The History of the Federal Employers Liability Act
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was created to protect railroad workers while on the job. This federal law was created due to President Benjamin Harrison’s concerns over the increased dangers of working on the railroad. He compared it to being a soldier at war.
New York Central Railroad was formed in 1853 and was one of the first railroads in the country. Railroad use grew rapidly from then on until 1920. This led to many deaths among railroad workers. Congress took notice and passed FELA in 1908.
FELA is a substitute for workers’ compensation. However, it is different in that it is not a no-fault system. Instead of automatically receiving benefits for a workplace injury, the employee must prove that the railroad caused the injury due to its negligence. If the employee is successful, he or she can receive benefits that are much higher than workers’ compensation benefits for other types of employees.
Where a Railroad Company Can Be Liable
Negligence can take on many forms, including failure to:
- Provide safety equipment.
- Enforce established safety regulations.
- Provide adequate training.
- Provide a safe working environment.
- Set reasonable work standards.
FELA benefits are not limited to bodily injuries. The law also covers cumulative trauma injuries, repetitive stress injuries, asbestos exposure and, in some cases, even emotional distress.
Under FELA a railroad company is obligated to provide a safe work environment which includes: hiring an adequate number of workers, providing safe and effective tools, regular maintenance of tools and equipment and safety inspections of off-premise work areas. Railroad companies are also required to develop safety rules and protocols and enforce them. A railroad will be considered negligent if a railroad employee suffers an injury because the railroad failed to comply with any of these requirements.
Filing a claim under fela
A successful claim under FELA must satisfy three requirements:
- The worker must have been injured in the course and scope of his/her employment with the railroad.
- It must be proven that the railroad’s negligence played some part in causing the employee’s injuries.
- The railroad must be engaged in interstate commerce (commerce between two or more states). Under FELA injured railroad workers may be entitled to compensation for past and future wages, past and future pain and mental suffering, disability and medical and expenses. Additional compensation is also required if the injured railroad worker lost a limb or organ. In the event of death, past and future economic losses are also paid to the employee’s dependents.
Railroads may also be held strictly liable for violating federal standards pertaining to workplace safety, e.g. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation, the Boiler Inspection Act, the Safety Appliance Act, etc. The worker only has to show that the law in question was violated and that he was injured as a result to be successful in his claim.
Off-Site Injuries due to Negligence
In addition, under certain circumstances, an employee can recover damages from the railroad even though the injury occurs away from company property. Common examples can include:
- Trainmen switching at an industrial plant. Switching rail cars helps facilitate the loading and unloading process. However, during this process, trainmen can fall or get struck with objects. The railroad carrier is responsible for the safety of all employees, as well as proper training. Therefore, it can be held liable for any injuries that occur during switching.
- A train crew injured while deadheading either by rail, land or air. This occurs when crew moves from one point to another via some form of transportation. The railroad carrier typically hires a taxi company to transport the employees. If a crew member is injured in an accident caused by negligence or poor vehicle maintenance, the railroad carrier is responsible.
- Injuries on the premises of carrier-provided lodging. This refers to a crew member sustaining an injury while staying at a hotel paid for by the carrier. If the crew member is injured at a hotel, the railroad carrier is responsible.
- Employees injured while en route to perform repair service at an outlying point. Falling off a moving vehicle or getting hit by a vehicle are two of the most common dangers that crew members face while on their way to repair a train. Again, the railroad carrier can be held liable for this type of injury. Contact a railroad accident attorney for assistance.
The above accidents can cause back and neck injuries, broken bones, burn injuries, disfigurement, and head trauma such concussion and traumatic brain injury.
Railroad Accidents in New York
Many railroad workers have been killed in workplace accidents in recent years. The families of many of these employees are eligible for death benefits under FELA. However, they must be able to prove that the railroad carrier was liable for the accident.
In January, a 50-year-old man was killed in Lakeville. He was trapped under fertilizer after falling into a train car and could not be freed.
In 2014, a woman was killed in Germantown after being hit by a train. She was an Amtrak employee working on a section of train track when she was hit by a passenger train.
That same year, miscommunication killed a Metro-North track worker in New York City. He was killed by a train after going past a protected work zone. The 58-year-old man was performing weekend work and restoring power to the tracks. He under the impression that train traffic was suspended as he went beyond the work zone and was hit by a train.
In 2013, a bridge inspector was electrocuted while working on a railroad bridge. He was in a high lift taking measurements of a bridge when the lift came into contact with power lines that were carrying 4,800 volts of power. The lift was still under electrical power when emergency responders arrived at the scene.
Contact Grant & Longworth Attorney’s at Law Today
All of these incidents may result in recovery for the victim’s families. Regardless of the particular circumstances causing an injury covered by FELA, an injured worker should seek counsel immediately to ensure he or she is adequately represented, is appropriately compensated, and enjoys the full protection of his or her legal rights. Contact a FELA injury lawyer to learn more about upholding your legal rights today.
Our Advice: FELA Related Injuries
Ten steps action guide for FELA injuries
- First, remain calm and if possible move away from the hazard or instrumentality which caused or contributed to your injury.
- If practical, warn others of the condition which caused or contributed to your injury to prevent others from being injured.
- Notify a supervisor as well as other persons responsible for the investigation and documentation of on the job injuries.
- Do not make statements implying that your actions contributed to the event.
- Note the identity of any person claiming to have witnessed the event or claiming to have previously complained about the hazard or the defect which caused your injury.
- Ensure that an incident report is prepared or that the event is properly documented by persons responsible for the investigation of on the job injuries.
- Make notes of the time of occurrence, a detailed description of the hazard or defect which caused the injury.
- If you have a camera available, photograph the hazard or defect which caused the injury.
- Ensure that your account or any witness(es) account are included in any incident report or police report.
- Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries. Often insurance companies will disclaim responsibility for injuries when they are not properly reported, documented or treated.