer, such as those at Serling & Abramson, can help you take a good look at all of your legal options. They will use the "discovery" process to gather information and evidence, investigate what led to your asbestos exposure, track the severity of your illness, and start building your case.
The Basics of Discovery in an Asbestos Case
The discovery phase of a lawsuit is what largely helps lead to the decision on your level of compensation. Attorneys ask questions, dig deep into documentation and data, participate in depositions, and so on.
In an asbestos case, the attorneys dig into your employment history, medical history, etc., and then they employ various discovery tactics to figure out who is responsible for your asbestos exposure. They also identify if there are other cases that have been brought against that company or manufacturer and the defendant's financial situation. All of this information helps them put together a case. If there are no pressing concerns, this process can take months to years. If the client is in poor health, the discovery stage can be compressed to a shorter amount of time. The more time there is for the discovery stage, typically, the greater a case can be brought forward, as more evidence can be acquired.
Behind the scenes, investigators are hard at work gathering information from sources. It's their job to get to the bottom of who is responsible for your illness. Many times, these investigators work for the law firm that you hire, or they are hired on a needs basis for cases. They get deep into the investigative process, contacting co-workers, visiting archives and libraries, reviewing depositions, searching records, contacting other law offices that may have relevant information related to the case, and so on.
Depositions in an Asbestos Case
A deposition is a form of discovery that directly impacts you, as the client. This legal proceeding takes place with you, the plaintiff, under oath, answering questions posed by the attorneys. Your attorney would begin by asking the first round of questions, and then the defendant's attorneys have their round of questioning. The defendant will typically try to determine if you had a preexisting condition that could be contributing to your health problems, therefore relieving their client of at least some fault.
A deposition can take a few hours to weeks to complete, depending on many factors. An experienced attorney representing you could make all the difference in how long this process takes. They would thoroughly prepare you for questioning and address any concerns ahead of time. It's also their job to protect you during a deposition by objecting to specific questions or ensuring that you get breaks as needed.
The Importance of an Asbestos Lawyer
Asbestos cases are very complex and aren't just something you want to file yourself. You must establish a concrete link between your asbestos exposure while working for the railroad company and your mesothelioma or asbestos-related illness diagnosis. This requires months of detailed research and legal knowledge relating to these types of cases.
If you are considering filing an asbestos-related claim, contact us! We can help you determine whether or not you have a viable case and get you the compensation you deserve for any losses you've endured.