In 1908 Congress recognized that railroading is a highly dangerous occupation and they passed a law known as the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), now codified at 45 U.S.C. 51 et. seq. Under the FELA, an injured railroad worker can sue his railroad employer if he/she can show that the railroad was negligent. Unlike a Workers’ Compensation claim, the injured railroad worker needs to show negligence and not just that the injury occurred at work. If the injured railroad worker can show negligence, and show that the negligence of the railroad contributed to their injuries, then they are entitled to bring a lawsuit pursuant to FELA. Railroad workers are never eligible for state Workers’ Compensation benefits. Their sole and exclusive remedy is under the FELA. The damages that can be recovered in a FELA case include past and future wage loss, past and future loss of fringe benefits, and past and future pain and suffering.
Two other laws that are highly beneficial to injured workers in the FELA context are the Federal Safety Appliance Act, 49 U.S.C. 20301 et. seq., and the Federal Locomotive Inspection Act, 49 U.S.C. 20701 et. seq. If an injured railroad worker can show that a safety appliance defect on a railcar or a locomotive that was "in use" contributed to the injury, the railroad is absolutely liable and the worker cannot be found to be comparatively at fault. Similarly, any condition on a locomotive that is "in use" which poses an "unnecessary risk of personal injury" renders the railroad absolutely liable and the worker cannot be found comparatively at fault.
Aside from the Safety Appliance Act and the Locomotive Inspection Act, there are numerous federal regulations addressing the railroad industry in part 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. In order to effectively represent an injured railroad worker, the attorney needs to be intimately familiar with these statutes and regulations. Suffice it to say the typical personal injury firm is not normally equipped to deal with FELA cases.
The FELA is a very specialized area of the law and if you are injured it is highly advisable to hire an attorney who has significant experience in handling these types of cases. At our firm, Patrick J. Donoghue has tried and settled numerous FELA cases throughout the United States. Patrick has obtained multi-million dollar verdicts in a number of cases and is recognized as one of the top FELA attorneys in the country. Patrick comes from a railroading family. Four generations of his family have worked as locomotive engineers. This has given Patrick a distinct advantage in understanding railroad operations and in knowing how the railroad works. Take advantage of those unique skills to assure that you and your family obtain the best possible result in your case.