THE FEDERAL EMPLOYERS’ LIABILITY ACT
In 1908, Congress set out to protect railroad employees just like you from the dangers associated with working on and around railroad equipment, and to allow injured railroad workers to recover compensation for injuries sustained in train accidents.
The law that was passed is called the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. The law was a response to the shockingly high number of injuries and deaths in the late 1800’s, and because of the railroad companies complete lack of care for their own employees.
Under the FELA, injured workers and families of deceased workers are able to recover a variety of damages, including money for pain and suffering, medical costs, emotional distress, and lost wages.
If you or a loved one have been injured because of the railroad company’s negligence, you deserve to be compensated for your harms and losses. Continue reading below to learn more about the FELA and your rights.
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COLORADO ATTORNEYS SPECIALIZING IN TRAIN ACCIDENTS
The ability to prove negligence on the part of the railroad operator can be very difficult at times. It will largely depend on the available evidence and eye witnesses to the railroad accident. It is not uncommon to feel intimidated when facing a multibillion dollar company and their high priced New York City defense attorneys.
Very few personal injury firms are capable of handling railway accident cases. A specialized knowledge is needed to handle these sometimes high profile and complex cases.
It is paramount that you find a law firm specializing in train and FELA accidents, such as the attorneys at Warrior Personal Injury Lawyers. Our attorneys have the resources and skill to fight for the rights of injured railroad employees and we won’t stop fighting till we have attained justice for those injured or killed in train accidents.
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Don’t Sit Idly By, Take Action under FELA
If you have been involved in a train accident, it is imperative that you take the proper steps to not only protect your rights under FELA, but to enforce them. It is also important that you act quickly, as evidence can be lost and you only have so much time before you must settle the case or file a lawsuit.
Learn More about the FELA
FELA is a piece of federal legislation that was enacted to protect injured workers. Railroad companies have never made safety a top priority. When someone fails to take responsibility for their negligence, someone has to step in. FELA allows injured workers to recover compensation for their injuries, and to allow the family of a worker who was killed to receive compensation from the negligent railroad company.
PROTECTIONS UNDER FELA
FELA is a very detailed act and has been revised a number of times, mostly for the increased benefit of railway workers. You have a right to a jury trial, you cannot be blamed for encountering a known dangerous situation, and lays out the duty of railroad companies.
WHY WAS IT ENACTED?
FELA was enacted because of the shocking number of deaths and injuries that were occurring in the late 1800’s. Railroad companies saw employee injuries and deaths as a cost of doing business. If someone died on any given day, they would simply hire someone else and not think twice about the impact it had on the worker’s family.
WHAT IS THE FEDERAL EMPLOYERS LIABILITY ACT?
THIS IS WHAT THE FELA IS
The Federal Employers Liability Act is a federal government enacted law that is designed to protect and compensate railroad workers when they are injured or killed on the job. The FELA was passed by Congress in 1908 after a record number of railroad deaths in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
The law was enacted pursuant to the federal government’s power over interstate commerce. The federal government has this power because of the commerce clause in the United States Constitution. Before this law was put in place, a railroad employee had no recourse against the railroad company if he was injured on the job.
The FELA allows railroad employees to be covered under its protections when they are not already protected by the worker’s compensation laws of the state they were injured in. The FELA allows an injured worked to recover compensation for their medical treatment, past wage loss, future wage loss, pain and suffering, as well as money for partial or permanent disability.
This system differs from workers’ compensation because a jury will decide what the injured victim is entitled to receive, rather than a set amount that would apply under the workers’ compensation system. Not all claims go to trial, so a settlement may be reached between you and your attorney and the railroad company.
Also different than the workers’ compensation process, the FELA requires that the injured victim prove that the railroad company was negligent for causing their injuries. This is the same as if you are injured in a car accident. You would be required to prove the other driver was negligent in the operation of their vehicle and that negligence caused your injuries.
The injured railway employee is able to receive compensation after they prove the elements of negligence. The amount they will receive is typically much greater than what they would receive under the workers’ compensation system.
CONTROVERSY OVER FELA
As you can imagine, FELA was enacted with little fanfare from the railroad companies. Before this law, they could get away free and clear after being responsible for the injury or death of one of their workers. A large number of rail employees would rather usher in a modern version of the workers’ compensation system. The labor unions have instead fought hard against it and had continued to argue the advantages of FELA.
If you have been involved in a train accident, you are able to recover for than just for your bodily injuries under FELA. The law additionally covers injuries such as asbestos exposure, and constant stress that manifests itself in causing physical injuries.
You are also able to recover emotional distress damages. The law has had a major impact on establishing guidelines for a variety of tort law issues, including damages allocation and standards for working and safety conditions.
Protections Under the FELA
Don’t let your preconceived notions and second hand gossip prevent you from getting justice. There is what the railroad company wants you to think about being able to recover compensation from them for your injuries, and then there is the truth.
THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FELA
THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE FROM THE FELA:
Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several states…shall be liable in damage to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier…in such commerce…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.
ASSUMPTION OF THE RISK DEFENSE
FELA is certainly not in the railroad’s best interest. When it was enacted, they spent millions of dollars on expensive defense lawyers to fight valid claims. They would much rather have a pre-FELA system where they never have to pay out claims and make a higher profit.
One of the ways they were successful in defending against claims was to use a defense call assumption of the risk. This defense is based on the premise that a person cannot recover for their injuries if they were aware of the dangerous condition. They are said to have assumed the risk that they may be injured.
Obviously, the railroads are very dangerous, so the railroad companies said that workers assumed the risk that they be may injured simply because they chose a dangerous profession. In 1939, Congress added an amendment to FELA that state a railroad company cannot assert the assumption of risk defense.
RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL
An injured worker has always had the right to a jury trial which bringing a claim under FELA. The reality of the situation is that many courts did not want to go through the time and expense of using a jury to resolve claims. Undoubtedly, some of the judges were likely getting money under the table to avoid a jury trial because it is not in the railroad company’s best interest. Often times the court would dismiss the railroad worker’s claim before he ever had the opportunity to go to trial.
The Supreme Court of the United States actually stepped in because so many cases were getting appealed and the Supreme Court was having to send them back to the trial court in favor of the injured workers. Now, a trial court cannot dismiss the case if there is even slight proof that the railroad company was negligent in some way. This applies if they are even slightly negligent in causing the injury or death.
DUTY OF THE RAILROAD COMPANY
The duty that a railroad company owes to its worker and the public is a much higher standard than what the average company owes. The foundation of FELA is the duty owed by railroads to provide a reasonably safe place to work at all times and for each and every type employee, regardless of what type of work they are doing.
Also, the railroad cannot outsource or delegate that responsibility to another company. Even if they hire another company to perform some type of work, the railroad will be held responsible for that’s company’s negligence. The duty also applies even if the railroad has its employees do a completely different type of job than they normally do, such as going to Home Depot to buy supplies.
If a worker is partially at fault for causing an accident, he is not prevented from receiving compensation. Rather, the amount of compensation is reduced in proportion to how much he is contributorily at fault. Before FELA was enacted, a person could not recover if they were even the slightest bit at fault. Of course, this harsh and archaic view prevented a lot of people from rightfully recovering what they deserved. Thankfully this is no longer the law and a person may even recover under FELA if they were more at fault than the railroad.
THIS IS WHY THE FELA WAS ENACTED
IT IS DESIGNED TO PROTECT YOU FROM THE RAILROAD
The railroads in America during the latter half of the 19th century went through a mind blowing period of growth. In the early 1800’s, there was a total of 40 miles of railroad track. By the end of the 1800’s, there were over 163,000 miles of track.
The growth and ease of mobility were not without a violent cost. The railroads were a massively dangerous place to work. Employees went to work on a daily basis not knowing whether they would come home with all their limbs. To put into perspective how dangerous the railroads were, in a single year, over 8,000 railroad employees lost their lives. A switchwan’s life expectancy was an amazingly short seven years. The chance that a brakeman would die on a given day was almost one in five.
The Federal government responded in 1908 by passing the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). It was a truly groundbreaking piece of legislation and was the first time in the United States that provided protection for injured workers and the possibility for them to receive compensation from the railroad company. At this point in time, workers’ compensation had not been implemented.
ARE YOU AN INJURED RAILROAD WORKED?
HERE IS WHAT YOU MUST KNOW AFTER BEING INJURED
Injured railroad workers are often hesitant to believe the FELA is pro-employee. The truth is, it was enacted for the sole purpose to protect railway workers injured by the negligence of the railroad. The FELA allows railroad workers who sustain injuries on the job to receive compensation. There are a variety of factors that will determine if you have a valid claim against the railway company.
These multibillion dollar companies will fight hard to avoid paying you what you rightfully deserve. You are encouraged to contact the attorneys at Warrior Personal Injury Lawyers immediately for a free consultation to find out if you have a case. There are strict deadlines that limit the amount of time you have to bring your claim. If you have a legitimate case, you will be eligible to receive compensation for:
- Lost Wages
- Loss of Benefits
- Permanent Impairment
- Emotional Pain and Suffering
- Medical Expenses
- Funeral Costs
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Loss of Quality of Life
Exercise Your Rights Under FELA!
Inform your superiors about the accident and details of how it happened, including each and every injury that you suffered. Follow up to make sure they reported the injury to the proper persons and departments.
Seek medical treatment for your injuries and make this your number one priority. Tell your doctors about everywhere you are feeling pain, even if it is not serious and the pain is only there occasional.
Find out the names, address, and phone numbers of all persons who witnessed the accident and have knowledge about it. Witnesses can be the make or break of a train accident claim.
Take photographs of the area you were injured, including any equipment. Also take photos of any visible injuries you have. This evidence can be invaluable in painting a picture of how serious the accident was.
Speak to a Colorado FELA railroad accident attorney as soon as possible. Do not sign anything the railroad gives you or make any statements (before asking your attorney about it), this includes insurance adjusters.
How Do I Know If I Am Covered Under FELA?
All railroad workers that have been injured by the railroad company’s negligence are covered under the protective laws of FELA. In the event that the railroad company’s negligence caused a worker’s death, the family of the deceased worker is also covered under its protection. The surviving spouse and children are allowed to bring a claim, and if the worker has neither, the worker’s parents are allowed to bring a claim. If the parents are not alive, the next of kin can file a lawsuit.
MYTHS ABOUT THE FELA
Don’t Believe the Railroad’s Lies and Misinformation
I was injured on the job, so the railroad must pay for my lost wages.
Unfortunately, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) does not require that the railroad company pay for your lost wages simply because you were injured on the job. They are only required to do so if you are able to show they were negligent in causing your injuries, and as a result of your injuries, you were unable to work.
It is not uncommon for the railroad to lead an employee on in what appears to be a spirit of cooperation and understanding, only to leave the railway worker out in the cold when it comes time to pay up. Often times, it becomes too late to legally recover for their harms and losses.
I was injured on the job, so the railroad must pay my medical expenses.
Similarly to the first myth, the train company is only required to pay your medical expenses if you are able to prove that they were negligent in causing your injuries. They have to be at fault to be responsible for paying you compensation. The great news is that railroad companies are heavily insured and there will always be enough money for you to recover. It’s not like when you get hit by another driver and wonder whether they even have insurance.
Attorneys will not get me more money than I could get on my own.
This is completely false and there are studies to back it up. A recent study found that injured workers who were injured by railroad company negligence and represented by an attorney received 84% of all money paid out. Injured workers who were not represented by an attorney received only 16% of all money paid out. As you can see, even after attorney’s fees, injured workers will receive far more money than if they are not represented.
If you are considering representing yourself, you should realize what you are up against. Railroad companies have millions of dollars at their disposal to hire experts, perform, tests, and interview anyone and everyone.
It is not in their best interest to pay out claims. It cuts into their bottom line. An attorney experienced in train accidents has the same ammunition on their side, coupled with the right of justice to get you all the compensation you deserve.
I do not have a case because I did not report the accident right away.
In a perfect scenario you should report the accident immediately and provide as many details as you can. But that is not reality. There is no law under FELA that requires the accident itself to be reported promptly. There are of course statute of limitation issues that limit the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit, but that time frame is 3 years after the accident.
It will make your attorney’s job more difficult if the accident was reported later, but not impossible. Evidence can be lost or tampered with, and witnesses memories may fade as time passes. If you have been injured, report it and contact an attorney as soon as possible.
I should find an attorney close to me.
You should absolutely not limit your search for an attorney to one that is conveniently close. The Federal Employers Liability Act is a federal law, therefore it is the same in every state. Also, attorneys familiar with this type of law are hard to find and require specialized knowledge. You wouldn’t limit your options to finding the right heart surgeon to someone who is down the street, so you shouldn’t do when your financial life is on the line.
I will be fire if I get an attorney and go back to work.
This is what the railroad company wants you to think, but the truth is there are powerful laws in place that prevent retaliation for reporting their injuries and retaining a train accident lawyer. It does not matter whether you have an attorney or not, you cannot be fired for filing a claim and seeking compensation. In fact, if you retain an expert FELA attorney, chances are the railway will not fight the claim as much because they know what they are up against.
I don’t need an attorney specialized in the FELA.
If you need a specific surgery, you wouldn’t go to your primary care doctor. You would find the best surgeon in the country that has performed that surgery hundreds of times. The same applies to attorneys. It does not matter how good the attorney is, if he doesn’t have knowledge of FELA, then he will not be the best person to represent you.
Many of the nuances of FELA take years to master. Do what is best for you, find an attorney such as those at Warrior Personal Injury Lawyers to take on the railroad company and get you every single penny that you rightfully deserve.