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Railroad Worker Injury FELA Claims

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a railroad worker who was hurt on the job. He was lifting equipment when it broke from a cable that partially supported its weight and injured his shoulder.

You might think that workers’ compensation benefits would apply in this situation. But no, injured railroad workers must sue for Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) benefits.

FELA claims are processed under federal law, whereas non-railway workers’ compensation claims are governed by state law.

FELA claims are complex, and a limited number of attorneys handle them.

A three-year statute of limitations applies to most FELA claims, allowing an injury victim three years to sue.

But FELA cases can be complicated. If a party other than the railroad employer shares fault for the injury, the deadline to sue can be much shorter.

For example, suppose a worker is injured when a hydraulic hose bursts on a locomotive. The worker may be able to sue under FELA for up to three years. But, if he claims a hose manufacturing defect caused the hose to burst, he must typically sue the manufacturer within two years.

Here are some other differences to keep in mind.

Standard workers’ compensation claims typically permit a reduced weekly wage benefit (often 66% of their average weekly wage)

But, railroad FELA claimants may be entitled to 100% of their lost wages.

Also, unlike standard workers’ compensation claims, FELA claimants may be entitled to damages for pain and suffering.

But there is a trade-off.

Workers’ compensation claims typically permit the injured worker to recover damages without establishing fault on the employer’s part.

Under FELA, you must show that the railroad or its employees were negligent, and the negligence must have caused your injuries.

Railroad negligence can include failing to provide a reasonably safe work environment, providing unsafe equipment or tools, and failing to use needed safety devices.

Failure to inspect the work environment to maintain a free of hazards workplace also may come into play. A railroad also may be held liable if it fails to properly train and supervise employees or fails to enforce safety rules and regulations.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.