Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA as it is commonly known, is considered one of the greatest pieces of legislation to be passed in the twentieth century. Initially enacted in 1906 and later declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, the law was officially passed by Congress in 1908. FELA was originally created in response to public out cry over the gruesome injuries and the number of fatalities railroad workers sustained while working on the railroad. Few people, railroad workers included, truly understand the amount of protection injured railroad workers have under FELA. In fact, railroad employees have more protection than any other working person in the United States under FELA law.
- How Does FELA Protect Injured Railroad Workers?
- Who does FELA protect?
- How is FELA Accident Compensation Determined? How much am I entitled too?
- HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO FILE A CLAIM?
- WHY SHOULD I USE A UNION DESIGNATED FELA ATTORNEY?
- RAILROAD DESIGNATED COUNSEL
- Rail Yard Injury
- Repetitive Motion Injuries
- INJURED ON THE RAILROAD?
- Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Fela Attorney
How Does FELA Protect Injured Railroad Workers?
Prior to the establishment of the FELA, railroad workers injured and/or killed on the railroad were entitled to very little compensation if anything at all. After 1908, an injured railroad employee could seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses,
- Lost wages, disability,
- Pain and suffering
- And additional losses.
FELA law applies to injured railroad workers, but in the event of the railroad employees’ death, their families can be compensated as well. Unlike Workers Compensation, FELA has to prove some negligence on the part of the railroad. That means if the railroad was even partially responsible for your injury, by law they are entitled to pay you for your injury.
Who does FELA protect?
Under the FELA all railroad employee that are injured on the railroad are entitled to protection. Including:
- Other railroad employees.
It is the railroads job to provide every railroad employee a “safe place to work.” Railroads must provide safe: equipment, cars, engines, machinery, tracks, appliances and roadbeds to work on. In addition all tools must be safe as well. Failure on part of the railroad to maintain safe and hazardous free railroad working conditions makes the railroad liable if an injury occurs.
In addition, all railroad employees are covered under the FELA law if you are working for the railroad off-sight. Any employee injured while working with a third party such as working off sight for the railroad or working with a subsidiary of the railroad. Call a Designated FELA Lawyer for more information.
How is FELA Accident Compensation Determined? How much am I entitled too?
FELA Accident Compensation is determined by three things:
- Seriousness of the injury
- Loss you have suffered
- Negligence on part of the railroad or any of its employees
If you have sustained an injury from an accident that occurred on the railroad, you are generally entitled to money for:
- The seriousness and duration of your injury
- Any disability or disfigurement resulting from the injury
- If the injury aggravated a pre-existing condition or ailment
- Pain and suffering
- Medial care and future medical expenses
- Lost earnings and potential future lost earning
FELA cases are known as “comparative negligence” cases. That means the jury, or if the case settles outside of court, a fact-finder, will decide what percentage of responsibility was due to the railroad. For example, if a jury decides that the injured railroad worker has suffered $1,000,000 in damages (including pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost wages) and determines the railroad was 70% responsible for the conditions that caused the injury, the injured railroad employee is then entitled to $700,000 in compensation.
HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO FILE A CLAIM?
The injured railroad employee generally has three years from the date of accident to file a claim. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example if you are exposed to toxic chemicals, asbestos, etc. your statue of limitations begins at the point of discovery. This is known as the statue of limitation.
WHY SHOULD I USE A UNION DESIGNATED FELA ATTORNEY?
FELA Railroad Accident cases are unique and unlike any other type of case. It is very important you hire a lawyer that has experience handling FELA cases and trying FELA cases. If you need assistance locating an experienced FELA Railroad Attorney contact your local chairman or call us at 1-888-580-5176.
In the event of an injury, you owe it to yourself to find the best possible legal representation. A Designated Union Attorney is appointed by the union and their fee is set by the union. Union designations are extremely sought after and few attorneys ever get the opportunity to apply for a designation. For more information, call us at 205-324-1212.
RAILROAD DESIGNATED COUNSEL
Our railroad attorneys and designated counsel represent injured railroad workers involved in FELA accidents from all over the county. We have helped injured railroad workers employed by Norfolk Southern, CSX Transportation, short-line railroads and Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad. If you or someone you know has been injured on the railroad, call us.
- Cumulative Injuries
- Chemical and asbestos exposure
- Back & Neck Injuries
- Slips, Trips and Falls
- Loss of body limbs
Every year the Federal Rail Administration reports there are on average 3,000 train accidents in the United States, and approximately 1,000 fatal accidents.
Rail Yard Injury
Often many of the accidents that occur with the railroad actually occur in the rail yard. Rail yard accidents can be extremely serious and may result in life threatening injuries.
Accidents while working in the rail yard may include:
- Lacerations and burns;
- Limb injuries;
- Bone fractures;
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis; or
Railroad employees working in the rail yard are exposed to a very dangerous environment where accidents frequently occur. Railyard employees face possible injuries in the rail yard from:
- Switches and levers- mechanical switches/lever provide an excellent opportunity for pinching and crushing injuries
- Heavy machinery- loading and unloading rail yard supplies and heavy cargo
- Flammables/Explosives- cargo loads and fuel supplies make working on the railroad a constant threat for fires and explosions
- Coupling/Transporting engines and railcars- an enormous threat for losing limbs, crushing limbs and death.
- Poisonous cargo- railcars transporting toxic chemicals and poisonous gas
The most common rail yard injuries are from train derailments or collisions and equipment failure.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Not all injuries that occur in the rail yard or on the railroad are instantly apparent. Some injuries occur gradually or over time because the railroad employee is performing the same task persistently. These injuries are known as repetitive motion injuries. Repetitive motions injuries can occur from such activities as bending, squatting, lifting, or other activities. Injuries involving repetitive motion can affect any area of the body including:
If you sustain a repetitive motion injury, you need to seek medical attention and report the injury to your supervisor as soon as you become aware the injury occurred as the result of working on the railroad. Next, it is extremely critical you contact a Designated FELA Attorney, who can provide you with information relating to your injury.
INJURED ON THE RAILROAD?
4 STEP APPROACH IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE ACCIDENT
“I was injured on the railroad, now what do I do.” If you are injured on the railroad or in the rail yard, the events following the injury are the most crucial.
1. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
Immediately following the accident or injury seek medical attention. If you are seriously injured on the railroad, the lead foreman very likely will contact emergency services and arrange for an ambulance and medical treatment. However, if you are injured but do not require emergency service, it is essential that a doctor or medical provider examine you.
2. REPORT YOUR INJURY
The Federal Railroad Administration, otherwise known as the FRA, requires all employees injured on the railroad to file an accident report. Even if you feel your injuries are not that serious, failing to report them could easily result in disciplinary action or termination.
DO NOT FILL OUT OR SIGN any statement prepared by the Claims Department
When filing an accident claim, it is extremely important that you list as much information as possible. Give a detailed account of:
- How the accident occurred;
- Factors and causes associated with the accident;
- How the railroad could have prevented the accident;
- Employees/witnesses present at the time of the accident;
- Defective equipment involved; and
- Include all pain symptoms you are having.
In addition, make sure you report this to local union office and get a copy of the accident report.
3. GATHER EVIDENCE
In addition to obtaining a copy of the accident report, start collecting evidence such as medical records, bills from doctors and physical therapy visits, all prescription medication receipts and eye witnesses involved in the accident.. Make no mistake the minute you file an accident report, the claim agents working for the railroad are busy collecting their own evidence.
The more information you have when you meet with a Designated FELA Attorney, the better off you will be.
4. KEEP TRACK OF MISSED WORK
Document all days you are absent with work related injuries. This should include any days (or hours) missed on the day of the initial accident, all time missed from the accident, and any time missed do to rehabilitation and follow-up medical appointments.
Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Fela Attorney
Plaintiff’s law firms or personal injury firms typically handle all types of injury related cases including auto accidents, 18-wheeler or trucking accidents, non-auto personal injury, nursing home abuse and neglect, child-related injuries, railroad accident, etc. Many law firms have a laundry list of practice areas, however, it is extremely important when hiring an FELA attorney to choose one that has:
1) A union designation and,
2) Represented and tried railroad cases before a jury.
Many attorneys “advertise” that they represent employees injured on the railroad, you may want to confirm that they have resolved, litigated and tried railroad cases.
FELA and railroad-related accidents are unlike any other area of the law. FELA cases are extremely complex and require an intricate knowledge of not only the railroad and rail yard but how the legal system impacts railroad workers.
When choosing an attorney to represent you in your FELA claim, consider the following:
- Ask whether the initial consultation is free. Most personal injury attorneys offer free legal consultations.
- Ask whether the attorney has experience handling FELA claims and if the attorney is union-designated. If they do not have experience representing injured railroad employees with FELA cases, you may wish to seek counsel elsewhere.
- Beware of anyone who tells you what your case is worth until all medical records are obtained, lost wages and future lost wages are accounted for, and future medical prognosis is made. Otherwise valuing your case will be difficult now an experienced attorney may be able to estimate what you case is worth by comparing similar circumstances and injuries to previous cases, but no two cases are alike.
- After you decide to hire a FELA Attorney make sure you understand the contract with which you are signing.