What Are The Most Important FELA Laws?

What Are The Most Important FELA Laws? In this section, we want to lay out a set of laws and statutes that are relevant to an employee railroad accident case. The specific act you would bring your cause of action under is called the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, or FELA for short. Of course, these are just snapshots of what is important. To truly understand how the law impacts your specific case, call us today!

  1. Liability
  2. Common Carrier Definition
  3. Statute Of Limitations And Jurisdiction
  4. Duties Of Employers And Rights Of Employees
  5. Contributory Negligence
  6. Assumption Of Risk
  7. Survival Right Of Action
  8. Dismissal
  9. FELA Statutes
  10. Want To Know More About FELA Laws?

Liability

Here is the main section that spells out the liability that railroad companies, often called common carriers, have when engaging in commerce under FELA:

45 U.S.C.A §51:

“Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several States or Territories, or between any of the States and Territories, or between the District of Columbia and any of the States or Territories, or between the District of Columbia or any of the States or Territories and any foreign nation or nations, shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce, or, in case of the death of such employee, to his or her personal representative, for the benefit of the surviving widow or husband and children of such employee; and, if none, then of such employee's parents; and, if none, then of the next of kin dependent upon such employee, for such injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment.”

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Common Carrier Defintion

One of the earliest questions you will face in litigation is whether or not you can sue the person who caused the incident. In this next section of FELA, the law defines who you can sue for railroad employee injuries:

45 U.S.C.A §57:

“The term “common carrier” as used in this chapter shall include the receiver or receivers or other persons or corporations charged with the duty of the management and operation of the business of a common carrier.”

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Statute Of Limitations And Jurisdiction

The question always arises-how long do I have to file a FELA case? Below, the law provides you with three years to do so and also outlines jurisdictional issues.

45 U.S.C.A §56:

“No action shall be maintained under this chapter unless commenced within three years from the day the cause of action accrued.

Under this chapter an action may be brought in a district court of the United States, in the district of the residence of the defendant, or in which the cause of action arose, or in which the defendant shall be doing business at the time of commencing such action. The jurisdiction of the courts of the United States under this chapter shall be concurrent with that of the courts of the several States.”

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Duties Of Employers And Rights Of Employees

The following language guarantees that this is not the only avenue to compensation for employees or the only obligation that employers have to them.

45 U.S.C.A §58:

“Nothing in this chapter shall be held to limit the duty or liability of common carriers or to impair the rights of their employees under any other Act or Acts of Congress.”

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Contributory Negligence

This section of FELA provides the contributory negligence rule for railroad accidents. In certain instances, employees’ recoveries can be diminished if their conduct contributed to the incident.

45 U.S.C.A §53:

“In all actions on and after April 22, 1908 brought against any such common carrier by railroad under or by virtue of any of the provisions of this chapter to recover damages for personal injuries to an employee, or where such injuries have resulted in his death, the fact that the employee may have been guilty of contributory negligence shall not bar a recovery, but the damages shall be diminished by the jury in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to such employee: Provided, That no such employee who may be injured or killed shall be held to have been guilty of contributory negligence in any case where the violation by such common carrier of any statute enacted for the safety of employees contributed to the injury or death of such employee.

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Assumption Of Risk

This is a very critical part of FELA. It states that employers cannot argue that employees assumed the risk if the employees were harmed because of the employers’ negligence.

45 U.S.C.A §54:

“In any action brought against any common carrier under or by virtue of any of the provisions of this chapter to recover damages for injuries to, or the death of, any of its employees, such employee shall not be held to have assumed the risks of his employment in any case where such injury or death resulted in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier; and no employee shall be held to have assumed the risks of his employment in any case where the violation by such common carrier of any statute enacted for the safety of employees contributed to the injury or death of such employee.”

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Survival Right Of Action

If the railroad employee dies in the workplace accident, then FELA provides that his or her family can recover for the injuries that arose due to the employer’s negligent conduct.

45 U.S.C.A §59:

“Any right of action given by this chapter to a person suffering injury shall survive to his or her personal representative, for the benefit of the surviving widow or husband and children of such employee, and, if none, then of such employee's parents; and, if none, then of the next of kin dependent upon such employee, but in such cases there shall be only one recovery for the same injury.”

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Dismissal

Similar to other federal causes of action, FELA cases can be dismissed according to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Here are the list of reasons for dismissal that Rule 12 provides.

F.R.C.P. 12(b):

“(b) How to Present Defenses. Every defense to a claim for relief in any pleading must be asserted in the responsive pleading if one is required. But a party may assert the following defenses by motion:

(1) lack of subject-matter jurisdiction;

(2) lack of personal jurisdiction;

(3) improper venue;

(4) insufficient process;

(5) insufficient service of process;

(6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; and

(7) failure to join a party under Rule 19.

A motion asserting any of these defenses must be made before pleading if a responsive pleading is allowed. If a pleading sets out a claim for relief that does not require a responsive pleading, an opposing party may assert at trial any defense to that claim. No defense or objection is waived by joining it with one or more other defenses or objections in a responsive pleading or in a motion.”

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FELA Statutes

To read the comprehensive set of laws codified in FELA, click here.

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Want To Know More About FELA Laws?

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can walk you through all the laws and cases that relate to your railroad accident. Many of them are complicated but they can have a tremendous impact on your life. Plus, we can show you what steps you need to take to collect the compensation that you are entitled to in court. Just call Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers today to find out what you can do.

To learn more about FELA claims, please read the following articles:

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