Railroad Worker / FELA Accident FAQ's
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents people with railroad site injuries suffered in accidents such as job-related collisions, work-related accidents and other types of professional negligence. Our law firm has collected a series of railroad worker accident FAQs related to the medical and legal aspects of an accident involving FELA benefits rules and regulations. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
FELA/Railroad Worker FAQs
The Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) is a Federal law passed by Congress that protects railroad workers suffering on-the-job injuries. The federal act identifies the railroad's legal responsibility to provide every worker a safe environment even at locations that are not railroad property. Injured victims must prove that the railroad was negligent in failing to use reasonable care to create and maintain a safe workplace to ensure they receive financial compensation. Injured railroad workers are entitled to file compensation claims to recover full wage losses, future earnings and pain and suffering.
FELA laws provide railroad workers more protection compared to other occupations in America. However, it is important that every injured victim understand their rights to ensure they receive all available benefits. The railroad worker accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) represent victims and surviving family members and seek compensation through compensatory civil cases and wrongful death lawsuits. Our legal team has assembled a comprehensive list of railroad worker FELA accident frequently asked questions and posted the answers below.
Is FELA a Part of the Worker's Compensation Benefit Program?
An injured worker for the railroad system must file a claim through the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA), not Workers compensation, and prove that the railroad was responsible for their injuries because of negligence. The legal action of filing and resolving a claim under FELA is different than Worker's Compensation laws where injured workers are not required to establish fault of their employer. Claimants hoping to resolve their case under FELA are required to show that some negligent action by the railroad directly caused their injuries.
FELA is significantly different than Worker's Compensation which is a more arbitrary, fixed benefit program that usually under-compensates injured employees. Alternatively, FELA provides comprehensive monetary recovery for every damage the injured railroad worker endured including benefits, lost wages, medical expenses, and payment for non-tangible damages including loss of enjoyment of life, pain, suffering and mental anguish.
How do I Receive Benefits for Railroad Worker-Associated Injury?
First, it is crucial to report the injury to your immediate supervisor, or their supervisor, and ensure that the accident report is filled out completely under the requirements of your union agreement.
Can I be Fired for Filing an Injury Report or Hiring an Attorney?
By federal law, the railroad system cannot fire, intimidate or harass you if you report your injury. The regulation states exactly that “harassment or intimidation of any person that is calculated to discourage or prevent such person from receiving proper medical treatment or from reporting an accident, incident, injury, or illness will not be permitted or tolerated and will result in disciplinary action against such person committing the harassment or intimidation.” In fact, hiring an attorney is the surest way to ensure you are not intimidated or harassed because your lawyer will protect you through the entire process of receiving the benefit you deserve and maintaining your job.
What are my Rights to File a Claim Under Fela?
According to FELA law, you have the right to:
- Retain a lawyer
- Speak about the accident with your attorney
- File a lawsuit against your employer to recover damages involved with your injury
Am I Required to Make Additional Statements Other Than Filing a Report?
No. Under FELA law there are no requirements to make additional statements. That said, it is crucial to consult with a reputable FELA attorney who specializes in railroad accident cases and your union representative to ensure you handle your case as required by law.
Do I Need to See the Doctor That's Recommended by the Railroad?
No. You can receive medical care from any doctor you choose. The railroad has no legal authority to recommend, suggest or require that you seek medical attention from a doctor on their list or any list.
Is a True That my Doctor Must Share my Medical Information With the Railroad?
No, unlike the Worker's Compensation Benefit Program, your doctors are not required by law to share your medical information with your employer. Ask your attorney to provide a sample letter to show your doctor what the law is. The document provides a comprehensive explanation of what is and is not required when they provide your care.
Can I Postpone Filing a FELA Claim for Compensation?
Not really. There is a statute of limitations of three years to file a lawsuit or settle a compensation claim. That said, there are significant complexities to the federal statute of limitations that can only be deciphered by a competent personal injury attorney who specializes in railroad law. The quicker you file, the sooner you will receive financial compensation. Filing earlier can help preserve evidence including eyewitness accounts and equipment and material found at the scene of the accident.
My Boss Still Pays me Even Though I am Unable to Work. Why do I Need to Sue?
While you may be getting paid during your recovery process to ensure that you can return to work after your job-related injury has healed, you likely are facing extensive medical bills and other costs associated with your accident. You may require assistance around the house during your recovery, or your spouse might have taken time off from their job to provide your care. You may need assistance with childcare. You certainly will need medical assistance in the future. Consider all the ‘not so obvious' effects of your injury including long-term care, disfigurement, scarring, personal disability or diminished quality of life caused by your pain and suffering.
What are Common Railroad Worker Injuries Involving a FELA Report?
The railroad accident injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers have represented dozens of injured railroad workers who have suffered serious injuries that include:
- Brain trauma
- Spinal cord injury
- Fire and burn injury
- Fractures and broken bones
- Severe lacerations and cuts
- Crushing injuries
- Electrocution and electrical shock
- Internal organ damage
- Wrongful death
Many railroad accident injuries are the result of working in unsafe conditions, failure to follow regulatory compliance and failing safety inspections involving hazardous materials, railway track maintenance, signal and train controls, equipment safety, operating practices, training, and failing to follow railway safety.
What About an Occupational Illness, Repetitive Stress Injury or Cumulative Trauma?
FELA law does provide injury benefits for numerous injuries including repetitive stress, cumulative trauma, or occupational-related illness. However, the three-year statute of limitation still regulates the length of time you must file a claim for compensation. Because of that, it is crucial to discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer to ensure you still have a valid claim.
If my Boss' Insurance Company Offered a Settlement and it is Not Enough, What do I do?
If you believe that the settlement is not sufficient enough to cover your bills, or you are just not sure, it is essential to speak with a personal injury attorney who specializes in railroad FELA worker-injury cases. We recommend that you never sign anything or agree to a settlement if you feel uncomfortable about what is being offered.
Once you have signed a document, accept the check, or deposit their check you have signed away your rights to file for additional benefits under the Federal Employer's Liability Act. Instead, contact the FELA Worker Injury Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers. Let our legal team determined the value of the case and present legal options on how best to proceed.
It is not Obvious Who's at Fault for my Injuries. Can I Still File a Claim?
Under FELA, the law provides provisions referred to as “contributory negligence.” This rule stipulates that the railroad remains legally liable even if they are at fault for only a small percentage of your injuries. That said, if the court determines that the railroad is 50% responsible for your injuries and you are 50% responsible, the jury award will be divided accordingly. You could conclude that if the jury awarded you $100,000 for your injuries and you were 50% responsible you would receive $50,000 instead of $100,000 that would have been paid by the railroad.
Why Does my Attorney Want to Investigate a Case That was Already Investigated?
As your legal representative, your attorney will perform all interactions with the railroad company and their insurance carrier. Even though the insurance company likely investigated the accident, our law firm will conduct an in-house investigation to determine exactly how the event happened to identify all parties that might be at fault for your injuries. With a comprehensive understanding of what happened, our legal team will have additional information to build a compelling case to prove why you deserve every available benefit.
At some point, the insurance carrier for the railroad company will offer a settlement to resolve your case. When this occurs, we will provide the advice you need to make an informed decision to accept the negotiated settlement or take your case to trial.
How do You Build a Case for Compensation?
Our team of attorneys has years of experience in representing clients who were injured while working in the railroad system. Through the investigation, the collection of evidence, testimony by expert witnesses, and other effective strategies and tactics, we will prove your claim for compensation based on the Federal Employers Liability Act. Our attorneys may base your case on the proof that the reckless negligence of the railroad caused your injuries. The foundation of your case could involve the railway system that:
- Developed unsafe workplace policies
- Failed to maintain equipment or providing defective equipment
- Hired supervisors, managers, and other employees that mismanaged the workplace
- Was negligent through their inattention or distraction
- Failed to take every appropriate step to remedy an unsafe working condition
My Loved One Died in the Railroad Accident. Can I File a Claim?
Under FELA law, all surviving family members of an employee killed in a railroad accident are legally entitled to file a claim for compensation. The claim will be based on monetary recovery for funeral and burial expenses, the loss of any future earnings, grieving, and the loss of a loved one that provided parental care to children and spousal companionship. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common fatalities involving railroad workers in America include:
- Transportation accident
- Falls from a great height
- Highway crashes
- Construction injury
- Falling in front of a moving railway vehicle
How Much can I Expect to Receive for a FELA Compensation Claim?
The amount of your compensatory damages is determined by the extent of your injuries and other factors that include your ongoing medical expenses, hospitalization costs, and past, current, and future lost wages. Our law firm may also seek compensation for your decreased earning ability to work in the future. A compensation claim will also pay past, ongoing and future pain, suffering, mental anguish, and emotional stress.
How Much do You Charge to Review FELA Compensation Cases?
The railroad accident injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) provide every potential client a no-obligation, initial case evaluation at no charge. During the consultation appointment, our legal team will discuss your case with you, review the evidence, and provide various legal options to ensure your family is adequately compensated for your injuries.
I Have no Money to Pay for a Fela Lawsuit? How can I Hire an Attorney?
If you believe that your injuries are the result of negligence by the railroad company, you are entitled to file a claim for compensation. Our law firm prosecutes railroad worker accident cases. Our law firm accepts all personal injury cases, wrongful death lawsuits, and Railroad accident injury claim for compensation through contingency fee agreements. This arrangement will postpone payment of all legal services until after we have successfully resolved your case. Also, we offer a “No Win/No-Fee” guarantee, meaning if we are unable to secure monetary compensation on your behalf, you owe us nothing.
How Much is my Railroad Employee Accident Case Worth?
While there are many factors that contribute to the value of your railroad employee accident injury case such as: medical expenses, lost income, pain and disability (only mention if not mentioned earlier on the page) the cases below will hopefully give you some insight into how these cases are valued by juries, lawyers and insurance companies. While these cases can be instructive, they should not be conclusive in valuing your particular situation.
Jury Verdict for $2 million in California (2003) – A suffered disc damage when his leg fell through a railroad bridge planking where he was working on a switching move, and he twisted his back. One of the grounds of the lawsuit was that the defendant failed to routinely inspect and properly maintain the bridge to ensure the safety of those working in the area. The defendant admitted liability but claimed that the plaintiff’s back was already injured and that was the cause of the harm that he suffered. The damages awarded by the jury were for pain and suffering.
Jury Verdict for $1.632 million in California (2019) – The plaintiff was attempting to unload a guard rail out of a grapple truck he was operating when the rail rack dislodged and hit him in the head. The plaintiff broke his fibula and suffered neck and back injuries and required surgeries for both injuries. The lawsuit claimed that the grapple truck's removable rail rack was not secured to the car with pins and the tethers that were supposed to secure the pins to the rail racks were torn. The defendant argued that the accident was the plaintiff’s own fault because he failed to inspect the truck before opening it.
Jury Verdict for $2.94 million in Arizona (2015) – The lawsuit was brought on behalf of a train conductor who died when he was struck by a train. The decent was in the process of releasing the handbrakes on several railcars behind locomotives when the accident occurred. The lawsuit claimed in part that the railroad caused the train to stop at an unsafe location and failed to provide a path next to the train for the crew to traverse. The plaintiff also alleged insufficient training and a failure to provide the workers with appropriate personal protective equipment.
Jury Verdict for $2.63 million in Illinois (2018) – This suit was not brought by a railroad worker, but by someone who was walking next to tracks that the railroad company had a legal obligation to maintain. The lawsuit alleged that the plaintiff fell as he was walking on a roadbed that had vegetation and weeds on property nearby railroad tracks that had been allowed to become overgrown. As a result, the plaintiff suffered injuries to both his knee and his hip, each of which required surgeries to repair. $1.65 million of the verdict was for pain and suffering.
Jury Verdict for $5.3 million in Illinois (2017) – The plaintiff was a conductor who was working on a commuter railroad. He was while stepping down from the end of the locomotive onto a passenger car, but tripped over debris which included snow and oil. Law required the railroad to keep these passageways clear and to provide a railroad car free of hazards. The plaintiff suffered spinal nerve injury as well as damage to the disc. The lawsuit claimed that the railroad had an obligation to treat the passageways with salt to keep the hazardous conditions from occurring. Much of the verdict against the railroad consisted of compensatory past wages.
Jury Verdict for $1.232 million in New Jersey (2017) – The plaintiff was working on a train when the train was struck by a vehicle. In the accident, the plaintiff suffered neck and back injuries. The railroad was responsible for not operating the train properly and failing to warn the plaintiff that a collision was imminent. Both the railroad and the employer of the driver that struck the car were found legally responsible by the jury for the plaintiff’s injuries.
Jury Verdict for $8.5 million in Texas (2017) – A railroad worker fell from a train car when he was unloading a feed truck into a hopper train car. The conductor allowed the plaintiff to get on top of the job car, which was necessary to do his job, but then allegedly failed to notify the plaintiff when the train was to start moving. The plaintiff fell 15 feet to the coupling between two rail cars. In the fall, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries, including pelvic fractures. He suffered permanently disabling nerve damage and physical impairment which kept him from being able to continue working in his job.
Jury Verdict for $1.277 million in Indiana (2015) – The plaintiff was a conductor for the defendant railroad. In the scope of his employment, he was sitting in a seat operating the train. The seat on which he was sitting collapsed while he was in it. He fell backwards and struck his head against a locomotive cab panel. His suffered numerous injuries to his spine and back that required extensive physical therapy and rehabilitation. The plaintiff alleged that the railroad failed to properly maintain and inspect the seat in the train and failed to warn him of a dangerous condition. The entirety of the verdict was for pain and suffering.
Jury Verdict for $200,000 in Indiana (2012) – The plaintiff was an engineer operating a train. He claimed that stretches of track over which his train travelled were not adequately maintained such that he was subject to excessive full-body vibration when his train crossed over those tracks. The plaintiff claimed that the vibrations caused injuries to his lumbar and cervical spine. In addition to questioning the track condition, the plaintiff also claimed that the railroad company did not provide safe seats or suspension on the train. The jury found that the railroad company violated federal track safety standards.
Jury Verdict for $1.15 million in Colorado (2017) – The plaintiff was a laborer on the railroad. He claims that he was forced to wear tight fitting work gloves for certain work tasks that caused hand/wrist compression. As a result, he developed carpal tunnel syndrome that required surgery to correct. The defendant argued that it was the plaintiff’s own negligence that caused the injury, and the jury found the plaintiff 40 percent responsible for his own injuries. Nevertheless, since the railroad was more than half responsible, the plaintiff was able to recover something for his injuries.
Jury Verdict for $2.8 million in Colorado (2009) – The plaintiff was riding on a locomotive. He was standing on the bottom step of the train when the locomotive passed over two rail torpedoes. This set off two loud explosions that injured the plaintiff. Specifically, the plaintiff claims to have mild brain injury, with temporary hearing and memory loss, headaches, vertigo, and emotional distress. The entirety of the plaintiff’s jury award was for pain and suffering.
Jury Verdict for $1.847 million in Georgia (2015) – The plaintiff was a train conductor for the defendant railroad company. He was not in a train at the time of the accident, but was riding in a transportation van belonging to the railroad company. The van was struck by a train and the plaintiff suffered numerous back injuries that will require future surgeries. The lawsuit primarily alleged that the railroad company’s driver was negligent in failing to look for an oncoming train when he crossed the grade. Most of the damage award was for future lost wages for the plaintiff.
Jury Verdict for $5 million in Nevada (2016) – A railroad worker was driving over a makeshift bridge in his truck. He had equipment in his truck and was pulling a trailer behind his truck. The converted railcar bridge, designed and owned by the railroad, suddenly collapsed underneath him, dropping the full rig down the embankment approximately a dozen feet to the bottom of the ravine below. The plaintiff suffered numerous spinal and back injuries that required a complex surgical procedure. The railroad was ultimately found to be negligent in its design and construction of the bridge which it designed by turning an old rail car into a bridge.
Jury Verdict for $2.5 million in Nevada (2004) - The plaintiff was a conductor for the railroad who was given the assignment of switching out a car at the back of his train. He was trying to throw a switch that would divert the car onto a side track. He did not know that there was a spike that was placed in the switch. The lever jammed and the plaintiff suffered an injury to his back in the process that required three surgeries. The plaintiff claimed that the railroad did not properly inspect the switch, but the railroad had argued that the switch was visible and the plaintiff should have noticed it.
Jury Verdict for $12.5 million in South Carolina (2003) – The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the deceased plaintiff who died when he was struck by a piece of railroad equipment when crossing tracks. The estate claimed that the railroad failed to properly maintain the tracks, allowing them to become overgrown with vegetation in a manner that obstructed the decedent’s view. The lawsuit also claimed the railroad equipment was travelling at an excessive rate of speed. $7.5 million of the verdict was in the form of punitive damages against the railroad.