How FELA Works

Railroad Accidents and The Associated Dangers

The operation of our nation’s railroads creates a number of serious hazards for railroad workers, many of whom incur devastating injuries and occasional fatalities. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since railroad workers are constantly exposed to very heavy, sometimes fast-moving machinery and work with a lot of heavy tools, as well as around a lot of flammable chemicals, especially after a derailment of a train carrying hazardous cargo. They also work around high-voltage electrical lines.

The inherent danger of railroad work is one reason why, more than a century ago, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), which protects the thousands of railroad workers in the United States by providing a legal framework for filing a claim against railroad employers, as well as to establish a uniform liability standard with regard to worker safety on the job. Safety is the duty of every employer.

On the one hand, FELA doesn’t work like “no-fault” workers’ compensation laws, in which a railroad worker who is been injured has no obligation to establish fault by their employer. To bring forth a claim under FELA, it is necessary to show that the defendant in the case, which can be the railroad, one of its employees or the manufacturer of equipment, was somehow negligent, and that the negligence caused their railroad accident injuries. The purpose of this is to demonstrate that the defendant failed to provide that railroad worker with a reasonably safe work environment and their injury happened as a result.

However, while the standard seems like a difficult one, it really isn’t; all the railroad worker must show is that the railroad violated any number of federal regulations, like those in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Boiler Inspection Act or the Safety Appliance Act and that they were injured.

Under FELA, railroad employers owe their workers a number of duties, any one of which can lead to a finding of liability under FELA. These include a duty to:

  • Provide a reasonably safe work environment
  • Provide workers with sufficient safety equipment and devices and the proper tools
  • Provide workers with adequate training, supervision and assistance in order to make it possible to do their job properly and safely
  • Ensure that workers are safe from intentional acts of others that may cause them harm
  • Enforce all applicable safety rules and regulations

Keep in mind, the burden of proof in a FELA claim is actually somewhat less than the degree of fault that needs to be established in an ordinary negligence claim, such as a claim brought for an auto accident. The person bringing the claim only has to show that the employer or other defendant was somehow negligent, regardless of the extent of the negligence in relation to the injuries caused.

The main defense available to the railroad employer in a FELA claim is comparative negligence on the part of the railroad worker. They will try to show that the worker’s actions somehow contributed to their injuries, so that every bit of liability is not falling on the defendant. Basically, after all arguments in a FELA lawsuit have been heard, the jury will decide who should be held legally responsible for the worker’s injuries and they will assign a percentage that corresponds to the damages awarded to the worker.

Texas Railroad Accident Injury Lawyers

If you or a loved one is a railroad worker and has been injured on the job, please contact the railroad worker injury attorneys at the Liggett Law Group today, so that we can help you through the FELA claims process and get you the compensation you deserve. Railroad workers perform difficult tasks under hazardous conditions and deserve to be taken care of by a negligent employer or other responsible party.