Railroad work is some of the most dangerous work that a person can do. There are several safety laws that reflect the danger posed to railroad workers when they report for duty. The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) and other laws were designed to hold railroad companies and managers responsible for creating and maintaining a safe environment for their employees. A railroad injury lawyer can help. Contact our FELA Attorneys for a free consultation.
In the unfortunate instance that a railroad worker is injured, FELA provides fair compensation for on-the-job-related injuries or death for employees and/or their families. FELA attorneys at The Carlson Law Firm can help you through this difficult time and get you the compensation needed to move forward with your life. Call us today for a free consultation with a railroad injury lawyer.
What is FELA?
Railroad workers are not covered by the standard employee’s compensation laws. The Federal Employer Liability Act was adopted by Congress in 1908 after a high number of railroad work related deaths. FELA allows injured railroad workers and their families to sue a company when an injury is directly related to their work.
FELA was enacted to relieve the financial burdens placed on railroad workers from:
- Wage loss
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Physical pain or injury
- Mental anguish
- Lost benefits
- And other damages
FELA claims generally have a statute of limitations of three years from the date of injury to file your lawsuit. If you fail to file a claim after the three years, your claim will likely be dismissed. FELA cases can be complex and difficult to navigate. It is important for you to hire a skilled railroad injury lawyer to guide you through the process.
Railroad Injury Lawyer: Proving Liability Under FELA
FELA differs from standard workers’ compensation laws because under FELA, you will need to prove that the railroad company’s negligence resulted in your injuries. The purpose of a FELA claim is to bring to light the ways a railroad employer failed to provide a reasonably safe working conditions.
In order for a railroad worker to qualify for FELA, the employee, or the employee’s family, must prove four points:
- The railroad company is engaged in interstate commerce.
- They were an employee of the railroad working to further the railroad company’s interest.
- Demonstrate the injury occurred during employment with the railroad company.
- Their injuries were a result of the railroad company’s negligence.
What does Negligence Look Like in a FELA Case?
The legal definition of negligence is, “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone with ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” In most cases, negligence usually consists of an action, but it can also consist of a failure to act. A qualified FELA attorney can help you establish if your railroad employer’s negligence caused you or your loved one’s injury.
In addition to providing railroad workers with financial protection under the law, FELA also provides a uniform liability standard for railroad companies. FELA establishes that an employer is responsible for: ensuring a workplace is free of unsafe conditions and safety hazards; providing proper maintenance of equipment, tools and safety tools, warn employees of any unsafe conditions and hazards; and conducting routine inspections to assure the workplace is free of known and unknown hazards. If dangerous equipment causes injury to an employee, and the defect could’ve been found through discovered through a reasonable or routine inspection, then the employer will be held liable under FELA.
Another responsibility of railroad employers is that they are required to ensure their employees are properly trained for the jobs and equipment they are expected to do or use to complete assigned work. Jobs and work conditions must be adequately supervised. Supervisors must also work to ensure that there is subordinate compliance with all safety rules.
Finally, railroad companies have a duty to take reasonable measures to keep employees safe from intentional acts by other employees or third parties (crimes and intentional torts). Companies should not assign unreasonable work quotas in terms of time and production. Additionally, companies must supply reasonable help or assistance when a task exceeds a worker’s physical limitation or abilities.
Injuries sustained on the job include, but are not limited to:
- Back, neck and other orthopedic injuries
- Traumatic injuries to to the spine, arms, shoulders, hips and knees
- Carpal tunnel
- Nerve damage
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Chemical exposure
- Respiratory issues
- Lung cancer caused by diesel fumes and exhaust
- Mesothelioma caused by exposure to Asbestos
- Work-related trip
- Whistleblower protection & retaliation injuries
- Wrongful death
Injuries can be the result of:
- Improper training
- Brakes or other equipment on a train failing
- Trains moving too fast in work zones
- Exposure to toxic chemicals and substances
- Conditions known to cause unsafe work environments
- Poor lighting in a work zone
- Unsafe procedures
- Operator error
- Unnecessary requirement to report to work in poor weather conditions
- Improper hazard warning
- Railroad crashes/collision
- And much more
Railroad Company Defense
In FELA claims, it’s often much easier to establish fault than it is in other lawsuits. Railroad companies try to use a defense called “comparative negligence” that will try to show that the injury is the worker’s fault. A railroad injury lawyer can prove otherwise.
In practice, the way comparative negligence works is after all arguments are heard in a FELA lawsuit, the jury will assign some percentage of fault to the parties involved. This percentage is correspond to the damages awarded. For example, if the jury finds the employee 25 percent to blame and the company 75 percent to blame, then on an award of $100,000, the employee will receive $75,000.
Railroad Worker Personal Injuries By the Numbers
Railroads are extremely important to the interstate commerce that keeps the U.S. economy afloat. The ability to transport raw and finished goods over long distances was an instrumental development during the industrial revolution. The idea of working on a railway may seem like a job of days gone by, however, railroads are still just as important to the U.S. economy in present day. Maintenance, conductors, engineers and many other employees are instrumental in keeping commerce flowing. These individuals risk their health and safety everyday when they report to duty.
Statistics generated by the Federal Railroad Administration revealed that between 2014 and 2017, more than 17,000 railroad workers were injured on the job, and nearly 50 were fatally injured. A 2017 study found that the odds of fatal and nonfatal injuries significantly increased during nighttime work.
In addition to the immediate physical dangers railroad workers face during their shifts, a 2004 report showed that lung cancer deaths were elevated among railroad workers whose work was associated with trains powered by diesel. Employees exposed to toxins with hydrocarbon and solvent mixtures can develop peripheral neuritis, a condition marked by the inflammation of the arms and legs. In severe cases, peripheral neuritis can lead to brain damage.
During the 19th century, railroad companies often used asbestos to insulate pipes, boilers, gaskets, brakes, walls, ceilings and floors of railroad cars. This practice went on well into the 1960s. Asbestos has been found to be the cause of an incredibly deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Even in present time, railroad workers are at risk of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. A railroad injury lawyer can get you started in seeking justice.
What to Do If You Are Injured at Work
If you are injured on the job, what you do immediately following the injury is critical to protecting your rights and ensuring the compensation you deserve by contacting a railroad injury lawyer. We have a compiled a list of things you should do in the hours and days after an injury occurs on the job. FELA attorneys from The Carlson Law Firm can be your guide through this process.
Immediately after the injury, report the incident to your supervisor and complete an injury report form, if your injuries allow you to do so. It is important that you fill out this while the information about the incident are still fresh on your mind. List any contributing factors that led to your accident.
Seek Medical Treatment
Likely, your employer will ensure you receive medical attention, especially if it is an emergency situation. After the initial treatment, you get an independent medical evaluation and receive additional from your own doctor if needed. Remain honest and open with your doctor as to any pain or difficulties you are experiencing. Keep copies of all medical bills, records and any other documents related to your medical care.
In addition to the report you made for your employer, make a separate report for your own use. This report will be useful to your attorney. Be sure to describe your injuries in detail and note anyone who witnessed the incident.
Contact Your Union Representative/ Speak to a team of FELA Attorneys
Before giving any formal statements, signing paperwork or accepting money from the company (besides your normal paycheck), speak to qualified FELA attorneys about the process and get in contact with your union representative and inform them of the incident and your injuries.
Track Missed Work
It is important that you document any time lost at work because of your injuries. This includes work missed:
- The day the accident occurred
- Because of the injury
- Follow-up medical appointments
The Carlson Law Firm Has FELA Attorneys to Help
FELA lawsuits can take as little as a few months to several years. They are extremely complex cases that an experienced can assist you with. The Carlson Law Firm has several railroad injury FELA attorneys with industry knowledge to give you an advantage when handling your FELA railroad case. If you have suffered an injury, contact our firm today to discuss your legal options. Our team is available to speak with you 24/7. The Carlson Law Firm offers free consultations with a railroad injury lawyer.