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Railroad Injuries

Injuries, illnesses, and sometimes deaths are the outcomes of accidents that happen in rough working environments where heavy equipment and machinery are used. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, deaths and injuries in the workplace are very common occurrences that occur in various types of manual labor jobs. The bureau states that around 6 in every 100 workers suffers a work-related injury.

Labor workers hold different positions that place them in different working environments with varying degrees of danger. Railroad workers are people who are usually at the forefront of a dangerous working environment that may cause them their life or a work-related injury that can put them out of work for months. Railroad workers, unlike other labor workers, have certain rights and protections that have been established since 1908 with the creation of the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). The Federal Employers Liability Act sought to advance compensations for railroad workers who suffered a work-related injury. However, FELA differs greatly from the workers' compensation laws that guide other labor industries.

Railroad workers follow distinct sets of laws, benefits, and coverages that differ from the common workers’ compensation insurance. Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney is well versed in FELA laws and ready to represent your case to ensure you the most favorable outcome. Dealing with FELA claims, unlike workers’ compensation insurance claim, involves a “fault” based system that requires you to provide proof that your employer is at fault for your injury. The Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorneys are ready to handle your case with a high level of professionalism to assure that you are provided with immediate health and disability benefits.

Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)

Up until the 1920s, the railroad industry blossomed and created job opportunities for many Americans. With this expansion came many dangers that exposed railroad workers to specific dangers and situations that exist exclusively in the railroad industry. Railroad workers throughout the United States, are exposed to working conditions that are hazardous and potentially life-threatening. American railroad workers have endured a variety of injuries that have placed many in permanent and temporary disability conditions or in deathbeds.

Due to the high probability of an injury in the working environment, Congress in 1908 passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to protect the rights of railroad workers throughout all fifty states. Under FELA regulations, all railroad companies including Amtrak and other railroad service providers, are required to provide a safe working environment that is inspected and deemed safe by a professional for all employees that belong in the industry.

FELA’s administers a federal lawful system that implements safety regulations and compensation benefits exclusively for railroad workers and their families in the event of a work-related death or injury. Most injury cases are covered by FELA, however, the employee must provide proof that the employer's negligence was at fault for the work-related accident that caused the injury or death. Proving liability can become a complicated issue which is why it is advised to speak with an attorney that is well versed in FELA laws and regulations.

No-Fault Vs Fault Based Claims: Proving Fault Under FELA

Under state workers’ compensation law, an employee may receive workers’ compensation if injured while on the job. The employee files for compensation and neither his or her negligence including the employers own negligence is considered when filing for workers’ compensation. The “no-fault” system allows the employee and employer to be freed from any lawsuits that deem either of them responsible for the accident which caused the injury. The employee's health is at the forefront of worker’s compensation program where his medical and disability needs are considered without the need find fault on either side.

On the other hand, the fault-based system implemented by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) requires that the plaintiff provide proof that the defendant was by some means negligent and caused the employee his injury. To advance a railroad work-related injury claim, the plaintiff needs to show that the work environment was unsafe and that the employer allowed the employees to work under hazardous conditions.

FELA has established laws that attempt to regulate working environments holding the employer responsible for any injury that occurs at the job site. If the employer violates any of the regulations put in place by FELA, the employee is capable of advancing a claim for compensation if he or she can provide proof that a violation of FELA regulations on the employers led to the employee's injury.

Burden of Proof 

Any violation of the safety regulations implemented by FELA may result in a work-related injury or death and, therefore, a claim can be processed by the affected employee. Providing proof can be a very complex issue, but most times FELA protects the rights for compensation of any employee who is injured and provides that he or she was not at fault for the misstep or accident which led to his or her injury.

Under FELA employers are required to:

  • Ensure that the working environment is safe, that the tools used are properly maintained and safe to use, and that the employee is well equipped to perform his or her job
  • Ensure that the employees are properly trained to perform the duties at hand and that there is enough supervision at the job site to provide guidance and assistance
  • Ensure that individuals hired are capable of maintaining a safe working environment free from harassment that can lead to violence between employees
  • Implement safety regulations outlined by FELA

The burden of proof has to demonstrate liability from an employer, an employee’s behavior, or equipment that may have caused the injury. In the event of a work-related injury the employer can be at fault if there was not enough training provided to the employee; if they failed to provide supervision and safety inspections; and, most commonly if the workplace is deemed unsafe. Though FELA requires all plaintiffs to provide a burden of proof, FELA ensures that the plaintiff need only provide a small amount of proof in order to proceed with a lawful claim. In other words, the defendant need only be slightly responsible for the accident which caused the injury in order for the employee to pursue a claim under FELA. Most accidents that occur in a workplace occur due to multiple factors and missteps. If you can provide proof of any factor in the workplace leading up to your injury you may be qualified to file a claim under FELA.

FELA provides a safety net to workers of the railroad industry at the federal level by providing strict codes of conduct that aim to maintain a safe working environment. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Locomotion Inspection Act (LIA), and the Federal Safety Appliance Act, provide additional strict codes of conduct that aim to maintain a hazardous free working environment. If the regulations put forth by OSHA, LIA, or the Federal Safety Appliance Act are violated in any way the plaintiff only needs to prove that there was a violation of these regulations in order to proceed with a compensation claim under FELA.

Railroad Employees and OSHA

The most common way to establish that a railroad employer or company is responsible for your work-related injury is to provide proof that the employer or company has violated a workplace safety regulation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) applies safety standards for workers in the labor industry including railroad workers. Any violation of OSHA regulations is considered enough evidence to pursue a compensation claim under FELA.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established in 1970 to promote safety regulations in the workplace with hopes to reduce work-related injuries or fatalities. OSHA which is regulated by the Department of Labor has established rights that belong to all employees in the labor industry.

OSHA provides the right to employees to:

  • Call for an inspection of a workplace if the employee believes the workplace to be hazardous or to be violating an OSHA regulation
  • Analyze and request any safety document that establishes workplace regulations and details the employer's responsibilities at the workplace. Your employer or job site should always have OSHA poster and documents that explain regulations and codes of conduct
  • File any OSHA complaint without being harassed by an employer or company

On the other hand, employers have certain obligations under OSHA. Employers under OSHA law must:

  • Teach their employees about the safety regulations that apply to their specific trade and work environment
  • Provide their employees a safe working environment that is inspected and free of injury risk
  • Provide official OSHA posters that detail the employees and employers responsibilities in maintaining a safe hazardous-free workplace
  • Provide employees with enough training to perform their task in a way that reduces the probability of an injury. In other words, your employer has the responsibility to teach you about the potential hazards and provide you with guidance on the best technique to avoid an accident
  • Provide medical and exposure records at the request of the employee

When employers fail to meet these regulations they can be subjects to an inspection and a lawsuit if the workplace unsafe conditions remain uncorrected after an employee files for a complaint. Any violation of an OSHA regulation can help your FELA compensation claim in a California court of law.

The Locomotion Inspection Act

Like OSHA, the Locomotion Inspection Act (LIA) has brought federal safety regulations to avoid any accident of people working with railroad engines. Under LIA employers are required to:

  • Ensure that the environment is a safe workplace free from hazardous conditions
  • Provide engine inspections as needed and requested
  • Provide engines that can cope with the safety and mechanical tests provided by the Secretary of Transportation

Federal Safety Appliance Act

The Federal Safety Appliance Act was created under the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) which belongs to the Department of Transportation. The act was developed to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities of workers using railroad equipment. The provisions enacted by the FRA ensure that workers are provided with good and reliable working equipment. If you suffer an accident resulting from a Federal Safety Appliance Act violation, you may proceed with a compensation claim under FELA.

FELA Compensation

To file a FELA compensation claim you must understand the regulations that have been put in place by the above-mentioned acts and agencies. If you can prove that there was a violation of the above-mentioned regulations, you can proceed with a FELA compensation claim and receive your medical and disability benefits. If you successfully file a FELA compensation claim, you are entitled to wage loss compensations and medical assistance. In the event that the employee’s injury results in death, the compensation would be given to the spouse or any close family member in the absence of a spouse. 

Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney understand the different laws that regulate the working environment of railroad workers. It is crucial to have an attorney that understands all the provisions and working conditions that belong to the railroad industry. Our attorneys are ready to represent both sides of the case.

In some cases, when a FELA compensation claim is processed, the employer has a certain amount of rights to defend him or herself. Some injuries occur while employees are intoxicated or out of the employees own negligence. In these cases, you may fight for a lesser percentage of fault which means you provide less compensation on your behalf. Keep in mind that injuries are the outcomes of many factors that come into play. A company or a single employers’ negligence is usually never the only factor that contributes to a work-related injury.

To learn more about your rights and obligations of your employee or employer under the FELA regulations, please contact us at 949-423-3212. We are ready to represent your case with a high level of expertise and attention to your specific case.


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