(Extracted from A Guide To Understanding the Federal Employers' Liability Act published by The Crow Law Offices)
According to the Federal Railroad Administration 3,943 on duty employees were injured and 16 were killed while working on America's railroads in 2012. The most common types of injuries were sprains, strains, cuts and bruises. While injuries have declined 59% since 1989, fatalities have remained fairly constant.
The following is a guideline intended to help railroad workers and their spouses develop a basic understanding of what they should know if injured or killed while on duty.
Unlike most workers in American industry, when railroad workers are injured on the job they are not covered by a workers' compensation system. Instead they are protected by the provisions established in the Federal Employers' Liability Act (F.E.L.A.). The F.E.L.A. was enacted in 1906 to protect injured railroad workers and promote uniformity in railroad equipment and practices. It was re-worked in 1908 and through a series of amendments, the last being in 1939, it developed into the law that now stands. The F.E.L.A. applies to any railroad engaged in the interstate transportation of people or goods. It covers all railroad workers that are actively involved in interstate commerce and in certain circumstances independent contractors employed by the railroad.
There are several key differences between workers' compensation systems and the F.E.L.A. For example, under workers' compensation, payments for damages differ from state-to-state and cover economic losses only. In addition compensation is staged to cover losses as they occur. In contrast, the F.E.L.A applies equally in all states, covers economic and non-economic losses and requires that damages be paid in a lump sum.
Railroad employees have no-doubt heard rumblings between management and unions regarding the usefulness of the F.E.L.A. In a recent study released by United States General Accounting Office in August 1996, it was determined that the F.E.L.A. was still a benefit to railroad employees and should remain in tact. Employees should be aware, however, that this is going to continue to be an on-going battle as management continues to believe the F.E.L.A. to be unnecessarily costly and labor argues the benefits of fully compensating injured employees.
RAILROAD EMPLOYEES HAVE RIGHTS
The key to recovering damages is to understand that the F.E.L.A. has granted railroad employees two important protective rights:
* The right to sue their employer for fair compensation in the event of injury or death.
* The right to use legal counsel.
In addition the F.E.L.A. protects employees from railroad companies by prohibiting these companies from:
* Intimidating witnesses and fellow employees who give information or testify on the behalf of an injured employee.
* Taking any action against employees who use their F.E.L.A. rights.
WHAT CAN BE RECOVERED
While workers in most other industries are covered by state worker's compensation systems that limit recovery to economic losses only, under the F.E.L.A. railroad employees can recover the following types of damages, typically paid in a lump sum:
* Lost earnings, both past and future.
* Medical expenses, if not paid by railroad or by insurance provided at railroad's expense.
* Compensation for decreased earning power, such as may be involved due to the necessity of taking a lower paying job because of the injuries sustained.
* Compensation for pain and suffering, past and future.
* If an employee held another job outside the railroad, the railroad may also be liable for the amount potentially earned from both jobs during the period of disability produced by the injury.
THERE IS A TIME LIMIT TO FILE A CLAIM
A lawsuit for personal injury under the F.E.L.A. must be filed within 3 years of the date of injury. In death cases, a lawsuit must be filed within 3 years of the date of death, not the date of injury preceding the death.
In cases involving occupational disease or cumulative trauma disorders (asbestosis, hearing loss, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.), the limitation period is 3 years from the date of discovery of the disease and its relationship to the occupation.
In cases involving defendants other than railroad companies, the statute of limitations is 2 years in California. (Each state is different)
Choose Legal Representation with over years of Experience and Know How
When injured on the job, a railroader is going to be put into a very unfamiliar situation that may require the use of legal representation. What was once a friendly employee-employer working relationship is going to change into an adversarial challenge. Railroad companies are going to use all means necessary to avoid paying an injured employee, including, use of their own attorneys and claim agents to investigate the case.
The Crow Law Offices for example, has been practicing in the area of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (F.E.L.A.) since 1954. Attorneys in the firm are members of some of the most prestigious legal organizations in the United States, including, the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys (ARLA). In addition, several have been appointed Judges Pro Tem by the Superior Court of California and have been rated "AV" by Martindale-Hubbell the most respected directory of attorneys in the country.
As practitioners in railroad law, attorneys in The Crow Law Offices have successfully represented injured members of the following railroad unions:
American Train Dispatchers Department Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees
Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
National Conference of Firemen and Oilers of SEIU
Sheet Metal Workers' International Association
Transportation Communication Union-Clerks
Transportation Communication Union-Carmen
United Transportation Union
NEGLIGENCE HAS TO BE PROVEN
It is important to realize that injured railroad employees must be able to prove that railroad negligence caused or contributed to their accident and/or injuries in order to recover damages. In most circumstances employees may not recover the portion of damages that result from their own negligence. Proving negligence is the single most important factor in a claim. It is for this reason that we recommend that employees contact the Crow Law Offices as quickly as possible following an accident.
MAKE SURE YOUR LEGAL COUNSEL HAS A GOOD INVESTIGATIVE TEAM
Thorough investigation is one of the most important aspects of a case. The quality of the investigative work put forth on a case will often have a direct bearing on the outcome of the case and the ultimate recovery to an injured client.
Most union designated law firms have investigative personnel. At the Crow Law Firm, we retain the services of investigators who are highly skilled in the investigation of railroad injury cases.
Sadly, there are a certain amount of railroad workers that are going to be injured or killed this year. Railroad employees should remember that The Federal Employers' Liability Act was enacted for their protection. For additional information regarding specific actions an employee should take at the time of an injury or to order a free copy of A Guide To Understanding the Federal Employers' Liability Act please call us at 1-877-673-CROW (2769).
Published by The Crow Law Offices.
Copyright © 2010, all rights reserved.
No part of this article may be copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form without prior written consent of The Crow Law Offices. The information in this article is based on sources we believe to be reliable but there is no guarantee that it is complete or accurate. Opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors at the date of the article and are subject to change.
This report is not meant to be legal advice. It is recommended that questions of a legal nature be directed to an attorney in the firm.