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Railroad Injuries (FELA CLAIMS)

FELA stands for the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.  The U.S. Congress enacted this law in 1908 specifically to protect railroad workers who are injured or disabled while on the job.  Under FELA, railroad workers who are not covered by regular workers’ compensation laws are able to sue companies over their injury claims.  FELA allows monetary payouts for pain and suffering, decided by juries based on comparative negligence rather than pursuant to a pre-determined benefits schedule under workers’ compensation.

These laws provide for damages, including:

  1. Past and future medical care;
  2. Past and future wage loss;
  3. Past and future disability and disfigurement; and
  4. Past and future pain and suffering.

Concerning FELA and its making the railroad compensate injured workers, Supreme Court Justice William Douglas said: “The Federal Employers’ Liability Act was designed to put on the railroad industry some of the costs of the legs, arms, eyes, and lives which it consumed in its operation.”  Besides giving railroad workers and their families justice through monetary damages, the FELA demands that railroads provide their employees with a reasonably safe place to work.  It forces the railroad industry to be accountable to its employees for safer working conditions.

Despite passage of these acts, there are still thousand of railroad workers injured in the United States each year, often because of railroad employer negligence.  In order to win your case and recover under the FELA, you need to show some negligence by the railroad caused your injury.  Essentially, you need to show that the railroad failed to provide a reasonably safe place to work.

The Federal Safety Appliance Act provides recovery for injuries caused by the railroad’s use of faulty or defective equipment such as:

  • Grab irons
  • Handbrakes
  • Air brakes
  • Ladders
  • Steps
  • Couplers

The Locomotive Inspection Act provides recovery for injuries caused by the railroad’s failure to provide locomotives in the proper condition.  It is not necessary for an injured employee to show negligence on the part of the railroad when making a claim under the Federal Safety Appliance Act or the Locomotive Inspection Act.

It is not required that you have an attorney in order to proceed with a FELA case.  However, FELA cases often involve complicated issues not found in ordinary personal injury matters and an experienced FELA attorney can be of great assistance.  The railroad accident attorneys at SL Chapman provide aggressive representation for injured railroad workers.  Our railroad lawyers have successfully represented injured railroad employees for over 30 years.  Our central locations allow us to reach our clients anywhere in the country in the critical hours following a railroad injury, when the carrier is investigating the injury and attempting to limit their damages or claims.  Our FELA attorneys can begin their own immediate investigation.  Our ability to perform early investigations prevents the railroad from limiting your financial recovery.  our railroad accident lawyers help you even the odds against railroads and their insurance carriers.

What to do if you are injured in a railroad accident?

  • Obtain medical care
  • Report the injury
  • Contact your union representative
  • Do not give a written or recorded statement to a claim agent or anyone else until you have the opportunity to discuss the matter with your lawyer or union officials.
  • Apply to the Railroad Retirement Board for sickness benefits
  • Write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of anyone who witnessed the accident.
  • Photograph any details of the accident scene and photographs of any injuries.

Statute of Limitations

A lawsuit under the FELA for personal injury must be filed within 3 years of the date of injury.  In death cases, a lawsuit must be filed within 3 years of the date of death.  In cases involving occupational disease or cumulative trauma disorders, the limitation period is 3 years from the date of discovery of the disease and its relationship to your occupation.