By Ronald Barczak , Senior Partner at YJB

The law firm of Yaeger & Jungbauer Barristers, PLC is a Union Designated firm that has been involved in groundbreaking work in carpal tunnel litigation on behalf of railroad workers.

The firm has recently begun a program of providing tests for railroad workers to determine if they have symptoms related to carpal tunnel. This testing and consultation about workplace injuries will take place throughout the country as the Yaeger Firm continues its proud 75 year history of helping rails seek compensation for work related injuries under the Federal Employers Liability Act.

YJB&W partner Bob Wendt is heading up this initiative. After successfully litigating several carpal tunnel claims, Bob realized that a substantial number of rails may suffer from symptoms related to carpal tunnel syndrome. He also recognized the need to help these injured people who are often the victims of an unsafe workplace. Bob said, “The railroads kept secrets about their knowledge of how the railroad work environment creates the circumstances for carpal tunnel to happen. We are stepping up to fight for those who have been overlooked by the railroads.”


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition that can cause severe pain and discomfort in your hands and fingers. If untreated it can lead to permanent nerve damage and reduced hand function.

CTS is caused by a compression of the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand and carries signals between the brain and the muscles of the hand and fingers. The median nerve goes through a “tunnel” formed by the carpal ligament and carpal bones of the wrist. If these tissues are damaged due to force, awkward posture, and repetition, the tissues will become inflamed, creating pressure inside the carpal tunnel and compressing the nerve. This compression will lead to symptoms of pain, tingling numbness.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of many cumulative trauma disorders that  are often referred to as “repetitive stress injuries”, “overuse syndrome,” and “wear and tear disorders”. In the railroad industry these types of injuries may be caused by workplace factors including repetitive motions, forceful exertions, forceful gripping, vibration, and awkward postures.

These repeated physical stresses may create tiny tears (microtraumas) in muscles and tendons, leading to inflammation. Because the muscles and joints are used over and over, they become fatigued increasing the likelihood of injury. Rest is needed to allow the circulatory system time to provide the muscles with nutrients and allow muscles time to repair damaged tissue. If the activity that lead to the injury is carried out on a regular basis the symptoms will get progressively worse as pressure builds up over time. If you have symptoms of pain and tingling in your hands and fingers, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome and as
with any injury you should consult with your doctor to find out what can be done about the condition.

Nerves are like wires. They carry electrical impulses to and from your brain and the muscles in your body. In the case of carpal tunnel, when the median nerve is compressed those electrical impulses will travel slower through the nerve. By sending electrical impulses through the nerve and measuring the delay, an “Electrical Conduction Test” can detect if the nerve is compressed.

The best treatment starts with early recognition and intervention, preferably in the earliest stages of the symptoms. In less advanced cases the physician may recommend non-surgical treatment, which may include the use of antiinflammatories
and/or wrist splints. In those cases where the disease process is more advanced surgery is often recommended.

The carpal ligament acts as the roof of the carpal tunnel. A surgeon can relieve pressure on the nerve by releasing the carpal ligament. This type of surgery may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to recover from, and in the vast majority of cases the patient is able to eventually return to normal work activities.

Carpal Tunnel and the Federal Employers’ Liability Act:
If the injuries leading to carpal tunnel are caused in whole or in part by the conditions in the workplace that were not reasonably safe, a worker may be entitled to compensation. The railroad industry has not fully responded in recognizing the workplace risks associated with carpal tunnel. Equipment and work procedures have not been generally modified to minimize the problem. Little has been done to educate its employees about prevention or how to recognize the symptoms.

The time limit in which injured workers must file suit is within three years of the date when they knew or reasonably should have known that they suffered from carpal tunnel related to their work. Because the start of this time period may be difficult to determine, it is best to seek legal advice if you, the employee, recognize symptoms which signal the onset of carpal tunnel. These claims can be difficult and complicated, not only due to the medical issues but also because non-work behavior such as recreational activities may contribute to CTS symptoms. The sooner you seek legal counsel, the sooner these issues can be evaluated to determine if you have a viable claim.