Cumulative Injuries

Cumulative injuries are common among railroad workers. It's widely known that employment with a railroad can involve some of the most dangerous activities in the private sector, but most of the attention given to railroad injuries has focused on acute (sudden) injuries such as broken bones or explosion-related burns.

Cumulative injuries can be as serious or significantly worse than acute injuries, in both the degree of damage done to the body and the length of time the injury affects the employee. Many FELA lawsuits based on cumulative trauma injuries have garnered well-deserved compensation for railroad workers.

What Is a Cumulative Injury?

The phrase "cumulative injuries" is an umbrella term that covers a multitude of types of injuries and medical conditions that a person can incur, from a variety of circumstances. The injuries are the result of repeated exposure or movements or situations — an accumulation of circumstances that cause stress or damage to the body. A cumulative injury is sometimes known by or labeled with another term, such as:

  • cumulative trauma injury or disorder
  • repetitive motion injury or disorder
  • repetitive strain injury or disorder
  • repetitive stress injury or disorder
  • repetitive trauma injury or disorder

All of these terms refer to essentially the same thing; an injury or medical condition that is caused by circumstances such as:

  • repeated or long-term whole body vibration
  • repetitive tasks (such as shoveling, typing)
  • working in a difficult and/or sustained body position (coupling injuries often happen here)
  • exposure to toxins (e.g., chemicals in cleaners, adhesives, and industrial solvent; radiation)
  • exposure to loud noise

Types of Cumulative Injuries

In many cases of cumulative injuries, an employee does not immediately realize that he or she is in danger of being injured, because the physical stress or exposure is not great enough to cause an immediate injury or disorder. However, with time, the repetition of the stress/exposure causes severe strain to the body, resulting in conditions such as:

  • tendonitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome
  • vibration white finger
  • temporary or permanent damage to the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, nerves)
  • deafness
  • cancer, including mesothelioma
  • respiratory damage

For more information about a specific type of cumulative stress injury, click on one of the following:

If you suspect that you've suffered a cumulative trauma injury, a FELA lawyer can help you. Contact us to schedule a free review of your case.