The railroad industry is hazardous, with a fatal injury rate more than twice the all-industry rate, especially for railroad brake, signal, and switch operators, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, rail yard engineers have much higher rates of occupational injuries than other jobs, and rail engineers, conductors and yardmasters have higher rates of injury and illness than the national average.
What is FELA?
When a railroad worker is injured during the course of his or her employment, the worker does not look to the workers’ compensation statutes like other employees in New Jersey and around the country.
Railroad workers are covered under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), which was established in 1908 as a means to protect railroad workers employed across the nation. For more than 100 years, the FELA has provided a federal system for railroad workers and their families to pursue legal recovery for injuries suffered while on the job.
The FELA allows railroad workers the right to recover damages for any injury incurred where the injury results “in whole or in part from any negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of [the railroad], 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.” (45 U.S.C. 51.)
Unlike the workers’ compensation system, an injured railroad employee can make a claim against his or her employer for pain and suffering, in addition, to disability and economic losses. However, the FELA requires that the injured worker prove that the railroad failed to act reasonably in providing a safe workplace.
However, an injured railroad employee may also have a claim pursuant to the Boiler Inspection Act and/or the Federal Safety Appliance Act. These Acts create standards of care, which the railroads have to follow, and a railroad’s failure to comply with those standards of care, which result in injury, automatically lead to the railroad being held liable for the injured railroad worker’s injuries. A showing of negligence is not required.
Pursuing a case under the FELA takes a tremendous amount of specialized knowledge of the Federal statutes and the case law around the country interpreting those Federal Statutes. The attorneys at Cerussi & Gunn, P.C. have extensive experience pursuing cases under the FELA, the Boiler Inspection Act, and the Federal Safety Appliance Act on behalf of injured railroad workers and their families in both State and Federal court.
Types of FELA Cases
- Train accidents
- Train derailments
- Excessive speed causing accidents
- Injury due to faulty equipment
- Defective safety devices
- Lack of inspections and maintenance
- Unsafe premises
- Hearing loss
- Exposure to toxic fumes
- Occupational Injuries
Reasons Why Railroad Injuries Occur
Most railroad injuries can be traced back to 3 common causes:
- Human Error – Human factors in train accidents include failure to brake safely, traveling at unsafe speeds, and operating the train while impaired or distracted.
- Track Defects – This includes debris or other obstacles blocking the tracks, faulty tracks or poor maintenance of tracks and rail yards.
- Equipment Defects – Defects include objects protruding from the train, failure of the brakes, wheels or other parts of the train as well as malfunctioning signals, lights, whistles, gates and other equipment at railroad crossings.
Types of Compensation Pursuant to the FELA
Under FELA, injured railroad workers can seek legal recovery for the following:
- Past and Future Medical Expenses
- Past Lost Wages
- Future Loss of Earning Capacity
- Funeral Costs
- Non-economic Damages for Pain, Suffering, Disability, Impairment, and Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Let Us Help You Recover From Your Railroad Injury
At our firm, we are committed to ensuring that our clients receive the best possible representation and strategic, personalized resolutions to the issues that arise out of railroad accidents. The New Jersey FELA lawyers at Cerussi & Gunn, P.C. pursue just compensation for our clients and we will fight to ensure that your rights as a victim are fully protected.