Before the development of automobiles and airplanes, railroads were used to transport Americans and their goods – and helped connect the Pacific and the Atlantic. Railroad work was considered as dangerous as going to war – and to address the dangers involved, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was enacted.

FELA has evolved since the federal government came up with it in 1908. Notably, it only covers employees that operate interstate, which excludes municipality railroads. Unfortunately, FELA doesn’t cover all injuries, and you may need a Chicago personal injury attorney to help prove that the railroad company was negligent.

What is the Responsibility of the Railroad Company in Keeping Workers Safe?

One cannot get FELA benefits until it’s clear that the employer failed to adhere to the safety regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Other safety provision laws that facilitate FELA are the Safety Appliance Act and the Locomotive Inspection Act.

The responsibilities of railroad companies include:

  • Providing a reasonably safe workplace 
  • Enforcing all safety regulations
  • Conducting regular inspections 
  • Supervising and training employees to ensure they uphold safety standards
  • Avoiding unreasonable work quotas and deadlines that can contribute to accidents

What is Considered Negligence Under FELA?

Before filing a FELA lawsuit, you need to ascertain that the injuries sustained resulted from the railroad negligence. A knowledgeable employment liability attorney in Chicago can help victims put together the pieces of evidence that can prove negligence and qualify them for compensation. If the answer to any of the following questions is “yes,” you may have a case to file:

  • Did the railroad fail to provide the required number of workers for the task?
  • Did the railroad fail to provide the right equipment for the job?
  • Did the railroad fail to adequately educate or train the workers for the intended task?
  • Did the railroad fail to provide a safe working environment?

What Types of Injuries Are Covered Under FELA?

FELA compensation is not limited to accidents on the job; railroad work is physically demanding and can leave workers with long-lasting effects.

You are eligible for receiving damages if you suffered in the following ways:

  • Concussions and traumatic brain injuries
  • Complex orthopedic injuries 
  • Falling, tripping, and slipping injuries
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Neurological disorders caused by toxic chemicals
  • Loss of hearing because of exposure to high decibel levels
  • Back injuries that affect muscles or disks

Although railroad-related work injuries and fatalities are rare, they still happen. Common incidents that can result in the death or injury of a railroad worker include:

  • Malfunction of railroad crossing signals
  • Derailment
  • Train collisions 
  • Gaps between platforms
  • Railyard hazards
  • Defective switches
  • Debris on the floor of the locomotive
  • Radio rule violations
  • Broken grab irons
  • Broken engine seats

What Damages Can I Recover Under FELA?

While victims of railroad accidents have a greater burden of proving negligence, the compensation possibilities are broader than those available in workers’ compensation cases.

For instance, injured workers can get compensation for mental pain and suffering or physical pain and suffering. If one ended up with a permanent partial or total disability, they could be compensated for the pain, suffering, and the deprived ability to earn the income they used to.

With the help of a Chicago employment liability lawyer, the family of a dead railroad worker can recover damages for the pain and suffering he/she experienced before death and the unexpected loss of income.

What Actions Following My Railroad Injury Will Impact My Case?

What you do after your railroad injury is significant in preserving your rights. Your health and wellbeing should be your primary concern, and a prompt visit to the hospital should be the first thing you do when you are injured. Here is what you need to do afterward:

  • Talk to fellow workers about the unsafe working condition that caused your injuries, where, and how you were injured
  • Fill out an accident report and identify the unsafe equipment or work condition that resulted in the injury 
  • Go for follow-up treatment with your own doctor and talk about all your injuries and how you got injured
  • Unless it is a requirement of the Union contract or Book of Rules, avoid giving a statement to a claim agent
  • Notify your union’s local chairman of your injuries
  • Call an Illinois employment liability law firm to get legal advice on the next steps

Can I File a FELA lawsuit if I Was Partly at Fault?

You will not be barred from receiving compensation for injuries sustained if it is established that you were partly liable for the accident. The total amount will only be reduced by your percentage of fault – for example, if you are awarded $50,000, and your percentage of fault is 10%, you may lose $5,000 and receive $45,000 in damages.

Injured railroad workers should never be afraid to file a FELA lawsuit simply because the accident was partly their fault. You may lose some money and remain with some, but it is better than not getting anything for your pain and suffering.

What is the Statute of Limitations Under FELA?

Like most Chicago cases, FELA has a time limit for victims to claim compensation for their injuries. Americans are encouraged to seek a FELA attorney’s advice as soon as they are injured at work to ensure that they are not locked out because of time. It is not too late if:

  • Three years have not passed since it was known that the railroad job caused the injury
  •  Three years have not elapsed since the period the injury should have been discovered
  • Three years have not passed since the injury date

A Qualified Legal Representative to Protect Your Rights

Railroad companies invest in experienced legal teams to defend their interests. FELA, on the other hand, has provisions designed to protect the rights of injured railroad workers. An experienced Chicago FELA lawyer understands the kind of evidence required to prove and win your case.

Getting well should be your top priority after a railroad injury. Let a legal professional experienced in employment liability lawsuits handle your case. If you have more questions concerning your railroad injury, call us today for a free case evaluation.