Multimillion-Dollar Verdict in FELA Case

A jury in Lancaster County, Nebraska, recently awarded nearly $3.5 million to a BNSF Railway worker who was injured on the job (Jury returns multimillion-dollar verdict in favor of railroad worker injured at Havelock Yard). Jimmy Rohr Jr., a carman for BNSF, will receive $3,485,000 of the $7,112,071 verdict after the jury determined he was 51 percent responsible for the railroad accident that caused him to lose part of his foot and eventually his left leg below the knee.

Rohr was setting a handbrake on an empty rail car when it was hit by five additional cars, weighing nearly 50,000 pounds each. The cars rolled over his left foot, causing extensive injuries leading to 13 surgeries, including the amputation of his left leg.

Attorneys for the railroad argued that Rohr was responsible for the accident, while Rohr’s attorneys contended that the railroad was completely to blame. The case was brought on behalf of the injured worker under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), which exclusively governs injuries to railroad workers in the United States, instead of workers’ compensation laws.

FELA was passed by Congress in 1908, granting injured railroad workers the right to sue their employers for compensation in the event of a work-related injury. In addition, surviving family members were given the right to bring suit on behalf of railroad workers who were killed on the job.

FELA differs from workers compensation in that compensation is not awarded automatically. The employee must prove that the railroad acted negligently, resulting in injury or death. The employee or surviving family members may be entitled to damages, including the following:

  • lost wages
  • medical expenses
  • funeral costs
  • lost benefits
  • pain and suffering
  • emotional damages
  • disability pay

Kudos to the jury in this case for holding BNSF accountable for its part in causing the tragic injuries suffered by its employee, despite BNSF’s attempt to blame Mr.Rohr. But it is long past time to provide compensation under FELA even when the railroad’s negligence cannot be proven because of the inherently dangerous conditions in which workers are placed by their employers.

If you have been injured in a railroad accident, it is critical that you hire an experienced attorney. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

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