Lawsuits under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act
Railroad workers often face hazardous conditions in their daily efforts to ensure that passengers and cargo reach their destinations safely. Unfortunately, their hard work can all too often be jeopardized by a serious rail accident that leaves them suffering from an injury with life-changing consequences. Between medical bills and lost wages due to time off of work, it can be difficult to make ends meet. Worse still, a fatal rail accident could result in a tragic loss for the family of a railroad worker.
A FELA law firm is the best place for an injured railroad worker to get experienced, knowledgeable legal representation. Not all law firms take FELA (Federal Employers’ Liability Act) cases. This area of law is complex and specific, intended to protect the rights of railroad employees and their families to compensation for injuries, income loss, and deaths.
What is FELA?
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) is a federal law that provides railroad employees and their families with the right to pursue legal action against a transporting company for damages in cases of injury or death occurring on the job. This law overrides any state laws related to the liability of railway carriers when it comes to injuries during interstate commerce, and offers more protection than common law in determining negligence on behalf of an employer.
Should a member of the family of a railroad worker die while on duty, or the employee be injured through negligence of the transport carrier, then compensation may be sought by filing a case with a Texas lawyer either at the state or federal level. This process can also grant protection from a defense moving the case to federal court if one chooses to bring the claim to one’s own state court. It is essential to seek expertise from informed legal counsel should anyone find themselves in this unfortunate situation.
Thousands of Injured Railroad Workers
There are more than 150,000 men and women working for the over 500 railroad companies in the U.S. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), in a typical recent year, there were over 7,500 accidents among railroad workers that caused an injury, a death, or an occupational illness. In thousands of these cases, FELA lawyers helped ensure that the injured or their survivors received full and fair compensation for their losses.
Railroad Worker Injury Lawsuits
Employees of a railroad operated by a state entity may face an obstacle if they attempt to pursue a claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). The presumption that states had waived their sovereign immunity to suits for damages through the voluntary act of engaging in interstate rail commerce has since been challenged and overturned. It is now necessary to prove that a waiver of such immunity was made in a clear and explicit manner in order for a FELA suit to be successful. However, this requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating that a state’s local tort law has provided its citizens with an adequate remedy. An example of this is the Indiana Torts Claim Act which allows FELA claims to be brought in the state courts of Indiana. These decisions emphasize that any waiver of a state’s sovereign immunity must be clear and unequivocal before FELA suits can be pursued.
Working for the railroad carries unique considerations when it comes to an injury claim. U.S. Congress passed the Federal Employer Liability Act (FELA) of 1908 to protect workers from unsafe working conditions and provide them with compensation in case of injury or illness. This was necessary because prior to FELA, companies were not held accountable for workplace injuries and many workers were being injured due to inadequate safety regulations.
When filing a claim under FELA, there are some important points to keep in mind. Railroad companies may choose to self-insure instead of taking out conventional workers’ comp insurance and the primary negotiator will be a claims agent rather than an insurance company representative. Additionally, railroad companies are willing to pay higher settlements than state workers’ comp awards as they want to avoid punitive damages due to negligence and grossly inadequate safety standards. Injured railroad workers may be eligible for full compensation, general damages for pain and suffering, and payments retroactive to the date of injury that can last a lifetime.
Finally, it’s important to remember that railroad companies are not your friends when it comes to filing a claim. They may require you to be evaluated by their own doctor which is used to dispute the claim, so make sure you seek treatment from your own doctor first before turning to any other specialist recommendations.
A Fair Settlement or Court Verdict
If you or a loved one has been injured while working for a railroad, you may be entitled to compensation under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). FELA applies to reasonably foreseeable injuries due to a railroad’s negligence and establishes what conditions must be met in order to pursue a successful claim.
For instance, an injured employee must show that they were employed by the railroad and that their job involved activities that furthered interstate transportation. Additionally, the claimant must also demonstrate that the railroad was somehow negligent and that this negligence played some role in causing their injury. To do so, plaintiffs should look to see whether the employer failed to meet any of its non-delegable duties of care; for example, did the railroad provide employees with a safe environment, warn about potential hazards, use appropriate tools and methods, furnish enough help, or inspect the workplace?
If the plaintiff can prove a breach of duty, then they may have a valid FELA claim. An experienced lawyer in Texas can help assess the situation and determine if the plaintiff has a strong case. In any event, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible following any kind of workplace accident.
Whenever possible, a FELA attorney will work to obtain a satisfactory settlement that addresses all of the injured railway worker’s losses. In other cases, it is necessary to take a FELA case to court (state or federal) to fight the railroad company’s efforts to deny or minimize compensation for an injured worker.
Win a FELA Case
Working in the railroad industry can be dangerous, and if an employee is injured on the job, their rights should be protected. Thankfully, FELA (Federal Employers Liability Act) guarantees those rights by entitling injured railroad workers to more than just lost wages and medical bills. FELA allows them to seek compensation for a variety of damages, including pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, loss of earnings both present and future, and loss of companionship and society. Unfortunately, due to the resources available to railroad companies, they often fight aggressively against any claims filed under FELA. That’s why it’s especially important that injured railroad workers in Texas have access to experienced legal advocates who can support them through the process of making a claim. With the right representation, injured employees can stand up for their rights and seek full and fair compensation for their losses.
FELA lawyers make use of many means to obtain a just outcome for an injured FELA claimant. They are skilled litigators and negotiators. Whenever appropriate, they:
- deal with insurance companies
- depose experts (medical, railroad, forensic, etc.)
- file legal motions to protect your rights
- gather evidence from the site of the injury
- get all of the relevant medical records
- interview the people involved and witnesses
- negotiate with the employer’s law firm and insurance company’s attorneys toward a settlement when possible
- prepare the injured FELA claimant for trial if one is to be held
- represent the injured or his/her survivors at trial
Causation and Liability
A primary task for a FELA lawyer is to determine how the railroad injury or fatality happened (i.e., the causation) and who is responsible (that is, the liability). Even if the injured or killed railroad worker was responsible in part for the incident, compensation for losses may still be appropriate and attainable.
How a FELA Lawyer Can Help
Obtaining a qualified FELA lawyer can be considered the most crucial part of an employee’s case. Railroad workers are put in danger all the time and the company is responsible for providing a safe working environment. FELA was created to help protect both workers and employers when death or injury has occurred while at the workplace.
Regardless of how long a worker has been at their particular company and the nature of their relationship with one another, an injury can change everything. No longer can a worker be viewed as a hardworking, loyal employee, but also as a potentially large liability to the company. Both sides must do what is in their best interests and obtaining a FELA lawyer is the first step.
Companies will often have access to resources that employees may not, mainly due to financial differences. A FELA lawyer will ensure all the employee’s legal rights and options are known, and will then proceed to aggressively represent what is in their best interests. Failing to complete certain steps and procedures during a FELA lawsuit can disqualify a worker from compensation. FELA lawyers have special knowledge of the railroad industry and the laws that apply to it.
Talk to a FELA Lawyer about Your Circumstances
If you are a railroad employee and you were hurt on the job – or if your family member was killed on the job as a railroad employee – get answers to your questions and learn about your legal rights by contacting us. We will schedule a free initial consultation with a qualified FELA lawyer in your area who will evaluate your case and help you determine the best legal strategy.