A railroad worker hurt on the job files a claim under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) to receive compensation for those injuries. Many injured workers, though, may believe that they cannot file a claim if a railway complies with any regulations imposed by the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). This is simply not the case. A railroad may comply with certain safety standards, yet still fail to properly protect its workers from harm.
Does FRSA Compliance Preclude a FELA Claim?
President Nixon signed the FRSA into law in 1970. The statute’s stated purpose is to enhance railroad safety and reduce accidents. The law seeks to accomplish this goal by requiring railroads to comply with comprehensive minimum safety standards that apply to a broad range of situations.
Compliance, though, does not mean a railway has met its legal obligation to fully protect railroad workers and provide a safe work environment. The regulations and standards imposed under the FRSA are minimum requirements. This means they do not necessarily preclude an injury claim under FELA. A worker can still file a claim and successfully assert that the railway failed to uphold its legal duty to provide a reasonably safe place to work.
Several courts have upheld this rule. A few notable court opinions include:
- Southern Ry. Co. v. Lunsford, 297 US 398 (1936),
- Mosco v. Baltimore & Ohio RR, 817 F. 2d 1088 (1987),
- King v. Southern Pacific Transp. Co., 855 F.2d 1485 (1988), and
- Weaver v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Company (1998).
What Must a Worker Prove in a FELA Case?
An injured railroad worker must prove the following to receive compensation in a FELA case:
- The employer railroad was negligent in some way, and
- That negligence resulted, in whole or in part, in the worker’s injury.
“Negligence” is a legal term that means a railway company either:
- Acted in an unreasonably dangerous way, or
- Failed to take some act, or certain precautions, to ensure the safety of an employee.
Again, as stated above, a railway can be found negligent even if it complied with all applicable FRSA requirements. Compliance only shows that the company met the minimum safety requirements under the law. It does not, on its own, show that the railroad acted reasonably or adopted all reasonable precautions to fully protect its employees.
Note that there are several ways in which an employee can prove negligence. One example is by showing that the employer did not apply certain safety procedures in its operations. Or perhaps the company did not provide a worker with certain legally required safety gear, or failed to maintain its equipment properly.
What Types of Claims can a Worker File Under FELA?
FELA allows injured railroad workers to receive payment due to:
- Traumatic injuries of all types
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Diseases caused by employment or occupation
- Aggravations of pre-existing conditions
Note as well that workers can receive reimbursement or compensation for the following:
- Lost income (past and future)
- Medical Expenses
- Temporary or permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress
- Loss of earning capacity
- Retraining Costs
FELA claims are often difficult to establish and the laws surrounding them are often complex. This means it is critical for injured railway workers to file a claim with the help from a knowledgeable railroad injury lawyer. The attorneys at Rossi Vucinovich have the skill and experience that makes all the difference. They are tireless in their efforts and passionate in their representation. Contact them now to get the FELA help you deserve!