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Railroad Workers/FELA Lawyers

When you are dealing with severe injuries sustained while working for a railroad and caused by your employer’s negligence, working closely with an attorney who will explain clearly all rights, options and consequences can help to ensure that you make decisions that are in your best interests. Contact our firm to schedule a consultation and case evaluation with an attorney who has experience handling Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) claims.

What is FELA?

The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) created a cause of action for damages for injuries or death caused by the negligence of a common carrier by railroad engaging in interstate or foreign commerce. FELA is a remedial statute that is liberally construed by courts. It supersedes common law and state laws that cover the liability of railroads for injuries to employees who work in interstate commerce. If you are a railroad employee who was injured on the job or if a family member died while working for a common carrier by railroad, you may have a claim for damages under FELA. An attorney at Bohrer Brady LLC, in Baton Rouge, LA, who has experience handling FELA cases can evaluate your situation.

Liability under FELA

FELA provides the following:

Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several States or Territories, or between any of the States and Territories, or between the District of Columbia and any of the States or Territories, or between the District of Columbia or any of the States or Territories and any foreign nation or nations, shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce, or, in case of the death of such employee, to his or her personal representative, for the benefit of the surviving widow or husband and children of such employee for such injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment. 45 U.S.C. § 51.

FELA applies where the defendant is a common carrier by railroad that engages in interstate or foreign commerce and the employee’s duties furthered or substantially affected such commerce.

To establish a claim under FELA, the plaintiff must show that an injury occurred while he or she was working within the scope of his or her employment with a railroad; the plaintiff’s employment furthered the railroad’s interstate transportation business; the railroad was negligent; and the railroad’s negligence in some way caused the plaintiff’s injury. FELA applies to all reasonably foreseeable injuries due to a railroad’s negligence, including emotional injuries. An employee who is within the “zone of danger” of physical harm can recover for emotional injuries caused by fear of physical harm, but employees outside of this zone cannot recover for emotional injuries. Employees who are injured while performing activities that are outside the scope of their duties cannot hold a railroad liable under FELA.

In a FELA case, the plaintiff must establish a lesser degree of fault than what he or she would need to show in an ordinary negligence case. A FELA plaintiff must only establish that the defendant railroad was negligent and that this negligence played some role, no matter how small, in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. This has sometimes been referred to as a “featherweight” burden of proof.

FELA Defenses

Depending on the circumstances, the railroad may assert one or more of the following defenses:

  • The plaintiff was contributorily negligent and any recovery should be proportionately reduced under the pure comparative negligence doctrine
  • The plaintiff’s own negligence was the sole cause of his or her injuries, so the plaintiff should recover no damages from the defendant
  • The three year statute of limitations for bringing a claim has run out
  • The plaintiff was not injured within the scope or course of employment
  • The plaintiff has released his or her claims against the railroad

FELA provides for pure comparative negligence. That means that if the plaintiff is found to have acted negligently (that is, the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety), any recovery from the defendant will be reduced in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the plaintiff.

Talk to a Lawyer About Your FELA Rights

If you or a loved one was injured while employed as a railroad worker, contact an attorney at Bohrer Brady LLC, with FELA experience as soon as possible so that your legal rights are protected.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

Railroads’ Duties under FELA

When Congress enacted the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) for the protection of railroad workers nationwide, it not only created a system in which injured workers could recover compensation for their injuries, it also established a duty for railroads to provide employees with a reasonably safe workplace. This duty is non-delegable.

When Congress enacted the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) for the protection of railroad workers nationwide, it not only created a system in which injured workers could recover compensation for their injuries, it also established a duty for railroads to provide employees with a reasonably safe workplace. This duty is non-delegable. If you are a railroad worker who was injured on the job, or if a family member who worked for a railroad died in an accident at work, it is important to speak to an attorney at Bohrer Brady LLC, in Baton Rouge, LA.

Duty to Provide a Reasonably Safe Place to Work

The fundamental duty of a common carrier by railroad under FELA is to provide employees with a reasonably safe work environment. A railroad must act with reasonable care, which is determined by considering whether a particular hazard was foreseeable. Generally, a railroad has a duty to:

  • Make sure that the workplace is reasonably free of unsafe conditions
  • Provide safe equipment and tools
  • Warn employees of any unsafe conditions and hazards

Duty to Provide Training and Supervision

As part of their duty to provide a safe work environment under FELA, railroad companies must make sure that their employees are reasonably equipped and able to perform their assigned tasks. This duty includes ensuring that:

  • Every worker is provided with all necessary training so that the employee can perform his or her respective job responsibilities safely
  • All job activities and work conditions are adequately supervised, so that any injuries to subordinate employees are avoided
  • Company rules regarding job safety are followed

Commonly Litigated Duties

FELA was enacted in 1908, and since that time, the following specific duties owed by railroads have been commonly litigated:

  • Duty to know the nature of workplace conditions
  • Duty to warn of unsafe working conditions
  • Duty to fix unsafe work conditions if the railroad knew or should have known that its conduct was not sufficient to protect employees
  • Duty to provide employees adequate help to accomplish their assigned jobs
  • Duty to provide safe tools and equipment
  • Duty to warn of dangerous tools and equipment
  • Duty to draft and enforce company safety regulations
  • Duty to assign workers to tasks that are within their physical capabilities
  • Duty to educate and instruct employees about safe work practices

Speak to a Lawyer about Your FELA Rights

Railroads must provide their employees with a reasonably safe work environment under FELA. If your employer has breached this duty and you were injured as a result, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries. An attorney who has experience handling FELA cases at Bohrer Brady LLC, can guide you through the process of filing a claim.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

FELA – What To Do If You Are Injured

The events that occur immediately after any workplace injury are often the most critical to the rights of the injured employee, and claims under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) are no different. If you or a loved one was injured while employed as a railroad worker, speak to a FELA attorney to learn the steps and precautions you should take after the incident to ensure that the right to recover compensation under FELA is not compromised.

Immediately After the Accident

Seek Medical Treatment — The most important thing to do after the accident is to seek medical treatment for your injuries. If you are injured on the job, your employer will most likely arrange for medical treatment, especially in emergency situations in which an ambulance is called and you are taken to the hospital. Even if you feel that your injuries are not that serious, it is still essential that a doctor examine you. If you are seen by a nurse or other medical practitioner at work, it is important to also see your own doctor for an evaluation. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any pain or difficulties you have experienced since the accident. Remember to keep copies of medical records, bills and other documents related to your treatment.

Report Your Injuries — If you are able, immediately report the injury to your supervisor at work and complete an injury report form. It is important to be as thorough and accurate as possible when reporting information about your injuries, including the pain you are experiencing and all possible causes and factors that may have contributed to the accident. This document will most likely come into play later in the claim process.

Pursuing Your FELA Claim

Document Your Injuries — In addition to the report made for your employer, make a separate report for your own use (and eventually for your attorney’s use) that describes the accident and your injuries in as much detail as possible. Be sure to describe the nature and extent of your injuries and the impact your injuries have had on both your work and personal life.

Gather Evidence — Remember to keep copies of your medical records; note the names of doctors and other medical providers you have seen; and collect copies of bills for medical procedures, doctors’ visits and physical therapy. In addition, write down the names of any witnesses to the incident. If possible, try to take pictures of the accident scene and any equipment or tools that were involved in the accident.

Keep Track of Work You Miss — Document all the time you miss from work as a result of your injuries. This should include all work missed on the day of the incident, time during which you were unable to work because of the injury and any rehabilitation process and any work time missed due to follow-up medical appointments.

Talk to an Experienced FELA Lawyer

If you or a loved one was injured while employed as a railroad worker, there are several steps you can take to help ensure that your right to recover compensation under FELA is not compromised. It is important to speak with an attorney at Bohrer Brady LLC, who has handled FELA cases about your situation.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

FELA and Workplace Safety Regulations

One of the easiest ways to prove that a railroad company is liable for your injuries under FELA is to establish that your injuries were caused by the railroad’s violation of some federal workplace safety regulation that protects railroad employees. One such law is the Federal Railroad Safety Authorization Act of 1994. In addition, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards and regulations apply to work done by railroad employees. An experienced FELA attorney at Bohrer Brady LLC can determine which workplace safety regulations are applicable to your case.

Federal Railroad Safety Authorization Act of 1994

In 1994, Congress recodified the Safety Appliance Act, the Boiler Inspection Act, the Hours of Service Act and the Railroad Safety Act of 1970 and combined them with other railroad statutes into a new law called the Federal Railroad Safety Authorization Act of 1994. Under FELA, a violation of this Act is treated as negligence per se, and the plaintiff must only show a causal link between the violation and his or her injuries in order to hold the railroad liable.

Safety Appliances

Under federal law, railroads must equip cars and locomotives with basic safety equipment including the following:

  • Automatic couplers
  • Secure sill steps
  • Efficient hand brakes
  • Secure ladders and running boards when required by the Secretary of Transportation
  • Secure handholds or grab irons on car roofs at the top of each ladder, if ladders are required
  • Standard height drawbars

49 U.S.C. 20302. In addition, a sufficient number of vehicles in a train (a collection of cars pulled by a locomotive) must have power or train brakes that allow an engineer to control the train’s speed without the use of common hand brakes. Id. Further, at least 50 percent of the cars in the train must have power or train brakes that the engineer is required to use. Id. If a carrier does not provide any of these safety appliances or if they fail to perform, it is a violation of federal law that gives rise to a FELA cause of action. A plaintiff can establish a violation by showing there was a defect in the appliance or that the appliance did not work in the customary way. The plaintiff must show that the violation contributed to the plaintiff’s injury.

Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the Department of Labor. OSHA imposes several obligations on employers including the duty to:

  • Provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards.
  • Inform employees of OSHA safety and health standards that apply to their workplace
  • Display the official OSHA poster that describes the rights and responsibilities under the Act in a prominent place.
  • Establish a comprehensive written hazard communication program that includes provisions for such things as container labeling, material safety data sheets and an employee training program.
  • Inform employees of the existence, location and availability of their medical and exposure records when employees first begin employment and at least annually thereafter, and to provide these records upon request.

Speak to a Lawyer

If you can establish that your injuries were caused by the railroad’s violation of a federal workplace safety regulation, that railroad can be held liable for your injuries under FELA. Talk to an experienced FELA attorney at Bohrer Brady LLC, in Baton Rouge about your situation.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

FELA Lawsuit Chronology

If you are a railroad employee and you were injured on the job, you may be a little unsure of what to expect when you file a claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). A lawsuit is complicated, and it can be full of unpleasant surprises and frustrating delays. While every lawsuit is different, there are some general similarities common to all civil suits, including FELA claims. This article provides a chronology of how a lawsuit generally proceeds. An experienced FELA attorney at Bohrer Brady LLC, can explain these steps in greater detail and guide you through the process.

Initial Steps in Filing a FELA Claim

After your injury, your employer will likely require that you fill out a report regarding the accident. The railroad will then conduct an investigation into the cause of the incident. It is important to consult with an attorney soon after the accident. Your attorney will conduct his or her own investigation into what happened, who was at fault and the extent of your injuries. It is likely that you, your attorney, the railroad company and any other parties involved will likely discuss settlement of your FELA claim.

Initiating a Lawsuit

If your claim does not settle, your lawyer may file a civil action on your behalf. This begins with filing a complaint. A complaint is a legal document that lays out the claims that the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) has against the defendant (the person or business being sued).

Once the complaint is filed and served, the defendant has to answer within a certain time (usually about 20 days). The answer sets forth the allegations of the complaint the defendant admits to, if any; the allegations the defendant denies; the party’s defenses; and whether the defendant has claims against the plaintiff (called counter claims), a co-defendant (called cross claims) or any other party (called third-party claims). Instead of filing an answer, the defendant can respond with a motion to dismiss, which asks the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s case based on one or more of the following grounds: lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, lack of jurisdiction over the person, insufficiency of process, insufficiency of service of process, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and failure to join a party.

Discovery

During discovery, the parties exchange documents and other information about the issues relevant to the litigation. Each party can ask the other(s) to answer written questions called interrogatories; produce certain categories of documents; and admit certain facts. The parties will also have an opportunity to question witnesses at depositions. The witnesses are under oath and the answers are formally transcribed by a court reporter.

Resolution of the Case

If the parties do not reach a settlement agreement, and the matter is not disposed of by motion, the case will proceed to trial. At the trial, the attorneys for both sides will present evidence, question witnesses and make arguments supporting their clients’ positions. Either a judge or jury will decide the issues and the judge will enter a judgment. One or both of the parties can appeal the decision.

As an alternative to trial, the parties may voluntarily agree to resolve all their issues through alternate dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation or arbitration. In some FELA cases, the judge may order that the parties go through mediation and hold mandatory settlement conferences in an effort to resolve the claim before trial.

Talk to a Lawyer

A lawsuit can take from as little as a few months to as long as a few years. Generally speaking, the less money at stake, and the more issues that can be resolved before trial, the smoother and faster your FELA claim will go. A knowledgeable attorney at Bohrer Brady LLC, will be with you every step along the way.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

FELA Resource Links

Federal Railroad Administration

From the U.S. Department of Transportation, this site includes information on railroad development, safety and legislation.

National Transportation Safety Board

A government agency that is concerned with transportation safety issues and investigating the causes of railroad, aviation, marine and pipeline accidents.

National Labor Relations Board

An independent federal agency concerned with representation, investigation and remedies for unfair labor practices by employers and unions.

Association of American Railroads

A trade association for the railroad industry in the U.S. This site contains information presented from an industry perspective.

U.S. Department of Labor

The Department of Labor administers a variety of federal labor laws and helps workers and retired persons by improving working conditions and protecting retirement and health care benefits, among other things.

U.S. Railroad Retirement Board

An independent government agency dedicated to administering comprehensive benefit programs for the nation’s railroad workers and their families.

United Transportation Union 

A transportation labor union representing active and retired railroad, bus and mass transit workers in the U.S. and Canada.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 

NIOSH is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. This site provides comprehensive information on workplace injuries and on-the-job safety.

Occupational Safety & Health Administration 

OSHA is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. OSHA ensures the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.

Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis 

This site provides a variety of information about railroad safety including accidents, inspections and highway-rail crossing data.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

FAQ FELA

Q: What is FELA?

A: FELA stands for the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. FELA provides that common carriers by railroad that are engaged in interstate commerce must provide employees with reasonably safe workplaces, tools and equipment. If railroads fail to do so, they can be held liable for damages for employee injuries or death caused by that failure.

Q: I’m a railroad worker and I was injured on the job. Can I recover damages for my injuries from my employer?

A: Under FELA, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries if you can establish that your injury occurred while you were working within the scope of your employment with the railroad; your employment furthered the railroad’s interstate transportation business; the railroad was negligent; and the railroad’s negligence in some way caused your injury.

Q: Who can bring a claim under FELA?

A: Railroad workers injured by their employer’s negligence can bring a claim under FELA. In addition, if the railroad’s negligence resulted in an employee’s death, the employee’s surviving spouse and children can recover damages if they can show that they sustained a pecuniary loss because of the employee’s death. If the deceased employee did not have a spouse or children, the employee’s parents can file a suit, and if the deceased’s parents are no longer living, the dependent next of kin can bring a claim under FELA.

Q: My employer had me sign an agreement limiting my right to sue for damages for on-the-job injuries. Can I still file a FELA claim?

A: Yes. The Federal Employers’ Liability Act expressly provides that any contract or agreement that attempts to exempt an employer from liability for injury to an employee is invalid.

Q: What is a common carrier by railroad?

A: A common carrier by railroad is defined as a railroad company that acts as a common carrier, which is an individual or company that is in the business of regularly transporting people or freight. FELA applies to common carriers by railroad. It does not apply to freight forwarders, carriers by water, sleeping-car companies or express companies.

Q: The railroad I work for violated several federal safety regulations. Does this affect my FELA claim?

A: If a railroad is found to have violated federal workplace safety regulations such as standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it will be much easier for an injured railroad worker and his or her attorney to prove their case. The injured worker will only need to establish that his or her injury was caused by the railroad’s violation of the safety regulation.

Q: The railroad I work for only operates in one state. Can I recover for injuries sustained at work under FELA?

A: No. FELA only applies to railroads that are engaged in interstate or foreign commerce or in commerce between states and any territory or the District of Columbia. An employee of a railroad that only engages in intrastate commerce (within one state) cannot bring a claim under FELA, but must look to state law for relief.

Q: What is comparative negligence?

A: The Federal Employers’ Liability Act follows a pure comparative negligence standard that provides that if an employee’s own negligence contributes to his or her injuries, that negligence reduces his or her recovery in proportion to the percentage of negligence attributable to the employee.

Q: What kind of damages can a railroad employee recover in a FELA case?

A: Typical damage awards in a FELA case include the injured railroad employee’s past and future medical bills and costs of treatment; past and future wage loss; pain and suffering; and mental distress.

Q: What is alternative dispute resolution?

A: Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to resolving a legal dispute without going to trial. The most common forms of ADR are arbitration (binding and non-binding) and mediation. Other types of ADR include summary jury trials, mini trials and moderated settlement conferences. Depending on the circumstances, alternative dispute resolution may be a good option in a FELA case because it is generally less expensive and less time consuming than traditional litigation.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

Railroad Injury Attorney

If you are a railroad worker who has been injured at work or if you have been injured in a railroad crossing accident, the personal injury lawyers at the Bohrer Brady LLCcan help make sure you receive the compensation you need and deserve.

We are here to help you.

Call 1-800-876-3911 or email us.

No fee unless we collect for you.

Train accident injuries and railroad worker injuries are almost always serious or even catastrophic. Our lawyers can evaluate your case — at no cost to you — and explain the law and your options.

  • Our law firm has a long history of successfully handling FELA claims for railroad workers. Through FELA (Federal Employers’ Liability Act), you have the right to sue when the railroad’s negligence caused your injury.
  • Railroad workers can be injured by a hard coupling in the yard, while repairing track, when fixing railroad cars, and in collisions with trucks and cars. In every craft, in every railroad job, injuries are covered by FELA. Make sure you have a lawyer who understands your rights.
  • Railroad crossing accidents can cause devastating injuries and death. When the car’s driver is at fault, injured passengers have a claim against the driver, which is usually covered by car insurance. If the impact caused the train to derail, injured train workers may also have a claim against the car’s driver.
  • When a dangerous railroad crossing causes an accident, the injured victims and the families of wrongful death victims have the right to make a claim against the railroad. Our personal injury attorneys will investigate the circumstances. What was the train’s speed? Did the safety guards work? Did the crossing need a guard, but one was not there? Did the train sound its horn?

If you have suffered a railroad accident injury, or if a family member has died in a fatal train accident, tell us about it. Our personal injury litigation lawyers can help you understand the laws and your rights. You do not have to face a big railroad company or insurance company alone.

Call Bohrer Brady LLC at 1-800-876-3911. Free confidential initial consultation.