Towe & Fitzpatrick, PLLC

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FELA guides workplace injury cases for railroad workers

Many miles of railroad tracks crisscross Montana, and the heavy equipment involved presents daily hazards to workers. In 1908, Congress established the Federal Employers Liability Act to provide injured railroad workers and their family members with a system for recevingcompensation. Unlike workers’ compensation insurance that applies to most other industries, FELA governs the process of determining liability and settlements for railroad workers.

An injured railroad employee needs to prove negligence on the part of the employer or equipment manufacturer. This differs from the no-fault workers’ compensation system, but an injured railroad worker faces a low burden of proof when seeking damages. FELA gives the advantage to the plaintiff and accepts even minor acts of a negligent nature as cause to place liability upon an employer. Injured employees, however, might also be found partially responsible for accidents. When this happens, their awards could be reduced by the percentage of blame attributed to their actions.

Small violations of any of the duties that FELA assigns to employers could meet the burden of proof in these cases. The act expects railroad companies to maintain a safe work environment that includes proper tools and safety equipment. Regular inspections should be undertaken by the employer to identify and correct hazards. Workers must receive adequate training and not be pressured to achieve excessive work quotas.

A railroad employee hurt on the job might choose to consult an attorney familiar with FELA regulations and the process for collecting compensation for railroad worker injuries. An attorney could evaluate the evidence and possibly identify instances of negligence and document them. An attorney could manage the case through jury verdict if it isn’t settled beforehand.