Helping Railroad Workers Recover Compensation Through FELA

Railroad workers have a dangerous job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), their fatality rate is approximately twice as high as that of the average American worker. Brake, signal and switch operators are at particularly high risk of sustaining catastrophic injuries and even death.

Under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) of 1908, railroads must provide employees with a safe place to work, meaning that:

  • The work environment should be free from hazards
  • Tools, equipment and vehicles should be in proper working condition
  • Workers should be adequately trained
  • Safety rules and regulations should be implemented and enforced

Railroads that fail to uphold these duties under FELA may be subject to liability for their employees’ injuries in the event of a railroad accident. If you were injured while working for a railroad company, the Philadelphia work injury lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. can help you with your FELA claim.

Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA)

At a time when railroad use in the U.S. was increasing exponentially, Congress passed FELA to protect vulnerable railroad workers. During that time, it was considered extremely dangerous to be a railroad worker due to the lack of safety controls in the work environment. FELA was designed to encourage railroads to improve workplace safety in order to avoid paying out large awards to injured employees.

Employer Liability

Under FELA, railroad companies must ensure that their workers have reasonably safe work environments, free from hazards. They are also required to train, supervise and assist employees and to enforce safety rules and regulations such as those imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employers who fail to uphold these duties may be liable under FELA for injuries their workers sustained while on the job.

Proving Railroad Negligence

Individuals who bring general workers’ compensation claims do not have to show negligence on the part of their employer in order to qualify for benefits. Conversely, those bringing FELA claims must show that the railroad’s negligence caused their injury. However, this is a fairly lenient standard (known as a “featherweight” burden of proof), only requiring the worker to show that the railroad negligently contributed in even the slightest way to his or her injuries. Railroad workers can meet this burden of proof in several ways including showing that the railroad:

  • Failed to create and enforce workplace safety rules
  • Required workers to work long hours, under demanding time constraints, or without adequate manpower
  • Failed to provide adequate training, safety equipment, or supervision

Comparative Negligence

Railroad workers who were partly at fault for their injuries are not barred from recovery under FELA, but they will be partly liable for their damages. Under the comparative negligence theory, injured workers may be held liable for their percentage of fault for the accident. Therefore, if a worker is entitled to $100,000 for their injuries but the court finds that they were 25 percent at fault, the worker will only be able to recover $75,000.

Damage Awards Under FELA

Workers’ compensation benefits are somewhat limited in scope. The Act only provides medical, wage loss, vocational rehabilitation, specific loss and death benefits. FELA also provides those forms of compensation in addition to pain and suffering and mental distress. There are no limits on the amount railroad workers can recover under FELA, however claims must be filed within three years of either the date of injury or the date the worker became aware of their occupational illness.

Philadelphia Work Injury Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Represent Railroad Workers in FELA Claims

As a railroad worker, you face many occupational dangers. If you were injured in a work-related accident or contracted an occupational illness, contact a Philadelphia work injury lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. We have been representing Pennsylvania employees for more than 35 years and are experienced in handling FELA claims. We represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania. For a free consultation, call us at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form.

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