The Federal Employer’s Liability Act, better known as FELA, covers injured railroad workers. The United States congress passed this act in 1908 in response to an outrageous accident rate in the railroad industry. When the railroads failed to enact measures to protect the safety of their employees, the government stepped in and created uniform safety practices. Railroad workers rely almost exclusively on FELA to bring claims against their employers when they incur a work related injury. FELA gives railroad workers the right to bring an action in state or federal court.
The Act governs the circumstances under which an injured employee of an interstate railroad may recover damages in a lawsuit against the railroad. It is difficult to understand the complexities of these rules but essentially, the Act provides tremendous protection for railroad workers. The attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt know this and can help you recover the maximum amount of allowable damages. Under FELA you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, loss of future wages, disability payments and more. In the event of a railroad employee’s death, the family may seek compensation as well.
FELA does not state that an employer is liable for all injuries to railroad employees. Unlike worker’s compensation laws, FELA requires that you prove that some fault of the employer caused your injuries. In a case like this, the employee seeking damages is called the Plaintiff, and the railroad is called the Defendant. You, the Plaintiff, must show that your employer did something that caused your on-the-job injury. You must prove fault or negligence. If your employer did nothing wrong, you would collect damages under FELA.
To show that the railroad was negligent, you will need to have evidence that they did not provide a reasonably safe work environment. The meaning of reasonable safe can vary in different circumstances. Essentially, the employer must maintain a workplace free of hazards that cause or are likely to cause serious injury or death. Hazards may include unsafe conditions and unsafe practices. The workplace is not just your main work site. It extends to anywhere the employee performs work duties.
People or companies act negligently when they depart from the conduct expected of reasonably prudent people or companies acting under similar circumstances. An employee bringing a case against a railroad under FELA must prove that the railroad failed to fulfill its duty to provide a reasonably safe work environment. The Plaintiff must also prove that the failure caused the injury. The standard of proof in these cases is fairly low. If you can show the railroad contributed to your injuries in any way, you may be entitled to compensation.
Damages Under FELA
Some FELA cases go to trial, and some settle before the case ever gets to court. Either way, railroad workers are entitled to recover money when they prove that the railroad caused or contributed to their injury. Compensation might be awarded for lost wages if you missed work. You may recover lost future wages ifof you continue to miss work because of your injuries. You may be entitled to medical expenses and money for emotional distress. The amount of money you receive will depend on the severity of your injuries and the percentage of your employer’s fault. If you are partially to blame for the events leading your injury, your award will be reduced proportionally.
What Should You Do?
There are steps you should take after an on-the-job injury in order to preserveyour rights under FELA. Consider following these suggestions after an accident. Doing so may help bolster your claim for damages after a railroad workplace accident.
- Report your injury. Be sure you are as accurate and detailed as possible when filing out reports.
- Seek medical attention from the doctor of your personal choice.
- Contact your union representative for assistance.
- Record names, addresses, and phone numbers of all witnesses to your accident.
- Keep accurate records of your ongoing pain, suffering and change in lifestyle.
- Do not give any detailed statements without the advice of your attorney or union representative.
- Act quickly to protect your rights and to help promote safety for your co-workers.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the period during which you must file your claim. For FELA cases, you have three years from the date of your accident to file. However, exceptions exist so you must act quickly to preserve your rights.
Attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt know FELA and have experience with railroad injuries and litigation. We have represented many injured workers and can help if you are hurt in a railroad workplace accident. We have designated counsel on hand to help navigate your FELA case and secure the compensation you are entitled to. Whether you are an injured railroad worker seeking medical costs or a grieving widow seeking lost future earnings and funeral expenses, Farris, Riley & Pitt can help.