Is a Railroad Employee Protected by The FELA Only When They Clock In?

Railroad workers across the country expose themselves to the perils and hazards of their job every day. Railroad employees who are victims of an accident at work, whether in a railyard, on a track, or in an office, can take recourse in FELA to claim compensation for their injuries.

FELA applies in all cases where the employee works for a railroad involved in interstate business, and suffers injuries in the course of employment. Under FELA, seeking compensation from the railroad may not succeed if the accident resulting in the employee’s injuries occurs during non-working hours or while traveling to or from the workplace.

But a railroad worker injured on the job, even if their primary work does not involve being in and around trains, can seek damages from the railroad. An injured employee can make a direct claim under FELA to the railroad, or file a lawsuit against it in the state or federal court.

If you or someone you love is a victim of an accident while working as a railroad employee, you must take note of a few crucial points to know where you stand legally if you wish to recover damages under FELA.

Duties of Railroad Companies Towards Their Employees

FELA regulations stipulate that the railroad companies must fulfill certain responsibilities towards the railroad workers, failing which, they can be liable for violations. Some of these duties are:

  • To provide an acceptable safe environment at work, including tools, equipment, and safety devices
  • To regularly check the work surroundings and ensure it is free of any perils for the workers
  • To make provisions for suitable training, care, help, and support for the workers, to make their job functions safer and more efficient
  • To safeguard workers from any willful acts that could harm them
  • To implement all state and federal safety norms and regulations
  • To restrict undue work quotas

FELA not only provides a legal remedy for the injured railroad employees, but also acts as a protocol for railroad workers safety code. It spells out in detail, the duties and obligations of the railroad companies in conforming to the safety standards.

For example, if a railroad contravenes federal guidelines relating to workplace safety as laid out in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, the Safety Appliance Act, or the Boiler Inspection Act, an injured railroad employee and their attorney can establish their compensation claim much more easily.

Steps to Take if You Sustain a Workplace Injury

If you are a victim of work-related injury, you must take the following steps immediately:

  1. Ensure that your superior at work prepares an initial report of your accident and the subsequent injuries. The report should be to the point and brief. It need not be an account of the incident containing exhaustive details. Be aware that any details shared by you at this stage may have legal repercussions later.
  1. Request for a representative from the union to assist and advice you. A union representative, with their awareness of the procedure, will be able to guide you appropriately.
  1. Seek legal counsel from an experienced railroad accident attorney as soon as possible, before signing anything. Apart from the initial report, do not provide any additional declaration or statement to your employer or the claim agents.
  1. Speak to a doctor you trust as soon as you can after the accident. You are not under any obligation to receive medical treatment from a doctor proposed by the railroad company. Provide full history of your past injuries or ailments and the full extent of your current injuries and related complaints to the doctor you have confidence in.
  1. Apply for and secure leave from work till the time you can safely resume your duties without the risk of aggravating your injuries. Follow the procedure and obtain a letter of temporary leave to show to your immediate supervisor if needed.
  1. With the help of the union representative and your attorney, promptly apply to receive disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board. Find out if you are eligible for any additional disability benefits under your jointly bargained agreement.
  1. Gather all the contact information such as names, phone numbers, and addresses of the co-workers and eye-witnesses who were present at the site of the accident.
  1. Collect photographic evidence of the accident scene including the machinery involved in the accident.
  1. Click photographs of your visible injuries as soon as possible.
  1. Gather and keep a record of all expenses (medical and non-medical), lost income, ongoing medical therapies, and the extent of your discomfort and pain because of your injuries.

What is the Extent of Damages I Can Recover?

Under FELA, the compensation claim and its recovery depend on the nature of injuries and the extent of negligence proven in court. The damages that you can potentially recover include:

  • Wage loss, including the potential loss of salaries
  • Out-of-Pocket expenses
  • Future employment benefits
  • Pain and suffering, both current and future
  • Medical treatment expenses, both current and future
  • Financial compensation for the loss of a limb or organ
  • Compensation for the embarrassment and stigma of disfigurement or disability
  • Monetary loss to your dependents in the event of death

Do the FELA Laws Apply After I Have Clocked Out?

The FELA laws extend to protecting even those employees who sustain injuries while traveling or when staying in hotels, if the service providers are under contract with the railroads. Under FELA, the responsibility to ensure the safety of the workers at third-party sites lies squarely with the railroads, even if the time spent by the workers at such sites was insignificant or infrequent.

Competent Railroad Accident Injury Lawyers in Virginia 

Often, railroad injury cases under FELA find a resolution through a court ordered settlement conference, and do not involve a court trial. If you or a loved one is a railroad employee but not sure if you have a viable compensation claim under FELA, our railroad accident attorneys can provide free and confidential consultation to evaluate your claim.

The lawyers at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn are highly skilled and are committed to helping victims of railroad accidents get justice. If you or any of your loved ones have been injured in a railroad accident, call us today at 800-752-0042 or contact us online to find out if you have a case against your employer and whether you are eligible to recover damages.


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