Prior to widespread state workers' compensation laws, the U.S. Congress enacted the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) to protect the rights of railroad workers. FELA addresses injuries or death of railroad employees caused by — or contributed to be caused by — railroad employers. Over 100 years later, the railroad industry is still a dangerous work environment that leads to thousands of injuries every year.
FELA is a fault-based law where a railroader must prove that the railroad committed a negligent act — and that negligent act played a part, no matter how slight — in causing your injury. Just because you were injured at work does not mean that you are entitled to recovery. You MUST prove that the company did something wrong.
The railroads have sophisticated claims procedures and staff that will try to limit your recovery in several ways. If an unsafe work procedure, work condition, or piece of equipment caused your injury, make sure that you write down on your injury report that this was the cause of the injury. Another way the railroad can limit your recovery is by demonstrating that the injury was somehow your fault. Any jury award given to you will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is attributed to you. If you did not do anything wrong, do not let a railroad official talk you in to somehow believing that you could have prevented the injury.
The FELA, pursuant to 45 U.S.C. Sec. 51, covers all employees of a railroad carrier whose duties as an employee further interstate or foreign commerce or directly and substantially affect such commerce. Essentially, if your work is related to transporting product by rail from one state to another, then the FELA protects you. This law protects many crafts on the railroad including, but not limited to, Locomotive Engineers, Conductors, Firemen, Brakemen, Hostlers, Carmen, Maintenance-of-Way, Railroad Police, Signal Maintainers, Dispatchers and Clerks.
The FELA is considered a humanitarian law that is to be broadly construed. As a result, the law covers some contract employees of the railroad. The Railroad Industry is highly regulated and the railroads contracts often are so controlling that the FELA requires them to be considered your employer. Even if you are not getting a paycheck from the railroad, you may still have a case against the railroad for your injuries under the FELA.
Attorney Ryan Furniss has worked on hundreds of FELA cases across the country. If you have been injured on the railroad, contact The Furniss Law Firm today to discuss any aspect of your potential claim. Consultations are free of charge.
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