An Overview of FELA and Railway Employee Lawsuits
Under 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq., (the Federal Employers Liability Act), railroaders – railway employees – may be eligible for compensation for injuries that they suffer on the job. FELA was established in 1908 to protect the rights of railroad employees. FELA was created after railroad use expanded six fold in the United States, leaving many injured railroaders without the money they needed to pay for medical bills and living expenses while they recovered.
In fact, President Harrison likened the dangers of railway work to that of a soldier, telling Congress that railroaders were “subjected to a peril of life and limb as great as that of a soldier at war.” Today, FELA continues to provide protection and compensation for railroad employees. Virtually any employee of a railroad company is covered by FELA, which offers liability compensation to thousands of workers in the United States every year.
Proving Liability in a Railway Accident Case
Duty of Care: If you suffered an injury, a qualified Longview work accident lawyer from our law firm can help you. The first step is to show whether the railroad company owed you a duty of care. This is a technical term that refers to your employer’s obligations and responsibilities to you, such as:
- Providing a safe work environment.
- Supplying the right tools for your job.
- Providing reasonable safety equipment.
- Training all employees to minimize risk.
- Supervising employees in dangerous jobs.
- Enforcing all safety regulations and rules.
Injury or Illness: After substantiating your employer’s obligation to provide reasonable safety at work, you must demonstrate that you sustained serious injury or illness. The injury must be substantial enough to cause significant pain, suffering, and medical expense. You can also seek a recovery for your injury / illness if it kept you from returning to work for a period of time. Common types of railroad injuries are:
- Repetitive Trauma Injuries
- Toxic Chemical Exposure
- Amputation Injuries
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Spinal Cord Injuries
Negligence: Finally, you must be able to show that your injury or illness was caused by an act of negligence on the part of the railway company. If, for example, an employee developed mesothelioma on the job, the employee must show that the railway is responsible for prolonged exposure to asbestos.
How Much Compensation Can You Seek from a Fela Lawsuit?
If you suffered an injury as railway worker, you’ve probably asked yourself, “How much compensations will I get through FELA?” The unique situation surrounding your case will determine how much money you may possibly pursue for your injuries, but FELA allows you to seek money for the following damages (past and future):
- Lost wages
- Mental distress
- Pain and suffering
- Medical treatment
- Wrongful death
Compensation for Wrongful Death: In the event of a railway worker’s death, the victim’s surviving spouse and family members can seek compensation through FELA as well. If the railroader did not have a spouse or children, any compensation provided by FELA will most likely go to his / her parents or other family members.
What if the Worker Is Partially Responsible for the Accident?
In theory, establishing negligence should be as easy as asking the question, “Who caused the injury?” Unfortunately, accident claims are rarely this easy to interpret. In fact, many cases involve comparative negligence, a legal concept that acknowledges liability from both parties. In a FELA claim, comparative negligence works like this:
The victim is only able to recover compensation for the percentage of the injury he / she did not cause. If a jury determines that the employer is 80% responsible for the injury, the victim will recover 80% of the total value of the claim. In short, the injured railway work is financially responsible for however much of the injury he / she caused.
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