In 1908, Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), a comprehensive law aimed at safeguarding the rights of injured railroad workers. This legislation was a response to the high accident rates in the rail industry and the need for consistent regulations concerning railroad equipment and practices.
FELA applies to all railroad companies and their employees. It was enacted because the railroads had failed to implement safety measures for their workers. Under FELA, it is stated that:
“Every common carrier by railroad engaged in commerce shall be held responsible for any injury suffered by an employee during their employment, or in case of the employee’s death,…resulting, in whole or in part, from the negligence of any officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or from any defect or insufficiency, caused by the carrier’s negligence, in its cars, engines, equipment, machinery, track, roadbed, or other facilities.”
FELA serves as the main recourse for most employee claims against their employers. A FELA case can be filed in either federal or state court.
It’s important to note that FELA is different from worker’s compensation. It doesn’t guarantee automatic recovery, and it’s crucial for medical professionals to understand that railroad workers aren’t covered by any applicable worker’s compensation statutes. Under FELA, an injured worker is eligible to seek compensation if there is evidence that the injury was partly or wholly caused by the railroad’s negligence or fault, including their failure to provide a reasonably safe work environment. The burden of proving the employer’s fault lies with the FELA claimant.
FELA applies to both railroads and their employees due to the rail industry’s failure to establish safety measures. If a railroad employee gets injured while on the job, they must demonstrate that the carrier was negligent or at fault in some way. It is the carrier’s duty to provide a safe working environment, and this responsibility cannot be transferred. In other words, the carrier must ensure the employee’s safety at all times, even when working at an industry or another railroad. Negligence can be proven in the following ways:
- The railroad showed a lack of due care in the given circumstances.
- The railroad failed to act as a reasonable and prudent person would have under the circumstances.
- The railroad did something that a reasonable person would not have done in the existing circumstances.
The carrier is obligated to provide safe tools, equipment, and proper training for their use. Past unsafe work practices cannot be used as an excuse for an employee’s injury. If a safer method of performing a job was available, the carrier may be held liable. It is necessary for an injured employee to establish that the carrier was partly at fault to have a valid claim. If there’s uncertainty about the validity of a claim, it is advisable to contact Gianaris Trial Lawyers as soon as possible, so that an attorney can discuss the situation.
Employers covered by FELA have an absolute duty to provide a safe workplace. However, the definition of “safe” may need to be determined by a jury. Mere occurrence of an accident does not automatically indicate that the railroad failed to ensure a safe working environment. It is crucial for any employee involved in an accident to report it immediately. It is equally important to identify negligence or defective tools/equipment that contributed to the accident or injury on the appropriate accident report form provided by the carrier.
Keep a Record
Gathering information is of utmost importance because facts often transform into evidence. It’s essential to note who was present at the accident site, observe any irregularities, and take note of the condition of tools or equipment. Record the time, date, and collect names and contact information of witnesses. As soon as possible, try to recall the accident and ask yourself questions about the injury. Were you adequately trained for the task? Did you have sufficient help? Were your tools and supplies in proper working order? Was the footing safe? Were there any previous complaints to supervisors about the way a task was assigned? Keep in mind that the burden of proof lies with the employee, and it is necessary to demonstrate that the carrier’s negligence caused at least part of the injury to have a valid claim. Before completing the carrier’s accident report, try to have these details in mind.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for a FELA-covered injury is three years from the date of the injury. In the case of occupational diseases where the date of injury is uncertain, the statute may start when the disease’s effects are discovered and related to job experience. It’s important not to wait until the statute of limitations is nearly expired before processing a claim. The carrier begins building its case against the employee as soon as the injury is reported. Therefore, seeking advice from an attorney is crucial as soon as possible.
Asbestos Related Lung Disease
For occupational diseases such as Asbestos Related Lung Disease, the statute of limitations may begin when the effects of the disease are discovered. FELA provides a legal remedy for such diseases. Many workers who were employed in the railroad industry during the 1950s and 1960s are now experiencing the effects of asbestos exposure. Asbestos can cause severe diseases, including breathing problems and cancer.
In the event of an accident or injury, any worker should promptly report their injury. When filling out an accident report, accuracy is crucial. If possible, it is recommended to have a union representative present when completing and signing such forms. The injured worker should not allow the railroad claim agent or supervisors to complete the accident report on their behalf, through promises or pressure. Negligence or defective tools/equipment should be identified in the report. If the condition of tools or equipment is unknown, it should be noted in the report.
Claim agents and other railroad officers or supervisors are employees of the carrier who have been trained to protect the company against FELA claims as much as possible. They may request a written or oral statement regarding the injury. It is important never to give any statement without first requesting both contractual (union representation) and your personal injury counsel. An oral statement should not be given without discussing it with the union’s designated counsel. If ordered to give a statement under the threat of discipline, it should be done so under protest, indicating that it is being done to avoid possible discipline. When giving a statement, it’s essential to remember that carrier representatives are not acting in the employee’s best interest.
An injured worker in need of medical attention should consult their own doctor. The carrier may claim that they will not be responsible for payment unless their designated doctor is seen, which is not true. Every employee should have the opportunity to seek the best medical care available. Denial of this opportunity suggests that the carrier is attempting to limit its liability. Improper medical care received may negatively impact the employee’s recovery from the carrier.
Railroad workers are covered by Railroad Retirement Sickness Benefits in case of injury or death. Injured employees must complete their claim forms in a timely manner to avoid losing their benefits. Many employees may also have supplemental benefits for sickness or injury. To determine available benefits, it is advisable to contact Gianaris Trial Lawyers. Injured railroad workers have the right to pursue legal action against the railroad for injuries sustained under FELA and to receive the assistance of competent and compassionate attorneys. The right counsel can help the injured worker and their family obtain maximum benefits during their recovery period when they are unable to work.
Hire Experienced Representation
Any injured railroad worker has an absolute right to pursue a claim against the railroad for FELA-covered injuries and to hire an attorney. Call Gianaris Trial Lawyers today for a free case evaluation.