FELA: Protecting Injured Railroad Workers
A key railroad regulation is the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
That is because railroad workers are not covered by the typical state workers’ compensation scheme. The benefits provided to railroad workers are governed by FELA and overseen by the Railroad Retirement Board. FELA was created to protect railway workers nationwide from being held liable for accidents and injuries that were not their fault. FELA requires every railroad common carrier in the U.S. to be liable to any employee suffering injury; however, workers must prove that the railroad company was negligent when accidents occur.
- Unsafe work conditions
- Faulty equipment or tools
- Defective safety devices
- Lack of safety inspections
- Safety hazards in the workplace
- Unreasonable work quotas
- Inadequate training, supervision, assistance, or help
- Poor or no enforcement of safety rules and regulations
- Intentional acts of harm by other workers
Even when your injury is not your fault, filing a FELA claim is no simple task. You could face delays and obstacles as your employer seeks to minimize your claim or deny it altogether. This is why you need a skilled FELA attorney on your side.
Railroad Accident Investigation: Proving Owner / Operator Negligence
FELA is different from state workers’ compensation laws.
For starters, FELA awards are not automatic. In order to recover compensation, the worker must prove some degree of negligence on the part of the railroad owner / operator. Once negligence is proven, full compensation is available to the injured worker. While railroad workers who have been injured on the job are protected by FELA, railroad companies are often hesitant to shoulder the responsibilities to which they are legally bound. Making things even more difficult, injured workers can expect little help from federal agencies charged with regulation and enforcement.
Therefore, investigations into the cause of railroad accidents are necessary to determine fault.
Injured railroad workers need qualified legal counsel to prove negligence on the part of the railroad owners and operators. If you or someone you know has been injured in any type of accident, a train accident lawyer should be contacted immediately. Injured railroad workers can count on Arnold & Itkin to aggressively protect their interests and ensure that they receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries.
Common Railroad Worker Injuries
Railroad workers can suffer serious injuries and illness from incidents caused in the railway yard, on the tracks, or on a train.
Dangerous Working Conditions
Federal regulations must be followed to ensure railroad workers’ safety. Working conditions are especially important in potentially dangerous working environments such as those commonly found in the railroad industry. The federal government has acknowledged this by granting the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) power to oversee and regulate railroad working conditions.
Locomotive Cab Working Conditions
One of the safety statements issued by FRA was the “Railroad Safety Advisory Committee Task Statement: Locomotive Cab Working Conditions.” This listed the regulations for locomotive cab working conditions. It is the standard for working conditions in these environments.
The Railroad Safety Advisory Committee’s task was to:
“Evaluate the extent to which environmental, sanitary, and other working conditions in locomotive cabs affect the crew’s health and the safe operation of locomotives. For issues involving ergonomics, investigate the possibility and/or feasibility of effective improvements in the design, location, and construction of locomotive control compartments to achieve an optimum environment under normal operating conditions, and to enhance the safety of cab occupants in the event of collisions or derailments.”
- Sanitary facilities must be kept clean.
- The noise level in the cab must be lowered.
- Ear protection must be provided to railroad workers.
- Vibration must be kept to a minimum.
- Temperature must be kept at a comfortable level.
- Railroad companies must make use of accident history.
According to this statement, environmental and sanitary conditions must be taken into consideration. Anything that would promote an optimum work environment and the most efficiency should be acted upon. Any violation of this statement could warrant a claim on behalf of a worker who becomes injured. Not only is this set of rules for the purpose of promoting crew safety, it also ensures safe operation of trains.
Railroad work environments are in a league of their own. The challenges that workers face in their working conditions are completely unique to this field although there are some similarities to other transportation and construction occupations. One way in which railroad workers can easily become injured is by ballast.
Ballast is the name for the coarse gravel or crushed rock that railroad tracks are laid on. It covers most of the areas in train yards and along the rail right-of-ways. Depending on the type of ballast, it will be made from a certain kind of crushed stone. Ballast has to be constantly maintained so trains can run properly, but this material can make footing unsure for railroad workers. It can easily become the cause of injury to the spine, legs, ankles, feet, knees, and hips. This unsure footing can also be risky while working around moving trains.
Railroad maintenance workers are required to regularly inspect the ballast for defects to see if it needs to be changed or maintained. There are safe ways in which railroad workers can conduct in necessary maintenance and operations with ballast. If you are a railroad worker and you were injured on the job in this way, we may be able to file a claim on your behalf. If you have been injured as a result of unsafe working conditions regulated by these railroad safety regulations, you may be covered by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
Hours of Service Act
Railroad worker fatigue is an issue that commonly comes up. With such long hours, railroad workers are operating these machines while on the verge of falling asleep. Because working for the railroad is virtually an around-the-clock occupation, workers can easily fall into the trap of working too many hours. It is common for any employee to have employers who ask them to do job-related tasks "off-duty." However, any time a railroad worker spends in connection with the train's transportation or any other service performed for the railroad is working time. To aid the FRA, legislation has been passed to provide a regulatory framework for work safety.
This includes the Hours of Service Act.
Per this law, the FRA must enforce the fact that employees should not be subject to excessive hours. It also grants a provision for the regulation of railroad employee sleeping conditions. The Hours of Service Act actually applies to any employee whose job it is to move commercial goods from state to state within the U.S. The Hours of Service Act holds that locomotive engineers can technically operate on a train for up to 432 hours per month. This averages to a possibility of working 14 hours a day, 30 days a month. Although this is the monthly maximum, any train employee is allowed to spend up to 12 hours on duty. After 12 consecutive hours of working, they are required to get 10 hours off-duty.
Non-Railroad Employees: Third Parties & Contracted Workers
In addition to railroad employees, many other types of workers come in contact with train tracks every day. Workers installing a cable for a telephone company or constructing a bridge for a highway agency are put at risk for railroad accidents and malfunctions. Unkempt tracks, unsafe rail crossings, or negligence on the part of railroad companies and their employees may all contribute to a possible train accident or injury.
Employees who do contract work for railroads may also be at risk for serious injury.
If you are an employee of a contractor working for a railroad, the contractor is responsible for providing on-track safety in the same manner provided for railroad employees. Contractors are then expected to comply with this rule in the same manner as their host railroads and to train employees on the appropriate railroad safety procedures. The Roadway Worker Protection (RWP) regulations state that it is the responsibility of employers (regardless of whether they are railroads or contractors) to train and supervise all employees on the on-track safety rules.
The RWP regulations do not include workers and employers if they are not engaged by or under contract to a railroad. If you are hurt while installing cable for a telephone company or doing highway work for a construction agency, your injury will come under the jurisdiction of other federal agencies. A skilled attorney is invaluable during this time and can help you file for the right type of claim under the correct legislation.
Handling Cases Throughout the U.S.
Railroad employees who have been injured on the job should seek qualified legal counsel to ensure their claims are accurately investigated and that they receive the judgments they deserve. Your legal representation should reflect a comprehensive knowledge of all the inner workings of the laws that govern standard train regulations. Arnold & Itkin LLP has successfully represented victims injured in railroad accidents. Our goal is to build a strong and persuasive case as quickly as possible. Get in touch with us to find out how our team can hold your employer responsible for their negligence and your damages. We are one of the nation’s most respected trial law firms. Over the years, we have won billions of dollars collectively for clients. We have achieved this level of success and reputability due to our results- and client-oriented approach to each case.
For a free consultation, contact Arnold & Itkin at (888) 493-1629.