Railroad / FELA Law
Union Approved Designated Legal Counsel
COOK p.c. is a recognized leader in the representation of railroad employees who have been injured in the course of their employment. Our attorneys are experienced in prosecuting worker’s claims for personal injury and wrongful death under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), which controls employee claims against railroad employers.
What is the FELA?
In 1908, Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, (FELA) in response to the thousands of railroad worker deaths and work-related injuries in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. This special federal legislation was enacted to assure railroad employees a safe work place and give them and their families the right to recover compensation if injured in a railroad related accident. Under this law, injured employees can seek compensation for wage loss, future wage loss, medical expenses and treatments, pain and suffering, and partial or permanent disability. If an employee is killed on the job, survivors are entitled to recover damages for what they have suffered because of the death. In the words of the United States Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, the FELA was “intended to place upon the railroad employer the burden of the lives and limbs [and lungs] consumed in the wake of the railroad’s dangerous operations.” Under the FELA, the railroads have a duty to provide their employees with safe places to work. They must also provide safe equipment, tools and proper working conditions for them. If any railroad fails to take these safety measures, or if the employee is injured through the carelessness of any other employee, the railroad is held responsible. It is liable to the worker for any injuries or damages he may suffer as a result. The FELA provides damages to workers who are injured due to:
Negligence by the railroad, its officers, employees, or subcontractors
Failure of the railroad to provide a safe place to work, safe tools, equipment, or appliances
Violation of the requirements of the Safety Appliance Act, the Boiler Inspection Act, the Federal Rail Safety Act, the Federal Locomotive Safety Standards, the Power Brake Law, hours of service, and OSHA regulations
The FELA entitles railroad workers to recover damages for loss of wages (including future wages), pain and suffering, mental anxiety, partial and permanent disability, and past and future medical expenses relating to the worker’s injuries.
Safety Appliance Act and Boiler Inspection Act
The FELA permits an injured worker to recover damages where the Railroad has violated the Safety Appliance Act and Boiler Inspection Act. The Safety Appliance Act imposes liability on the Railroad relating to railroad cars and their safety devices. Under the Act, the Railroad has absolute (or strict) liability if an accident is caused by defective appliances, such as couplers, power brakes, grab irons, draw bars, etc. In such case, the worker does not have to prove negligence to recover from the railroad. The Boiler Inspection Act requires that the railroad keep locomotives and tenders in proper and safe condition. A violation of this Act imposes absolute liability on the railroad. You do not have to prove negligence to hold the railroad liable under this Act.
What Injuries Are Covered by the FELA?
On the Job Accidents
Cumulative Trauma/Repetetive Motion Disorders
Workplace Exposure Injuries: from exposure to dust, diesel fumes, asbestos, chemicals, noise or other workplace hazards. These injuries include:
Eye, ear, nose and throat complications
Long-term stress and strain
Welding rod exposure/manganese poisoning
Wrongful Death Cases
What to Do If You Suffer an on the Job Injury
- Report the accident to the railroad and fill out the railroad’s accident report
- Seek immediate necessary medical care
- Write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of anyone who may have witnessed your accident, and everyone that worked with you at the time of the accident. This includes all supervisors and crew members – - regardless of whether you know whether they witnessed the accident
-Contact an experienced FELA attorney
Do not accept any attempt by the railroad to settle or delay your case without consulting an attorney.
Questions to Ask Your FELA Lawyer
Claims under the FELA are different from other types of personal injury law in that the FELA grants specialty protections relating to burden of proof, strict liability, causation, and negligence standards. Your FELA attorney must be familiar with railroad specific terminology and work conditions, railroad claims handling procedures, railroad pension and benefits programs, and specific requirements of the Safety Appliance Act and Boiler Inspection Act. Dangers to railroad workers are unique – - whether in the form of sudden accidents, cumulative trauma, or toxic exposure leading. To ensure that the FELA’s railroad worker specific rights are enforced to the workers greatest advantage, an attorney must have significant training and experience working with the FELA, its statute specific guarantees to railroad workers, and the special dangers and risks associated with long-term railroad employment. You should ask your FELA lawyer detailed questions about his experience litigating FELA matters, working with the Railroad Retirement Board, past verdicts and settlements, and general understanding of railroad work conditions and associated risks.
Edward S. Cook and COOK p.c. are designated legal counsel for the United Transportation Union (UTU) and the Transportation Communication Union (TCU).