In today's blog post, I discuss the Federal Employers Liability Act
("FELA") and how it provides a remedy for railroad employees
other than workers' compensation. If you or a loved one has been injured
while employed on the railroad here in New York, you need to know that
you do not have to settle for workers' compensation benefits only.
You, as an employee of the railroad, have the right to file a claim for
personal injuries in state or federal court.
How does this happen, you may ask? Well, normally employees cannot file
a claim against their employer for personal injuries except in some very
limited circumstances. The Federal Employers Liability Act under 45 USC
§ § 51 through 60 provides that employees injured while working
for a railroad are entitled to file a claim for personal injuries. FELA
allows for a broader recovery than normally may be obtained under a common
law negligence claim. How so? It permits claims for some intentional torts
- like an assault by another employee - and a more liberal approach is
taken to what constitutes negligence, foresee-ability (when talking about
the duty of reasonable care that someone has to breach to be held liable)
and proximate cause - the causal connection between the act or lack of
act that caused a person's injuries. The test to determine if the
railroad may be held liable is whether the railroad's negligence played
any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury or death for which
the damages are sought.
Our readers should know that there is also a three (3) year statute of
limitations for this type of claim. That means that you must file a claim
in court within three (3) years of the accrual of the action. Accrual
is defined by the statute as the injury and its cause. This permits employees
who have been exposed to hazardous conditions and do not develop injuries
until many years later to file suit when a reasonable person knows or
should know in the exercise of reasonable diligence about the injury and
its cause. A plaintiff has to investigate an injury and its cause if they
are going to file a claim under this act.
Negligence under the act is much more broad than the common law standard.
Most claims under this Act are for an unsafe workplace or the railroad
furnishing tools that are not reasonably safe, or the sudden starting
or stopping of a train. However, an assault by a railroad employee, if
the railroad has continued the employment of the employee after becoming
aware of the assaulting employee's vicious disposition or propensity
for horseplay. Liability can also be imposed on a railroad for lax enforcement
of its own safety rules. Employees can also file claims for negligent
infliction of emotional distress under this Act but the employee must
be in the zone of danger where they sustained physical impact or were
placed at risk of immediate risk of physical harm by that conduct.
For the statue to apply, the plaintiff must be an employee of the railroad
carrier and the railroad must be engaged in interstate or foreign commerce
when it performed the negligent action that caused plaintiff's injury.
The Act may, in certain circumstances apply to the Port authority of New
York and New Jersey as a result.
All of this being said, it is clear that railroad employees enjoy a special
status in the law. They have a much greater protection in the workplace
than almost any other type of employee and railroad carriers owe their
employees a much high duty to provide a safe workplace and safe tools.
If you are a railroad employee who has been injured on the job, you really
should call and schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights and
potential remedies if you have been injured on the job. We have over 150
combined years of experience and our consultations are always free. Call
us at 1.800.900.6204 if you or anyone you love has been injured with working
for the railroad and thanks for taking time to read this blog post.