The Workers’ Compensation Attorney Group is an experienced and highly rated law firm that helps injured workers in Long Beach, CA, obtain compensation for injuries sustained at work. Our attorneys are highly trained and well versed in California Workers’ Compensation Law. We can handle all types of workers’ compensation cases for our clients, and railroad workers injuries are no exception. We are undeniably among the best workers’ compensation law firms in California and perhaps your best chance of obtaining fair compensation after a railroad injury.  

Q: What are Railroad Workers Injuries?

A: Employees in different fields face different risks of injury while on the job. However, rail workers face a higher risk as their job is unsurprisingly dangerous. Railroad workers are exposed to a lot of potential safety hazards as they work in hazardous environments. Federal Employers Liability Act - FELA came into action in 1908. The law protects thousands of railroad workers working in various parts of the state.

If a railroad worker suffers an injury while on the job, FELA provides a federal system of legal recovery that helps them and their families receive compensation. Under FELA, it is the responsibility of railroad companies to establish and enforce safety laws and guidelines for workers. Railroad companies should offer proper safety training and supervision of its workers and avoid making unreasonable demands from the said workers. The company is held liable for failure to adhere to FELA’s guidelines if an employee suffers injury as a result of this negligence.

Q: What Should I Do if I Suffer an Injury on the Job?

A: When claiming under FELA, the events that occur immediately after a railroad injury are significant in determining the rights of the injured worker. If you suffer a work-related injury, it is imperative to follow specific steps and precautions. This will ensure that your rights to compensation under FELA apply.

Immediately after the injury, ensure that you report to your employer and proceed to fill an injury report form; as long as the damage sustained allows you to do so. Be very comprehensive and accurate in providing information regarding your injury, ensuring that you capture all the possible causes and the conditions surrounding the incident. The injury report form will play a significant role as you file a compensation claim.

After reporting to your employer, the chances are that you will receive medical treatment, especially if the injury is an emergency. Upon undergoing the initial treatment, ensure that you seek an independent medical examination from your doctor. Be very honest, open, and tell your doctor about all the pain and the discomforts you are experiencing. It is essential that you keep records of your medical report as well as bills incurred while seeking treatment.  

Q: How Can I Pursue My FELA Claim?

A: In addition to the report you give to your railroad employer, ensure to keep a copy for yourself. This report will be for your use and should describe the accident and the injuries you sustained in detail. It is essential to explain how the injury has affected your professional and your personal life. Include the names of people who might have witnessed the damage and keep track of the time spent away from work due to the injuries. This should include the time you spent away from work on the day of the injury and time lost while undergoing treatment and rehabilitation. It would be best if you also took note of any time lost during follow up medical appointments.

Q: Is FELA Similar to Workers’ Compensation?

A: FELA is slightly different from other workers’ compensation laws where a worker does not need to prove that the employer is at fault or negligent. Under FELA, you will have to prove that your injuries are because of your employer’s negligence. According to FELA, a railroad company needs to ensure that:

  1. The workplace is safe and does not have safety hazards or unsafe conditions. The employer has to provide all the necessary safety devices and ensure that proper equipment and tools are available and well maintained.
  2. Even in situations where the employee should be aware of potential dangers, the railroad company has to warn employees of risks involved in their line of duty.
  3. The employer should regularly inspect the workplace and ensure that it is free from all hazards, either known and unknown. For instance, if an employee suffers injury from a faulty machine that should have been noted and repaired by the employer, they qualify for compensation under FELA.
  4. A railroad company is also responsible for keeping employees safe from intentional harm from other employees and third parties. These may include intentional torts and deliberate claims.
  5. If a particular task exceeds the physical abilities and strengths of a worker, the employer should ensure that they provide the worker with all the necessary assistance.
  6. It is also the responsibility of an employer to ensure that no unrealistic work and time quotas are set or implemented.

When handling a FELA case, the burden of proof required is less than that of an ordinary negligence claim. In a FELA claim, a respondent only needs to prove that the employer was somehow negligent and contributed to the said injury. No matter how light an employer’s contribution to an injury is, it still is viable. This is known as the “featherweight” burden of proof. The acceptance of light proof comes as an advantage to a plaintiff seeking FELA compensation.

There is a difference between FELA cases and workers’ compensation in terms of the overall benefits. Some states place a cap on the total payment you can receive from a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation claims may even dismiss some injuries. However, under FELA, there is neither a limitation in terms of the type of injury sustained, nor is there a limitation on the amount of monetary compensation.

Q: What Types of Injuries Does FELA Cover?

A: FELA covers four types of injuries that railroad workers are likely to sustain:

  • Traumatic injuries such as broken bones, muscle pulls, and sprained joints
  • Occupational illnesses such as lung cancer, loss of hearing, and asbestosis
  • Aggravations of existing medical conditions, whereby a worker’s previous medical condition worsens due to injuries on duty
  • Repetitive motion injuries such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel.

Q: What Is Comparative Negligence and Its Impact on My FELA Claim?

A: Under the FELA statutory claim, the plaintiff is highly protected. However, there is a defense option available for the respondent known as "comparative negligence." A railroad company may try to prove that your negligence resulted in the injury under a comparative negligence defense. This is how comparative negligence works: after hearing all the arguments presented in a FELA lawsuit, the jury determines who is responsible for the railroad workers injuries. Some percentage of faults may be due to the third party’s negligence. The jury decides on the extent of neglect of the different parties involved. For instance, if the jury determines that the employer and the railroad company are 80% negligent and that the employee is 20% negligent, the employee’s compensation reduces by 20%.

Q: What Is OSHA and Its Impact on My Lawsuit?

A: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines federal standards relating to workplace safety. Under OSHA, employees are entitled to various rights, including:

  1. The right to review relevant standards, rules and regulations, as well as all the requirements that an employer should fulfill at the place of work
  2. An employee should have access to employee medical reports and exposure
  3. If an employee believes that some hazardous conditions exist at their place of work or feels that there is a violation of safety standards at the workplace, they may request the OSHA area director to inspect the said place of work. An authorized employee representative accompanies the OSHA inspector during the time of inspection. The employer has no right to choose the workers’ representative to accompany the inspector. The employees or the employees' union instead selects the representative. The inspector may conduct either an inspection of the entire workplace or a partial review depending on the seriousness of the perceived health hazard. After completing the examination, the inspector meets the employer and the employees and discusses how to correct the hazards.
  4. Upon the request for an OSHA examination, an employee has the right to remain anonymous to avoid victimization by the employer.
  5. If an employer happens to find out that their employee requested for an OSHA inspection, the employee is free from any disciplinary action by the employer.

If an OSHA investigation reveals that a railroad company had violated OSHA safety standards before you were injured, you will have an easy time together with your attorney as you make a claim.

Q: What Is the Duty of An Employer Under OSHA?

A: Under OSHA, an employer must ensure that: 

  1. All the employees have full knowledge of the relevant OSHA health and safety guidelines applicable in their place of work.
  2. They provide an OSHA poster outlining all the rights and responsibilities of employees. The sign should be in an open and prominent place to make sure it is easily accessible by all employees.
  3. The employee should have in place a hazard communication program. These should have aspects such as employee training and sensitization, safety data sheet, and proper labeling of containers.
  4. When beginning employment, an employer should ensure that all employees are aware of the availability and the location of their medical records. For existing employees, the files should always be available upon request.

If you sustained an injury and your railroad employer had not fulfilled their OSHA obligations, you will have the upper hand when making a claim.

Q: I Am A Railroad Worker but Spend Less Time Out-Of-Office, Am I Eligible For FELA?

A:  Yes, almost every person working in a railroad company is likely to receive compensation under FELA. This is applicable if you suffer an injury in the line of work. Even if you do not work around trains, you will still be eligible for a FELA lawsuit as long as you work in a railroad company.

Q: What Should I Expect After Filing a FELA Claim?

A: If you are a railroad employee and suffer a work-related injury, you are likely to be anxious, as you do not know what to expect. The claim process can be complicated, and if you do not follow the right steps, you may end up spending too much time and get frustrated in the process. It is advisable to take some time and understand the factors involved in filing a FELA claim. Filing a personal injury report is the first step after an injury. This allows you to outline all the injuries you may have suffered at the place of work.

It will help if you work hand in hand with an attorney to ensure that your case remains objective and progresses well. Next, the railroad company will conduct some thorough investigations to verify the accuracy of the facts you state in your report. Your attorney will also do some intense investigations to determine what happened and who is at fault. After establishing all the facts, you will have a sitting with your employer and your attorney to discuss the best way to settle your claim.

Q: When Does an Attorney File a Complaint?

A: If a FELA case does not settle at an early stage between you, your employer, and your attorney, the attorney files a complaint. Your attorney starts by preparing a complaint, which is a document that outlines the claims that you have against the respondent. Once your attorney prepares and files a complaint, the respondent gets some time to answer the charge. By responding to the complaints, the respondent outlines the parts of the claim for which they take responsibility. The respondent is also free to present any form of defense they may have. The respondent may have some complaints against you as the plaintiff, or against some other third-party. While answering the complaint, the respondent tells their side of the story.

Q: Can My FELA Case Be Settled Out of Court?

A: Yes, after various parties conduct separate investigations on what happened, you may decide not to proceed to court and instead settle the case out of court. The parties involved may opt to adopt an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADP). This may be either negotiation or mediation to help settle the claim. In most instances, after an attorney files a complaint, the jury orders the parties involved to have a settlement conference and discuss the possibility of settling the case out of court. This aims at resolving the FELA claim before it proceeds to trial.

Q: What Happens During a FELA Trial?

A: After all, the pre-trial maneuvers fail, and the parties fail to reach an agreement; the FELA case proceeds to court. A party can opt to have a jury during the trial. During the proceeding, the attorneys from both the plaintiff and the respondent present the case before the juries or judges. The jury examines all the unresolved issues before giving a verdict. If one party happens to be dissatisfied with the jury's final decision, their attorney may file for appeal in a higher court. However, it is rare for a petition to change the initial decision made by the jury.

Q: How Long Does a FELA Case Last?

A: There is no exact time for a FELA case as this varies from one situation to the other.  The process may only take some few months or may extend to several years. It all depends on the extent of injuries, the magnitude of compensation sought and the possibility of resolving some issues before a trial.

Q: Can the Dependents of a Rail worker File a FELA Claim?

A: In an extreme circumstance where a railroad worker succumbs to the injuries sustained, the surviving dependents may file a FELA claim on the worker’s behalf. In most cases, the deceased railroad worker’s spouse or children file the claim and receive the compensation. In instances where a worker had no spouse or children, the said worker's parents, siblings, or any other surviving relatives receive the benefits.

Q: Which Mistakes Can Compromise a FELA Case?

A: Some of the critical mistakes railroads workers make include:

  • Misunderstanding FELA. As a rail worker, you should not assume that you are eligible for your state workers’ compensation instead of FELA. Railroad work cannot be confined to one stated but is interstate. Thus, as a railroad worker, you can only receive payment through FELA.
  • Failure to Seek Legal Counsel Immediately an Injury Occurs. To receive FELA compensation, you need legal counsel from the start to help you prove that the railroad company is liable. Failure to seek an attorney early enough may jeopardize your chances of receiving compensation.
  • Misunderstanding Work-Related Injuries. Under FELA, there are two types of railroad injuries covered: injuries that occur while on the job and injuries from work duties. On the job, injuries happen when you are actively involved in the railroad job. These damages may include train accidents, burns resulting from train fires, platform accidents, and collisions. Injuries due to work duties refer to disabilities that may develop later in life but stem from previous work duties. These damages may include lung cancer due to exposure to railroad pollutants, repetitive stress injuries, whole body vibration, and bumps.
  • Failure to Know Your Rights. When you sustain an injury, you have the right to file a personal injury report independently. You also have the right to seek the opinion of a doctor of your choice. The doctor then develops an autonomous medical report discussing the extent of the injuries sustained. It is essential to understand that your supervisor and other company representatives have no right to accompany you to the doctor as they may compromise the objectiveness of your medical report. Any of the conversations with your doctor are private. Unless you give consent, the employer cannot know the information you share with the doctor. Information regarding your diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis remains confidential. Other than your doctor, the only other person to disclose information to is your attorney.
  • Underestimating the Importance of an Attorney. Many workers tend to underestimate the importance of an attorney and instead opt to seek proper compensation alone. As an employee, you have a right to seek legal counsel, and your employer cannot penalize you or fire you for seeking legal counsel. The railroad company will hire an attorney to fight your claim, which makes the idea of getting your attorney prudent.
  • Missing Deadlines and Failure to Understand FELA Limitations. After sustaining an injury, you should not wait too long before seeking compensation. You should not exceed three (3) years after an injury before seeking reimbursement. In the case of death, the claim should start within three (3) years after the death of the worker. Failure to present your case within the stipulated time could lead to the total barring of the case. In such a scenario, the court is likely to decide that you do not need any compensation at all. It may be hard to determine the three-year (3) limit after suffering cancer or hearing loss. How can you tell when you developed cancer? In these cases, you should count three (3) years from the time you learned about the medical condition.

Find a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Specializing in FELA Claims Near Me

Claims under FELA have strict rules and procedures. To overcome all the potential defenses from your employer and anything that could lead to a claim denial, you need an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. At The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Long Beach, we have good lawyers who can argue your case to ensure that you receive proper compensation. Call our Long Beach workers comp attorney at 714-716-5933 to speak to one of our polished attorneys regarding your railroad worker injury case. It would be best if you had someone to stand by your side throughout the claim process.  Call us Today!