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In the early 1900’s, railroads were one of the main sources of transportation and shipping in the United States. Thousands of people worked on our nation’s railroads, maintaining the tracks and the trains. Railroads were and still are the backbone of our country, with over 140,000 miles of tracks, millions of passengers, and roughly 113,300 railroad employees. Today, railroads provide secure employment and good pay, but they aren’t always the safest place to work.
In 1908, the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) was enacted. This was an answer to the dangerous conditions many railroad employees faced. Prior to the 1900’s, switchmen and brakemen faced harrowing odds: the average lifespan was seven years, and the odds of dying a natural death were four to one. When employees were injured or killed on the railroad, they had little to no ways to recover damages. Most employees were considered to have “assumed the risk” of working on a railroad, and the railroad company would use that consideration against the employee. Thankfully, FELA put a stop to that practice.
FELA enables injured railroad workers to sue the railroad company for negligence, either at a federal or state level suit. The act also eliminated antiquated laws that allowed railroad companies to escape litigation. In 1939, FELA finally abolished the “assumption of risk” clause, making it much easier for railroad workers to collect compensation for any work-related injuries.
Unlike worker’s compensation laws, which don’t require proof of negligence, FELA allows employees to sue the railroad company and hold it liable for costs. This is significant because worker’s compensation isn’t always enough to cover the expenses associated with a railroad accident. In many cases, railroad injures are severe, possibly life-altering, or even deadly.
In any type of personal injury case, including a FELA claim, the plaintiff (you) must prove the other party (the railroad) acted in a way that led to your accident. For example, if the company didn’t follow safety regulations correctly or didn’t provide proper safety equipment, it may be considered negligent. Under FELA, you only have to prove the railroad was slightly negligent to receive compensation under what’s known as the “comparative fault system.”
This ensures you can be partially responsible for your own accident and still collect compensation. The amount of compensation you receive will be affected by how liable you are. For example, if you were found 10% responsible in a $200,000 case, you would receive the total value minus your 10% liability – $180,000 in this example. FELA was designed so injured railroad workers have the option to recover the costs of current and future damages and live comfortably. This is in stark contrast to worker’s compensation laws, which often have strict payout and time limits.
FELA gives you the right to sue the railroad company, but you don’t always end up in court. Railroads often offer a significant amount of money to settle out of court. You then have the option of accepting the settlement, negotiating a higher one, or going to trial. Your attorney will help you decide the best course of action and what types of damages you can claim and receive compensation for. Damages usually include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses.
The Knutson+Casey Law Firm, based in Mankato, Minnesota, is experienced in personal injury law and FELA claims. We’ll help you fight for your rights to recover damages, and we’ll get you the most compensation possible. Whether you’ve suffered severe acute injuries or a chronic injury, we’ll help you get the money you need to be healthy and whole again. Contact us today for a free consultation.