Federal Employers’ Liability Act Attorneys in Birmingham
Enacted in 1908, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was created for the protection and compensation of injured railroad workers and their families. As America expanded the creation and use of railroads in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, an increasing number of railroad employees were injured on the job.
At the time before this legislation was passed, railroad employees were unable to sue their employers under workers compensation laws. Unlike workers’ compensation, the injured railroad worker has to prove that the railroad employer was negligent and at fault.
Yet, as a plaintiff, the injured railroad worker can present his case to a jury, so he can receive damages (e.g., pain and suffering). Additionally, FELA uses comparative negligence, meaning that negligence is compared between the injured railroad worker and the railroad. Whatever award a plaintiff may receive from a verdict, the amount of the award is directly proportional to the percentage of fault.
Types of Damages Recovered from FELA Claims
There are many kinds of damages that can be recovered from a railroad injury under FELA, depending on the circumstances. Workers compensation typically cannot meet all the needs that may occur after a work-related injury at a railroad. But under FELA, if the railroad is found at fault, you and your family may be entitled to the following compensation:
- Past medical costs
- Future medical costs
- Past loss wages
- Future loss wages
- Loss of quality of life
- Partial disabilities
- Permanent disabilities
- Mental anguish
- Emotional suffering
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral costs
FELA-related Accidents and Injuries
Injuries sustained at a railroad employer’s site in Alabama can be quite debilitating and serious. There are several ways one can be injured.
- A train is in involved in an accident or derailment. In this kind of accident, the injuries sustained range from blunt-force trauma to amputations to even death.
- Electrical issues. There can be contact with an uninsulated electrical wire or high-voltage line which can be cause electrical shock or electrocution. Electric arc explosions can occur from high-voltage lines, causing serious burn injuries.
- Noisy environments. The railroad yard can be very noisy, and over time, working there can cause profound hearing loss or impairment.
- Toxic environments. The railroad yard can also be a rather toxic place, with exposures to chemicals and materials such as asbestos, benzene, chemical solvents, and welding fumes.
- Office environments. Even the office at the railroad yard can pose some risks for injury. For example, a slip and fall accident can cause a knee or back injury.
Here are other kinds of injuries that can occur at a railroad:
- Back and neck injuries
- Bulging disc
- Herniated disc
- Spinal cord injuries
- Burn injuries
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Knee Injuries
- Torn or injured ligaments
- Meniscus tears
- Torn or injured ligaments
- Shoulder injuries
- Rotator cuff tears
You may also contact us regarding your Federal Rail Safety Act rights as a whistle-blower.
Filing a FELA Claim
As an injured railroad worker, you have three years to file a FELA claim. But in terms of gathering evidence of the accident, the sooner you file, the better.
Many times, when you have an accident at work, the railroad may immediately correct the hazardous situation. So as soon you can, it’s important to get contact information from eyewitnesses because memories of the accident can deteriorate over time. Additionally, you should take photos and video of the accident site and your injuries before the site of the accident changes. It’s also important to quickly seek medical attention and file an accident report.
The FELA claim process can take months or even years. This depends on the severity of your injury as well as the details of your case.
Sometimes, these claims are settled out of court through mediation or negotiation, but many times, it’s necessary to take your case to court. Under FELA, your court case can be held either in state court or federal court. Consulting with experienced attorneys like Burge & Burge can help you to determine which court will give you the best outcome for your case.
The three basic requirements for establishing a valid FELA case are:
- The accident occurred during the course and scope of the worker’s employment with the railroad company. There is no requirement that the accident occur on railroad property.
- The railroad was engaged in interstate commerce between two or more states.
- The railroad either caused or contributed to the worker’s injuries.
Dealing with the Railroads and FELA Claims and FRSA
You may be surprised at how your employer may be treating you after your accident. You may be bombarded with claims agents, attorneys, managers, and medical staff. There are many tactics that railroads use to try to shirk their responsibilities to their injured workers. But you have protection under federal law.
The Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) protects you from being disciplined, or being threatened with discipline, for seeking prompt first aid or medical treatment for your railroad injury. It is illegal for your employer to prevent or delay you from seeking help for your injury or ailment. You must be taken to the nearest hospital.
This law also protects you from punishment from your employer for seeing your personal doctor and following his or her orders. The railroad may not prevent you from choosing your own doctor, as well as what medical treatment is best for you.
If you feel as if you have been targeted for retaliation because you have filed a FELA claim, that is illegal under FRSA. Targeted behavior can include being scrutinized for your behavior on the job, such as being penalized more harshly for tardiness and absenteeism, or for small infractions that other coworkers seem to get away with.
Common Defense Tactics Railroad Companies use in FELA Cases
Under FELA, railroad companies are required to provide a reasonably safe workplace, which includes tools, equipment, and safety devices that function properly. They are also required to enforce safety rules and regulations and inspect the work site on a regular basis to help ensure that it is free of hazards. Here are several arguments railroad companies typically use to defend themselves:
The Workplace was Safe Enough
A railroad company may claim that they did everything they could to make the workplace reasonably safe. However, if industry safety standards and procedures change, it may be found that the company procedures are not up to industry standards. In countering this defense, it is important to look at the procedures other railroad companies or companies in other industries that perform similar tasks are using to keep their workers safe.
The Hazardous Condition was not Reported Previously
It might be argued that if no one else complained about the dangerous condition that resulted in the injury, then it was not really that much of a safety hazard. However, just because others have not reported the condition, that does not mean it was not dangerous. Workers may have other reasons for not complaining, such as a confusing reporting process or fear of retaliation for filing a report.
The Employee’s Injury was Caused by another Party
Companies sometimes argue that they are not responsible for the injury because it was caused by someone else. But the company is responsible to protect employees from others they are forced to come in contact with during the course of their work.
The Injury was the Fault of the Employee
Finally, a railroad company might argue that the employee’s unreasonable actions were the cause of the injury. But under FELA, an employee only needs to prove that the railroad was negligent in some way, and that their negligence contributed to the injury.
Unfortunately, disparate treatment is typical behavior for railroads which is why FRSA was created – so you can be protected from discrimination, being suspended, or terminated while trying to work in a safer environment. You deserve to be treated fairly and equally, despite your injury.
FELA law can be quite complex, and you need experienced attorneys who understand the intricacies of this legislation and how to navigate dealing with railroads after sustaining an injury on the job. Contact Burge & Burge today at 205-251-9000 to learn about how we can help. Working with a lawyer is important so contact us today!