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VICTIMS OF DIESEL EXPOSURES

Factors Affecting Your Railroad Cancer Settlement

Published on November 26th, 2018 by Andrew L. Hughes

Determining the value of your railroad cancer settlement can be a daunting process.  There are many factors that play a part in determining a fair settlement amount.  The purpose of this blog is to highlight these factors and briefly explain their importance.

Craft/Exposures:

Locomotive machinists working in improperly ventilated shops and roundhouses had arguably some of the worst exposures to railroad carcinogens.  These exposures would include asbestos, diesel exhaust, benzene-containing solvents and welding fumes.  Car department workers often shared many of those same exposures.  Railroad track or engineering department employees had exposures that were unique to their craft, including creosote, silica sand and even the toxic smoke from burning asbestos rope soaked in diesel fuel.  Locomotive engineers and conductors typically endured years of chronic diesel and asbestos exposures.  In determining a railroad cancer settlement amount, we first look at your craft and the associated exposures.

Illness:

The next step in the railroad cancer settlement analysis is to establish a strong connection between your railroad exposures and your illness.  For instance, any railroad employee who suffered diesel and asbestos exposures and is later diagnosed with lung cancer typically has a solid case.  There is a very strong medical nexus between diesel exhaust/asbestos exposures and lung cancer.  The same can be said of bladder and kidney cancer cases.

But if you take another disease, like multiple myeloma for instance, the method we use for tying the illness to the exposures changes between railroad crafts.  For a locomotive machinist with multiple myeloma, we will focus on the machinist’s intense exposures to benzene, an ingredient in the mineral spirits and solvents routinely used in the shops.  Our clients have described working next to heated solvent baths that filled the air with the sweet odor associated with benzene.  Other machinists have discussed using solvent-soaked rags to clean parts and having the solvents and degreasers coating their hands and arms.  Those extreme benzene exposures, even if they occurred over a limited time 20 years ago, are known to cause multiple myeloma.

On the other hand, if we are presented with a locomotive engineer suffering from multiple myeloma, we take a different tact.  We prove up the locomotive engineer’s multiple myeloma case by showing that the worker was exposed to diesel exhaust on a daily basis for his entire career.  Since benzene is a component of diesel exhaust, we argue that that small daily dose of benzene in diesel exhaust, taken over many years, contributed to the multiple myeloma.

Diesel Injury Law works with and relies upon conservative experts.  We work with experts familiar with the historical railroad exposures for each craft and experts who can link those exposures to the illness.  If the science is there, we will file your claim.  We won’t file claims based on junk science.

Duration of Exposures/Employment:

The railroads know who had the worst exposures.  They won’t ever admit it, but they know where the railroad cancer clusters are located.  A machinist or car man who worked in a notoriously bad shop, may receive a substantial railroad cancer settlement even if he only worked in the shop for 10 years.  Whereas, a gate checker/clerk who may have had some level of daily exposures, will typically need to establish a longer duration of exposure to link up an illness.

Smoking History:

When we perform our intakes, after we learn about your railroad job and illness, the next question will always be:  Did you smoke?  A significant smoking history will drive down the value of many railroad cancer settlements.  The fact is, a lot of the same carcinogens in cigarette smoke can be found in diesel exhaust.  But it is difficult for plaintiffs to establish – with any precision – their daily dose of diesel exhaust. Unfortunately, the railroads can establish what your daily dose of carcinogens was via your reported smoking history.  Significant smoking histories have resulted in not-guilty verdicts.  The railroads use that as leverage in railroad cancer settlement negotiations.

Other Factors:

Bringing a timely claim.  There is a three-year statute of limitations under the FELA.  That statute can be extended if you did not realize that your illness was work-related. If there are medical records or other materials showing that you knew or should have known that your illness was work related more than three years before bringing the claim, the railroad will not negotiate.

Being able to obtain your full medical history is important.  Railroads will typically request records from all medical treaters, including primary care doctors.  Most doctors only keep their records for around 10 years, so older cases can be difficult to prove up because the necessary records are no longer available. Age/Lost wages.  The value of your settlement will go up if there are lost wages associated with the illness.  Also, a 62-year-old diagnosed with lung cancer typically would receive a larger settlement than a 90-year-old with the same diagnosis.

These are just some of the primary factors in determining your railroad cancer settlement amount.  If you’d like to learn more about railroad cancer settlement amounts, visit our survey of verdicts and settlements.  You can also call 312-877-5588 and speak today with a knowledgeable railroad cancer attorney.

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