Injured worker likely eligible for dual compensation for catastrophic injuries

On the eighth of last November, railroad maintenance worker Jose Salazar was just beginning the task of repairing and replacing a section of track that had been displaced in an earlier derailment when he was struck by a piece of rail being moved by co-workers. Salazar, aged 52, suffered a skull fracture, a broken back, broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a lacerated spleen when the 39-foot, 1,768 pound rail hit him in the back, causing him to strike his head on his truck, then pinned him to the ground and other rails.

Salazar was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital, where he underwent emergency brain surgery and was in a coma for a month. He later had back surgery, as well.

In a recent complaint, Salazar claims that his injuries were the direct result of negligence by the crew that was working alongside him that day. He claims that his co-workers should have been using a machine like the Speed Swing to lift and move the rail, but instead they used the less reliable backhoe to do the job, which resulted in a loss of control and, ultimately, Salazar’s injuries.

At the time, Salazar was employed by Transit America Services, a subcontractor for Caltrain. Both are defendants in the lawsuit, along with a third company, Union Pacific Railroad Company. The suit asserts that the companies failed to create a safe work environment and were thereby negligent, resulting in Salazar’s catastrophic injuries. He is now undergoing extensive physical and occupational therapies, requires intravenous antibiotics, and his extended prognosis is not clear. It is also not known if he will ever be employable in his former occupation again.

Salazar’s suit seeks damages for past and future physical pain, suffering and mental anguish, loss of ability to work, and medical expenses. His wife and four-year-old son are also plaintiffs in the suit, claiming loss of consortium, meaning he can no longer provide the level of care or affection for them that he was capable of prior to the accident. 

Typically rules of ‘exclusive remedy’ (meaning that benefits provided under workers’ compensation are the sole compensation or monetary award available to injured employees/their surviving family members) apply in the case of injured workers, but some exceptions do exist. For instance, in this case Salazar was carrying out his job alongside co-workers that were in the employ of a company other than his own. In the case of third-party employers, injured workers are many times allowed to seek damages via a personal injury civil suit, even while they are receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

I see scenarios like this one play out frequently with men and women who have been hurt at work in Georgia while driving. Examples are pizza delivery drivers, ambulance drivers, bus drivers, etc. A negligent driver hits the person driving for work, and there’s a personal injury claim to go along with the workers’ compensation case. Need guidance for such a situation from a firm that handles all of the above issues? Call Moebes Law!

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