How to Determine Railroad Injury Settlement Amounts

Railroad work is physically demanding and fraught with hazards, making injuries all too common. If you’re a railroad employee who’s been injured on the job, you may be entitled to compensation under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). But how do you determine a fair settlement amount? Let’s break down the key factors and steps to consider.

Table of Contents

1. Factors Affecting Railroad Injury Settlement Amounts

Settlement amounts in FELA cases vary widely, depending on several factors:

  • Severity of the injury: More serious injuries, such as amputations or traumatic brain injuries, typically yield higher settlements than less severe injuries like strains or sprains.
  • Level of fault: If the railroad was overwhelmingly at fault for the accident, you may be entitled to a larger settlement.
  • Your age and life expectancy: Younger claimants may receive higher settlements to account for a longer lifespan with disability.
  • Lost wages and earning capacity: If your injury prevents you from returning to work or significantly reduces your earning capacity, this will impact your settlement.
  • Medical expenses: The amount of your past and future medical costs will be factored into your settlement.
  • Pain and suffering: The degree of physical pain and emotional distress you’ve endured also influences settlement amounts.

2. Calculating Economic Damages

Economic damages, also known as special damages, have a clear monetary value. These include:

  • Medical expenses: Ambulance bills, hospital stays, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and any other medical costs related to your injury.
  • Lost wages: Any income you’ve lost due to missing work while recovering from your injury.
  • Reduced earning capacity: If your injury permanently impairs your ability to work, you may be able to claim lost future earnings.
  • Other expenses: Travel costs for medical appointments, home modifications for disability, etc.

Keep meticulous records of all these expenses, as documentation is key to securing fair compensation.

3. Calculating Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages, or general damages, are more subjective. They include:

  • Pain and suffering: The physical discomfort and pain you’ve experienced due to your injury.
  • Emotional distress: Anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental health impacts of your injury.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: If your injury prevents you from participating in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Disfigurement: If your injury resulted in noticeable scarring or other physical disfigurement.

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for calculating non-economic damages. Your attorney will help you put a value on these losses based on the specifics of your case.

4. Comparative Negligence and Its Impact on Settlements

Under FELA, the doctrine of comparative negligence applies. This means that if you were partially at fault for the accident, your settlement will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you’re deemed 20% at fault and the jury awards $1 million, you’ll receive $800,000.

Given the complexities of FELA and calculating fair settlements, it’s crucial to work with an experienced railroad injury attorney. They will:

  • Assess your claim: Determine the strength of your case and potential settlement range.
  • Gather evidence: Collect documentation of your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
  • Calculate damages: Put a value on both your economic and non-economic losses.
  • Negotiate with the railroad: Advocate for you to secure the highest possible settlement.

6. Negotiating a Fair Settlement

Most FELA cases settle out of court. Your attorney will work with the railroad’s representatives to reach a fair agreement. This may involve several rounds of negotiation. It’s essential to be patient and not rush into accepting a low offer. Remember, once you settle, you cannot pursue further compensation for the same injury.

If you’re a railroad worker who’s been injured, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice. An experienced FELA attorney can guide you through the process and fight for the compensation you deserve.