FELA — Railroad Worker Injuries

Railroad workers routinely work in some of the most dangerous conditions facing any industry in the country. Given the dangers railroad workers face daily, Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) in 1908. For over 100 years, FELA has been the sole remedy of railroad workers injured or killed while working.

Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States reaffirmed the strength of FELA, stating that railroads are responsible for injuries if their negligence played any part, no matter how slight, in causing the injury. Bolt Hoffer Boyd attorney Joe Sayler played an important role in the decision, authoring a brief that was twice cited by Justice Ginsburg’s majority opinion. Despite these attacks by the railroad industry, FELA continues to provide a fair compensation system that allows injured railroad workers to recover their full damages rather than be subjected to severely capped compensation available through with state-mandated workers’ compensation schemes.

Most law firms do not have the knowledge of the railroad industry or the resources to fight the railroads on FELA claims. Good FELA attorneys are familiar with the railroad industry, have a wealth of documents and knowledge related to FELA claims, and know how to navigate these hard-fought cases. The FELA attorneys at Bolt Hoffer Boyd have proudly represented injured railroad workers from every major union and craft. We won’t back down until justice is found for workers injured or killed on the job in these accidents.

FELA Damages

If the railroad found to be responsible for your injury, you or your family may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Lost Wages
  • Future Wage Loss
  • Loss of Benefits
  • Disability Pay
  • Scarring
  • Emotional Pain and Suffering
  • Medical Expenses
  • Funeral Costs
  • Loss of Quality of Life

Railroad Negligence and Strict Liability Under FELA

Unlike FELA, workers’ compensation schemes do not provide seriously injured workers by with adequate compensation to meet the needs of injured workers and their families. To recover under FELA, however, it is necessary to first establish some negligence on the part of the railroad. This differs from state workers’ compensation laws where no such proof is needed. There are several ways to prove that a railroad wrongdoing was the cause of an injury. The first and most basic claim is when the railroad fails to provide reasonably safe equipment or place to work; when a railroad fails in this regard and their actions cause an injury, they must compensate the injured worker. FELA does require, however, that the negligence of the railroad carrier be compared to any negligence of the injured worker. This means that if the railroad was 50% at fault and the worker was 50% at fault, the railroad only pays 50% of the damages. This is called comparative fault. The second way of proving negligence is by proving that the railroad violated federal laws or regulations. If this second method applies, the railroad is strictly liable and 100% fault, regardless if the worker was also partially negligent.

There are four categories of proving strict liability.

If the railroad violated one of these safety statutes or regulations, they are 100% at fault, regardless of any partial or contributory fault by the worker. For example, the Safety Appliance Act requires the railroads to have safety equipment that is properly functioning, such as knuckles and handbrakes. If equipment such as a handbrake is defective and causes an injury to a worker such as brakeman or conductor, the railroad must completely compensate the worker for all of their proven damages. Other examples can include debris left on a locomotive floor that violates the Locomotive Inspection Act ballast and walkways that violate state regulations, such as Washington and California’s railroad walkway regulations.

It is critical to know that FELA differs greatly from state worker’s compensation laws. To begin, you must prove that the railroad was negligent under FELA. Each and very FELA case is different and you should contact an experienced FELA attorney to determine if the railroad was negligent or violated a federal law, and to evaluate the potential damages you might claim. Our experienced FELA railroad injury lawyers are honored to assist you in this initial evaluation, free of charge.

Regardless of whether there has been negligence or a violation of a regulation that requires strict liability, many railroad claims departments send claim agents and managers to the scene of an accident to secure evidence and immediately begin building a claim against you. Evidence often goes missing or is not secured properly. This is why is it critical to contact a FELA attorney to review your claim. Contact our law office today to discuss the specifics of your case. Our attorneys have excelled at not only obtaining compensation for workers’ injuries, but holding railroad accountable for destroying or not securing evidence, and have written scholarly articles on laws prohibiting such conduct.

Bolt Hoffer Boyd Law Firm has experienced attorneys with the skills and drive necessary to fight against railroads. Because no two cases are alike, we specifically tailor our legal representation to give each and every client specialized legal to the specific facts of their claim and will not stop until justice is achieved.

Bolt Hoffer Boyd Law Firm has experienced attorneys with the skills and drive necessary to fight against railroads, protect your rights, and prove that your railroad injury was caused by a negligent railroad carrier. Because no two cases are alike, we specifically tailor our legal representation to give each and every client specialized legal to the specific facts of their claim and will not stop until justice is achieved. We are 100% dedicated to every client we take on, no matter how big or small the case. We handle each case with care and commitment to getting you the compensation you need to get back to life as you know it. Contact us at Bolt Hoffer Boyd Law Firm to schedule an initial consultation with a FELA railroad injury attorney today.

For more resources on FELA, critical advice on what to do when you’re injured, strict liability, injuries common to workers, and other topics, visit our resources page.