Railroad employees face dangerous and risky situations because of their employment. Equipment malfunctions, poor communication, exposure to dangerous chemicals, defective equipment, poor weather conditions, inadequate safety measures, and carelessness by other individuals can result in a fatal or serious railroad accident. Because railroad workers face many on-the-job hazards, Congress enacted the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to help protect railroad employees and provide compensation when employees are injured on the job.
What Benefits Can an Injured Railroad Employee Receive Under FELA?
FELA is not workers’ compensation insurance, but many of the benefits a railroad worker may receive under FELA are similar to the compensation other injured workers may receive after a workplace accident. Actually, railroad workers may receive more compensation under FELA after an on-the-job injury than they would receive if state workers’ compensation systems covered railroad employees.
However, to receive benefits under FELA, a railroad employee must prove that the railroad was negligent in causing the employee’s injury. That is the key difference between workers’ compensation (no-fault system) and FELA (fault-based system). If the employee does not prove fault or negligence by the railroad, the employee does not receive any benefits for an injury under FELA. Also, if the employee was partially at fault for the cause of the injury, the employee’s compensation can be reduced under the theory of comparative negligence.
Examples of damages an individual may receive for a railroad work-related injury include:
- Payment of medical expenses
- Reimbursement for loss of income
- Compensation for loss of benefits
- Payment for physical therapy and rehabilitation costs
- Compensation for emotional distress, physical pain, and loss of enjoyment of life
- Compensation for permanent impairments and disabilities
- Payment for ongoing and future loss of income and medical expenses
- Compensation for disfigurement and scarring
It is important to note that compensable injuries under FELA are not limited to sudden accidents. A railroad employee may also be entitled to benefits if he or she develops an occupational illness or disease, including retirees who develop an illness after retirement that is directly related to their past employment as a railroad employee. Examples of conditions that might cause an occupational illness or disease include repetitive motions, exposure to hazardous chemicals, breathing diesel exhaust, or exposure to asbestos and creosote.
If a railroad worker dies because of a workplace accident or illness, family members may be entitled to economic benefits and other damages.
What Should You Do If You Have Been Injured on the Job?
Railroad workers injured at work need to take steps to protect their legal rights under FELA. The steps taken immediately following an accident or injury can have a significant impact on the worker’s ability to recover compensation for injuries and damages.
If you are hurt while working for the railroad, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced FELA claims attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can guide you through the steps necessary to file a FELA claim. The attorney can also help you avoid some of the mistakes railroad workers make that can result in a denial of your claim or a reduction in the amount of compensation they receive for a FELA claim.
Steps to take after a work-related railroad injury include:
- Report the Incident and Injury Immediately — Contact your supervisor to complete an injury report. If your injuries require emergency medical attention, report the injury as soon as possible after receiving medical attention.
- Seek Medical Attention — In most cases, an employer ensures that the injured railroad worker receives immediate medical attention. However, you also need to follow up with your primary care physician and/or specialists as required to complete your treatment plan. In some cases, you may need to seek an independent medical evaluation if you continue to experience symptoms after the accident.
- Report the Incident to your Union Representative — Make sure that your Union representative is aware of the incident and the injuries you sustained because of the accident.
- Document Losses and Damages — Keep copies of all bills, invoices, and receipts for financial expenses and losses related to the injury. If you miss time from work, carefully document all missed work so that you can receive compensation for your lost wages. Taking pictures of your injuries throughout your recovery and making notes about your daily pain levels can also be very useful when it is time to settle your FELA claim.
- Do Not Provide a Recorded or Written Statement — If you have a claim against the railroad, it is best to speak with an experienced FELA attorney before providing any statements regarding the incident or your injuries.
Contact a FELA Attorney for Help
FELA claims can be difficult. Recovering compensation for a railroad injury is not always an easy process. Learn about your legal rights from a FELA attorney who has experience handling railroad accident claims.
If you have suffered a railroad work injury, contact Pinder Plotkin for a free assessment. Call 410-661-9440 to schedule a free consultation with a FELA attorney.