Railroad workers have a higher risk of injury than most other occupations. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2017, there were thirteen work-related deaths per 100 full-time rail employees, an issue that every Chicago FELA lawyer at our firm hopes to mitigate.
Considering that the railroad industry is relatively small, employing around 200,000 workers nationwide, the risk of railroad worker injury is statistically very high. Federal Employers Liability Act covers employees in the railroad industry and outlines their rights and obligations after a serious injury at work.
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Legal Protection for Injured Railroad Workers Under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)
Congress enacted FELA  to compensate injured railroad workers injured in Illinois and other states.
The government passed the Act in 1908. The United States Government created FELA as an exclusive remedy to compensate employees with more than regular injury benefits.
Workers’ compensation insurance policies cover employees in most other industries. In all states, workers’ comp provides similar benefits no matter how the worker’s injuries occurred in the workplace. But unlike workers’ comp insurance, the FELA benefit program is based on a fault-based system where injured railroad workers must prove the employer’s negligence is responsible for the accident or incident.
Critical Differences Between FELA and Workers Compensation Law
Lawmakers decided that the burden of bearing this risk should be passed on to the railroad companies through FELA. FELA differs from standard Illinois workers’ comp laws in several ways.
Unlike workers’ comp, where fault for an injury in the workplace is irrelevant, railroad workers must prove negligence caused their damages. To prove negligence or at least partial fault of their employer or another employee is challenging.
Damages in a FELA suit are often higher in value than under workers’ comp. If negligence is proven, you could recover damages, including lost wages, ongoing medical costs, mounting medical bills, pain, and suffering, as determined by a jury. Under Illinois’ workers’ compensation law, injured workers hurt at work would be limited in their financial recovery based upon the statutory compensation limits under worker’s comp.
Since plaintiffs must prove negligence, retaining a Chicago FELA attorney who understands the legalities involved in railroad injury and damages, FELA claims can significantly affect the amount of FELA compensation an injured railroad worker can receive.
Statute of Limitations
Additionally, FELA claims must be filed within three years of the discovery of the injury and its cause to fall within the statute of limitations.
Frequent Causes of Injuries
Many mishaps that injure rail employees do not happen in railroad accidents or train derailments but instead involve duties performed during the average workday. Train crash railroad accidents are a small percentage of railroad injuries, albeit more severe. Some of the most common causes of injured worker damages include:
- Falls: Most injuries from falling happen when the injured worker is walking and trips or stumbles
- Exposure to Asbestos: The railroad company could be liable for damages if the employee hurt on the job was exposed to toxic materials causing asbestosis or mesothelioma
What If a Chicago Railroad Employee is Partially Responsible for an Accident?
A railroad worker hurt on the job in a railroad mishap could bring a Chicago FELA claim if they were partially responsible for their accident. The Federal Employers Liability Act (45 USCA) applies comparative negligent standards to filing claims related to FELA, where the worker’s percentage of negligence is applied to the value of their interstate commerce claim. (See CSX Transp., Inc. v. McBride, 564 U.S. 685)
The pure comparative fault doctrine used in FELA scenarios differs from the traditional doctrine of comparative fault. Under pure comparative fault, a worker hurt on the job partially responsible for an accident can still pursue a FELA claim. Any victim and surviving spouse can file a claim in state or federal court to obtain compensation.
Proving a Railroad Company’s Negligence As Responsible for a FELA Accident
Under FELA law, injured workers must demonstrate that the railroad company’s negligence was responsible for their work-related injury. Many of these FELA claims allege employer/company negligence, such as the failure to:
- Provide a safe working environment with sufficient equipment and follow safety standards
- Provide adequate training
- Assist workers in ensuring the safety
An experienced attorney can assist you with establishing other employee/employer negligence.
What Are the Most Common FELA Injuries?
The most frequent injuries that railroad workers suffer in the workplace include:
- Lung damage
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Back/neck injuries
- Burn injuries
- Herniated discs
- Spinal cord injury
Trust the Chicago FELA Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers for Railroad Worker Accident Claims
Each Chicago railroad worker accident lawyer from our law firm is experienced in handling railroad employee injury legal issues throughout Illinois. Were you or a family member injured while working for a railroad and experienced pain, suffering, and lost wages? If so, our Cook County attorneys can discuss your options to obtain compensation by filing a FELA claim on a contingency fee basis.
Call our Illinois FELA lawyer at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation when injured by someone else’s negligence. Our team has helped clients recover millions of dollars in compensation and damages for their pain and suffering through financial settlements.
Let our Chicago railroad injury lawyers talk to you about your FELA claim through a confidential attorney-client relationship. Speak with experienced lawyers about your railroad injuries today.
Resources:  U.S. Government Accountability Office