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Many people do not realize how dangerous a railroad workers job is. In fact, most are unaware of the thousands of railroad worker accidents throughout the history of America’s railroads, many victims never having received the care and compensation they deserve. Now if a railroad worker has been injured they can hire a FELA lawyer to help them protect their rights.

That all changed in 1908, when Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). At that time, the railroad industry was burgeoning, and so were railroad worker accidents. There was a public outcry, calling for more protection for these victims of railroad worker accidents, since workers’ compensation laws were inadequate to protect and compensate them for their losses. Even the Supreme Court noted that the odds were against a railroad brakemen dying a natural death; indeed, there was only a one in four chance that he would do so. Some states had enacted laws similar to those now found in FELA, and Congress eventually adopted a form of those laws for the entire country in 1908. Finally, those injured, or the families of those killed, in railroad worker accidents now had the right to retain FELA railroad lawyers and file FELA lawsuits.

Who Can Sue

FELA statutes allow the victims of railroad worker accidents to file FELA lawsuits against their employers, equipment manufacturers, or other railroad employees who are guilty of the negligence, causing their railroad worker accidents. Those suffering as a result of railroad worker accidents should consult with a FELA lawyer to potentially recover compensation in three areas:

  • For past and future medical expenses incurred as a result of railroad worker accidents
  • For lost wages, both past and future, resulting from railroad worker accidents
  • For pain, suffering, and mental anguish that are the result of railroad worker accidents
In order to provide the greatest protection possible for the victims of railroad worker accidents, and to encourage railroad companies to improve their safety standards, FELA lawsuits require what is called a “featherweight” burden of proof. The victim’s FELA lawyer or rail road injury attorney must only prove that the defendant was somehow at fault for the injuries resulting from railroad worker accidents. And indeed, even if the victim of railroad worker accidents was partially at fault for their own injuries, a FELA lawyer has the right to file a FELA lawsuit and recover compensation for the percentage of fault the court assigns to the defendant.

For example, if the defendants in railroad worker accidents are found 80% at fault in a FELA lawsuit that is judged to be worth $100,000, the defendant will be ordered to pay $80,000. The plaintiff in this type of FELA lawsuit would be held responsible for the remaining 20% of fault or the $20,000 in costs, assigned to them.

This “lightweight” burden of proof is less than that usually required in other types of personal injury lawsuits, and has no place at all in workers’ compensation claims, which are basically “no fault” claims. In fact, workers’ compensation claims rarely pay for all the medical expenses incurred in those accidents and rarely cover all lost wages, either. They pay nothing for pain, suffering, or mental anguish, either.

These FELA laws also provide the families of those killed in railroad worker accidents with the opportunity to file FELA lawsuits through railroad attorneys. The law allows the immediate family the right to file FELA lawsuits first, then parents and siblings, then other dependents. A railroad attorney will help them estimate not only the pain and suffering, medical costs, and lost wages incurred by the victims of railroad worker accidents, but the benefits in those categories that the victim would have provided to their dependents throughout the rest of their lives.

Improved Safety Standards

Another one of the important benefits of FELA laws is that railroad companies have increased their safety standards in many ways. Knowing that they can be sued by railroad attorneys under FELA laws has induced railroad companies to require the following:

  • A reasonably safe workplace, including tools and equipment
  • Regular inspection and enforcement to ensure a hazard free workplace
  • Improved training and supervision of employees to avoid negligence causing railroad worker accidents
  • Elimination of unreasonable deadlines and work quotas
FELA Lawsuits

Victims of railroad worker accidents must realize that the minute these accidents occur, if the railroad company was in some way negligent, causing the accident, their employer will become their opponent in the impending FELA lawsuit. That means while their own railroad attorney is investigating the evidence to prove the company negligent, railroad attorneys are attempting to prove that the victim of railroad worker accidents was negligent and caused their own injuries. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to seek an experienced railroad attorney who knows “railroad language” and procedures and can get to the truth behind railroad worker accidents and find the evidence necessary to present successful FELA lawsuits.

In order to assist a railroad attorney in compiling a FELA lawsuit, victims of railroad worker accidents must provide their railroad attorney with detailed records of what has happened from the moment the accident occurred. It is necessary for a railroad attorney to receive all of this information throughout the preparation of the FELA lawsuit and until the injuries are healed or the prognosis states that they are permanent. Once a FELA lawsuit has been adjudicated, no additional damages or compensation can be awarded, so a railroad attorney will wait until all these facts are in before filing their FELA lawsuit. However, they must keep track of the statute of limitations for FELA lawsuits, which is three years from when railroad worker accidents occurred or when the victim knew, or should have known, that they were injured. Any attempt by a railroad attorney to file a FELA lawsuit after that date will be rejected.

Successful FELA Lawsuits

Because of the “lightweight” burden of proof, skilled railroad attorneys have had great success filing FELA lawsuits. However, such FELA lawsuits can be lost over even the slightest misstep or error, including missing the statute of limitations, failing to file the proper paperwork, and more. Yet an experienced railroad injury lawyer can often conclude a FELA lawsuit without even have to go to court, by negotiating pre-trial settlements of FELA lawsuits.

A railroad injury attorney or FELA Lawyer achieved the highest FELA lawsuit settlement in history out of court, resulting in an award of over $8 million to a young switchman who had both legs amputated in a switching accident. The employer wanted to grant the plaintiff only workers’ compensation benefits; however, the railroad attorney pursued the FELA lawsuit to a successful conclusion for the plaintiff.
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