Since 1908, railroad employees have been protected by the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, commonly referred to as FELA. FELA was an important and what courts have described as a “humanitarian” response by the United States Congress to the many dangers faced by railroad employees in their everyday work, and to the legal obstacles faced by railroad employees when trying to obtain compensation for their injuries. These former obstacles included defenses of contributory negligence by the railroad, in effect, a defense of blaming the railroad employee for his or her own injuries, and, the railroad’s defense of assumption of risk. FELA established a railroad employee’s right to sue his or her employer for injuries caused by the railroad’s negligence.
FELA also prohibits the railroad’s defense of assumption of risk, and establishes a system of comparative fault. A comparative fault system provides better protection of the rights of injured railroad employees because a railroad can no longer avoid all responsibility for injuring its employees simply by showing that the employee may be 1% at fault for causing his or her injuries. Now, railroads are required to pay for the harm they cause, and the employee’s recovery will be reduced by his or her percentage fault, if any.
The right of railroad employees to sue their employer is critical because state worker’s compensation laws do not protect railroad employees. Under FELA, injured railroad employees may recover for their past and future medical expenses, loss of wages, loss of earning capacity, and unlike under worker’s compensation systems, for their pain and suffering.
To prove a claim under FELA the claimant must establish that:
These general elements are just the start of understanding, and proving a FELA claim. FELA attorneys must also be familiar with and understand, and help their clients understand, complex laws that apply to railroads, including federal safety statutes such as the Safety Appliance Act, and the Boiler Inspection Act.
Of course, railroads also cause injuries to people that are not employed by the railroad. These injuries can occur to drivers at railroad crossings, to drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents with railroad employees, or in train accidents and derailments.
Do not attempt to resolve your railroad injury without the assistance of an experienced attorney. If you or a loved one has been injured in a railroad accident or a train accident, call us now to schedule a free consultation. When it comes to getting the best possible results and protecting all of your rights for you and your family, you need the experience and skill of James Sorrels.Get in touch with us today for a free consultation.
Law Offices of James S. Sorrels
The Sunset Building
23607 Highway 99, Suite 3A
Edmonds, WA 98026
Law Offices of James S. Sorrels - Seattle
3131 Western Ave., Suite 410
Seattle, WA 98121
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