Deadheading Injuries

Talk to railroaders and they’ll tell you that one of their biggest safety concerns is when being transported to their home terminal or company lodging on the road by an outside “limo” or “jitney” company. Many times the drivers appear tired or unskilled, and the van looks poorly maintained. Their lives are literally in these driver's hands as they proceed at night, in often “scary” weather conditions. When an employee is injured while deadheading, the railroad will blame everyone but themselves. But don’t be fooled, when you are being transported by these outside operators while at work for the railroad these operators are agents of the railroad.

Who is responsible if I am hurt while being deadheaded?

When a railroader is injured while deadheading, the railroad is quick to point the finger at the cab company and deny that it is responsible for the worker’s injury. However, just as the law recognizes the railroad’s right to contract these transportation jobs out to cab companies, federal law mandates that the railroad has a legal obligation to provide its employees with a reasonably safe place to work. The railroad’s duties under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act are non-delegable, meaning that the railroad cannot shift its responsibility to third-parties such as cab or “limo” companies.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a deadheading incident, do not accept the railroad’s representation that it is not responsible for the acts or omissions of the cab company it hired to transport its workers. If the cab company is engaged in an operational activity of the railroad, such as transporting outlawed workers back to their home terminals, then any negligence on the part of the cab company is the responsibility of the railroad. After all, it is the railroad that hired this company. While the law makes the railroad responsible, the railroad will often go to great lengths to argue that is not responsible.

Some railroad arguments we have encountered in the past include:

  • Because the injured worker had exceeded the maximum hours of service, he/she was no longer on duty and therefore is not covered by the FELA.
  • Because the railroad had no direct control over the actions of the cab driver, it is not responsible.
  • The contract between the railroad and the cab company requires the cab company to take out insurance, and therefore the railroad has no further responsibility.
  • The employee chose to be transported back to their home terminal, and therefore was no longer in the course and scope of his/her employment and is not covered by the FELA.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, as the railroad will make any argument it can to avoid responsibility. Of course, when its other arguments fail, the railroad will fall back on the argument it invariably raises – blame the injured worker.

Brian Reddy encountered a real life example of this when he represented a locomotive engineer who was injured while being transported by a cab company at night in a snow storm. The cab driver was not paying attention and missed the proper exit on the New York State Thruway. Rather than continuing to the next exit, the driver decided to reverse back toward the exit ramp. The locomotive engineer noticed headlights from a large vehicle approaching in their direction. The cab driver hit the brakes and stopped his vehicle straddling the lanes of oncoming traffic. The engineer decided that it was safest for him to jump out of the van before being hit by the oncoming vehicle. When he opened the door to jump, the cab driver hit the gas throwing the engineer out of the van and onto the road. He broke his nose and some teeth but, fortunately, was able to get up and out of the way before being hit by the oncoming vehicle, a semi tractor trailer.

Despite these facts, the railroad said the incident was entirely the engineer’s fault. Shortly before trial the railroad offered to settle, but, Brian’s client felt the amount was completely unfair. Brian tried the case and the jury awarded the engineer $413,000. $13,000 of this was for loss of earnings, $350,000 was for pain and suffering and $50,000 was to compensate his spouse for loss of consortium. This verdict far exceeded the offer made by the railroad.

What should I do if I have been hurt while deadheading?

If you or a loved one have been injured while deadheading, contact Brian Reddy at (419) 482-1467 immediately for a no cost, no pressure legal consultation. You should seek advice and counsel from experienced railroad attorneys. Brian Reddy has over 20 years of experience representing injured railroad workers in lawsuits against the railroad. They will not accept the railroad’s argument that it is not responsible for its workers who were injured.

As soon as the railroad learns of your injury, it will have claim agents from its risk management department begin protecting the railroad’s interest and limiting any compensation to which you may be entitled. It is important that you get tough lawyers on your side to protect your interests and those of your family.
Important tip

While you are being transported in company provided transportation you are covered under the FELA. However, you could be injured as the result of the negligence of another driver and without any fault on the part of your driver or vehicle. If the railroad or its agents are not negligent you will not recover under the FELA. If the other driver has little or no liability insurance coverage and no assets, you could be seriously injured, be permanently unable to return to work and yet have little or no monetary recovery. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you purchase supplemental underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage (“SUM”) and get has high coverage limits as you can afford. Talk to your insurance company or agent for more on this.