Railroad and FELA Cases

 In 1906, Congress first enacted what has become known as the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). The name is misleading as the act only applies to employees of railroad companies engaged in interstate commerce who are injured on the job. Oddly enough, it does not apply to employees of the federal government. The FELA came about because thousands of railroad workers were killed or maimed annually during the late 1800’s. President Theodore Roosevelt was a staunch and early champion of FELA which he viewed as necessary to hold the railroad industry accountable for the cost of “the legs, eyes, arms, and lives, which it consumed in its operations.”
FELA created a system whereby injured workers can receive legal compensation for their injuries. It provides a uniform liability standard for working conditions and employee safety on the job.FELA requires railroad companies to provide employees with a reasonable, safe workplace (equipment, tools, safety devices, etc.) and ensure employees are properly trained, equipped and supervised. Railroads have a duty to inspect the work environment to ensure it is free of hazards and to provide employees with adequate help and assistance. They must also make sure safety rules and regulations are enforced and take reasonable measures to keep employees safe from crimes and intentional acts by other employees and third parties.FELA is governed by the doctrine of comparative fault wherein a workers damages is reduced by his percentage fault only. For example, if a jury awards a railroad worker $1,000,000 for his injuries after finding the worker 10% at fault and the railroad company 90% at fault, the worker will recover $900,000.
The burden of proof in a FELA claim is known as a “featherweight” burden, it is less than the burden in an ordinary negligence claim. A FELA plaintiff need only to show that the railroad was somehow negligent, and that such negligence, no matter how small in its relation to the injuries suffered, played some role in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. Railroads may also be held strictly liable for violating federal standards pertaining to workplace safety, e.g., Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, the Boiler Inspection Act, the Safety Appliance Act, etc. The worker must only show that the law in question was violated and that he was injured as a result.FELA allows for recovery of the following damages upon a finding of negligence:
  • past and future lost wages, including loss of benefits such as health and dental insurance
  • past and future medical expenses (unless already paid or covered by insurance provided by the railroad)
  • past and future pain, suffering and mental distress


 When a train hits another vehicle, the impact is catastrophic to the other vehicle usually leading to severe permanent injuries or death. Our attorneys know what it takes to win a railroad case. After a railroad accident, it is common for the railroad to have investigators and experienced attorneys on site within hours of the accident. They are there to gather information to defeat claims against the railroad. Likewise, it is helpful for the claimant to have a swift complete investigation.
The railroad is responsible to make sure that the warning systems at a crossing are in good working order. The lights, bells, alarms and crossing gate should work correctly and provide an oncoming motorist with adequate warning of upcoming train. The train should blow its whistle as it approaches an intersection, especially if an oncoming motorist is in view.
The crossing should be kept clear of foliage so that a motorist can see the train coming. The train should be traveling at the appropriate speed and the engineer should be keeping a proper lookout ahead. If you or a family member are injured as a result of a railroad or train accident, we are ready and willing to give you aggressive legal representation. Our attorneys are experienced in personal injury cases. Farrell A. Levy is a Board Certified Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and is certified as Civil Trial Specialist by the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization. He has been selected as a Fellow of the Council of Litigation Fellows. Mr.Levy has been selected as a Super Lawyer in Plaintiff’s Personal Injury in the Mid-South Super Lawyers magazine for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 .For common questions about your case, go to the personal injury page. Please feel free to contact us at your earliest convenience to discuss your case.



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