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FELA Lawyers for Injured Railroad Workers: Chicago, Illiniois

FELA Accident Injury Case TypesRailroad workers have a higher risk of injury than people in 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.

The railroad industry is relatively small, employing around 200,000 workers nationwide. However, the risk of injury is statistically very high. Railroad workers are covered under the Federal Employees Liability Act (FELA), which outlines their rights and obligations after a serious injury at work.

Many Chicago, Illinois workers are employed by Union Pacific Railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Canadian National, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and the Metra commuter transit system.

The Chicago personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC are proud to represent injured railroad workers from across Illinois. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an Illinois railroad accident, contact our Chicago FELA lawyers now for a free review of your case.

Railroad Injury Attorneys Share Largest Companies

Legal Protection for Injured Railroad Workers Under FELA

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) is a law enacted by Congress to compensate and provide recovery for rail workers injured on the job in Illinois and other states. Passed in 1908, the U.S. government created FELA to more fully compensate rail workers for their injuries than did benefits received through regular workers' compensation.

Because of the high incidence of injury and death in the occupation, the government determined that a separate entity should compensate injured railroad workers. The government died decided that bearing a heightened risk should be passed on to the railroad companies through FELA.

The Liability Act differs from the standard workers' compensation law in several ways. Unlike workers' compensation, where fault for a workplace injury is irrelevant, an injured employee must prove at least partial fault on the part of their employer to make a successful injury claim, which is a tort-based system.

The new system provides an advantage over a state law negligence action, in which the defendant must be shown to be more than fifty percent to blame for the plaintiff to recover at all. Moreover, damages are often higher in value than under workers' compensation and can include pain and suffering.

Because of the unique requirements that apply to railroad injury cases, an injured worker needs to represent a skilled railroad accident attorney. Since negligence must be proven, retaining a railroad injury lawyer who fully understands the legalities involved in FELA cases can make a significant difference in the amount of compensation you receive.

Railroad Worker Accident FELA Injury Lawyer FAQs

In the section that follows, we answer some questions that people commonly ask about railroad employee injuries and accidents.

What is FELA?

Fela (Federal Employers' Liability Act) provides insurance coverage for nearly all railroad workers. In 1939, the federal government passed the FELA amendment as insurance coverage applicable to road award workers suffering on-the-job injuries.

How do I Exercise My FELA Rights?

If you have sustained a work-related injury, you must take immediate action, starting with ensuring that you file the report of the injury with your immediate supervisor.

Use your own words when submitting what happened and recognize that any embellishment could have serious legal consequences that you might not understand now. Do not hesitate to ask a personal injury attorney for legal assistance and advice before signing anything or speaking to a claims adjuster.

What is My FELA Claim Worth?

The value of your case is dependent on numerous factors. An attorney working on your behalf can help determine the severity and nature of your injuries and whether they are temporary or permanent.

The circumstances of your medical condition will help determine if you can return to work in your current position, another occupation, or not at all. Finally, the lawyer will evaluate the funds you have lost from time away from work and the lack of future earnings if you have a temporary/permanent disability.

How Long do Illinois Railroad Workers Have to Bring a Case?

Per section fifty-six of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 U.S. Code Section 56), you have three years from the date of the accident to bring a case for injuries that arose during employment as a railroad employee. The Act allows for an extension of time if you do not reasonably discover your injuries. Here is the language from the existing law:

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

Does the Law Protect Chicago Railroad Workers After They are Involved in Accidents?

Yes, federal law allows Chicago area rail workers to seek compensation for damages arising on the job from their employers' negligence per section fifty-one of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 U.S.C.A.). Note, this law assumes the worker filed a timely claim and was not negligent himself or herself.

Also, workers might think state-based workers' compensation claims and injuries arising out of the same circumstances.

What are the Most Common FELA Injuries?

Here are the most frequent injuries rail workers suffer on the job:

Doesn't Exhaust Pose a Risk to Illinois Railroad Workers?

Yes, workers face severe and substantial risks from the noxious chemicals and gases released from diesel locomotives. These dangerous fumes are released from trains, tanks, and equipment primarily. For instance, most trains are powered by large engines that run on diesel fuel.

When the trains eventually spit out the remnants of that diesel, workers often interact with particles and fumes that can cause them immediate and long-term injury. They frequently encounter these harmful materials, too, when tools like jackhammers break apart items that send gases right into their face and into their general vicinity.

It is not uncommon for rail employees to have exposure to carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, and even more hazardous fumes. If they do, they can experience severe damage to their face, lungs, and vital organs of their body.

The exposure can lead to cancer and other life-threatening conditions. Therefore, it is essential to remember that the things you breathe in and smell can lead to injury or illness while working as a worker.

Also, railroad companies are supposed to protect workers from these risks and harms under state and federal law. If they fail, and the worker suffers an injury, they might be able to recover.

View More Railroad Workplace FAQs

Frequent Causes of Chicago Railroad Worker Injuries

Many accidents that injure railroad employees do not happen in train accidents or derailments, but instead, involve duties that are performed during the average workday. Train crash accidents account for a small percentage of railroad injuries, although they may be more severe.

Some of the most common causes of railroad employee injuries are:

  • Falls: Most injuries happen when a worker is walking and trips, falls or stumbles over some type of obstacle
  • Hearing damage from experiencing elevated noise levels over long periods
  • Collision: Injuries sustained from driving or riding in other motor vehicles, such as trucks or forklifts
  • Overexertion injuries resulting from heavy lifting, lining switches, and applying the hand-brakes

Common Types of Illinois Railroad Worker Accidents

Railroad Worker Injury FelaEvery year, thousands of railroad employees are involved in workplace accidents. These accidents take a physical, financial, and emotional toll on them. Illinois is one of the most frequent places for railroad injuries.

These incidents occur on the railroad tracks, out in the yards, or even on the train. Here are some of the most common types of railroad accidents that implicate FELA:

  • Overexertion: Railroad employees can be injured in overexertion accidents when put in challenging situations like having to lift too much or lean too far to reach something. The unfortunate circumstances are put on them by the railroad employee and not a sign of employee failure.
  • Equipment: Railroad equipment and tools are complicated and dangerous. Even with proper training and supervision, an incident can arise, but workers do not always get those advantages. Linking tools, hammers, and other equipment cause numerous accidents for railroad staff.
  • Trains: Trains, cars, and other vehicles trigger many accidents for rail workers. Employees are frequently crushed, sideswiped, run over, or otherwise injured on the job.
  • Noise/Fumes: Railroad companies do not do a good job containing dangerous fumes and noises. These failures cause permanent damage to workers' lungs, ears, and other parts of their bodies.

Harmful Exposure to Silica at a Chicago Area Job

Silica is a naturally occurring mineral found in many things like granite, sand, and glass. Mining harvests the mineral in two useful forms: crystalline and non-crystalline, including rocks, quartz, and granite.

Like asbestos, silica becomes extremely dangerous once it gets airborne. If silica dust gets into the air, railroad workers can inhale if they do not have the proper equipment or safety training, causing silica dust to lodge in a worker's lungs.

Over time, inhalation of silica dust will create scar tissue damage resulting in breathing difficulty and even more substantial long-term health risks, not unlike mesothelioma. Even minimal inhalation of silica dust can lead to silicosis, affecting many railroad workers.

Successfully Resolving an Illinois FELA Case

By law, you have the legal right to seek compensation to recover out-of-pocket costs like medical bills and lost wages. Next, you can obtain damages for your intangible harms like pain and suffering.

Also, families can obtain wrongful death compensation for lost income, support, and similar losses. Finally, if the defendant's conduct was wildly outrageous, you can seek and recover for punitive damages.

Past Illinois Plaintiffs FELA Recovery Cases?

Plaintiff settlements for FELA claim average tens of thousands of dollars. Some received a lot more than this, and some received none at all.

The exact amount each received depended entirely on the facts and circumstances of that person's particular accident. Read more about FELA settlements here.

Sample FELA Settlements and Jury Verdicts Across Illinois Involving Personal Injury & Wrongful Death


A Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway employee drove trucks on and off rail cars. One day while working while high atop a rail car, debris in the bed of the car forced him to slip and fall off the vehicle, landing almost ten feet down on the ground.

The crash left him badly hurt, with a broken wrist and damaged collar bone, requiring surgery. Doctors also prescribed rehab and prescriptions.

While he attempted to return to work, he could not complete his duties. He filed a FELA claim citing a dangerous workplace setting led to his injuries.

The defendants at trial attempted to blame the victim, arguing that he was careless at his job. The plaintiff responded that the business failed to uphold safety standards.

The jury awarded the plaintiff $400,000 but found him partially responsible, Lowering the award to $228,000. In Illinois, if a jury determines a plaintiff was more than 50% to blame, he or she can't recover at all. Here's how that award broke down.

  • $200,000 For past/future lost income.
  • $100,000 For pain.
  • $100,000 For disability


A Union Pacific Railroad worker left for Rochelle, Illinois, walking along the tracks when his boss told him to switch the tract manually. Following those orders, he tripped over some weeds, fell, and injured his hip and knee that required surgery.

The victim requires needed eight surgeries in total and would need a hip replacement in the future. Also, he complained of constant pain.

His employer demoted him for his inability to return to work and do the same job as before the accident. In response, the victim filed a civil lawsuit alleging that the company should have cleared the weeds better.

The defendant responded by saying the victim could have taken an alternative path and showed pictures of a way around the weeds. The defendant further argued that a lot of the plaintiff's pain was from a birth injury.

Both sides refuse to settle and took the case to trial. The jury heard the evidence and found the defendant to be 90% responsible for the accident. The jury reduced the $2.6 million Illinois jury award to $2.36 million because of the victim's 10% responsibility.


The forty-year-old Metra railroad worker injured his back while moving a lever while trying to throw a switch, requiring surgery. His doctors fused his spine at the L4/L5 juncture and operated at the L5/S1 location.

Still, the victim suffered a lot of pain and paid all of his expensive medical bills upfront totaling tens of thousands of dollars. He faced the expense of pain four years of long-term care.

The extent of his pain diminished his ability to work or play as he could before the incident. He filed a civil lawsuit claiming that the company improperly maintained the switch and that some of the rods were loose.

The plaintiff said that the lever jammed upon movement. However, the defendant denied there were problems with the lever and showed how a recent review found nothing wrong with the switch.

Also, the defendant complained that the victim never reported his work-related injury. However, the facts didn't back up the defendant's theory.

The defendant couldn't point to an alternative story that made sense and negotiated a case settlement. The plaintiff obtained $500,000 to be used to pay his damages, medical bills, court costs, and other fees.


This case remains one of the highest railroad work settlements on record in Illinois. Railroad employees in a car, not a train, were working when the accident occurred. The victim filed a claim citing back problems.

The victim's job requires that he drive-through Illinois. At the time of the accident, he was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed while he was asleep.

The accident aggravated the man's back problems that resulted in fusion surgery. The procedure or accident left the victim with sensory body loss.

The victim filed a civil lawsuit against the employer claiming damages, including pain, costs, and disability. The defendant argued that the crash couldn't have prompted a bad outcome and refused to take responsibility for the injuries.

The case involved pre-existing injuries. However, defendants are almost always liable for all the damage their wrongful conduct causes that might include long-term disability, medical care, and lost income the victim suffered.

Both sides negotiated the settlement for past and future medical costs, pain, lost income, and related losses.


A thirty-year-old male Metra engineer walking into a train cab on a cold winter night slipped and fell on the oil he tracked in with a mix of snow and water. The man injured his knee and back, requiring spinal surgery and knee treatments.

By law, train companies must keep their premises safe for all employees, consumers, and visitors. The victim filed a civil law seeking compensation for his lost income. In response, the defense disagreed that they created a dangerous worksite, arguing that the area was reasonably safe.

The defendants also argued that even if the area was not entirely safe, the slip and fall did not cause the victim's injuries. However, the plaintiff's Arctic the case on strict liability grounds meaning that the jury could not consider the man's conduct is negligent.

His attorneys built a case that shifted the balance of power to the plaintiff's side. In response, both sides agree to a negotiated settlement of $5.3 million.

Approximately $3 million would pay for lost income over the man's lifetime, and the remainder would pay for medical bills, treatment, pain, suffering, disfigurement, and similar harm.

Trust the Chicago FELA Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers for Illinois Railroad Worker Accident Lawsuits

Every railroad accident lawyer from our firm is experienced in handling railroad worker legal issues throughout Illinois. If you or a family member has been injured while working for a railroad, we invite you to discuss your options for compensation with a qualified personal injury attorney.

Contact our Illinois FELA lawyers today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) to schedule a free consultation when you're injured through someone else's negligence. Let our law firm talk to you about your case through a confidential attorney-client relationship.

Please do not send sensitive information to our law office through voicemail, email, or text message. Our personal injury lawyers follow social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus).

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