The nature of their work exposes the railroad workers to heavy machinery, equipment, and chemicals that can be life-threatening and life-altering. The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) law which provides insurance cover to the railroad workers is different from the regular workers’ compensation insurance. A FELA claim needs proof of negligence on the part of the employer, unlike a workers’ compensation claim that follows the no-fault premise.
Statute of Limitations in a FELA Claim
A statute of limitations is a decree that lays down the maximum duration of time from the date of an alleged violation of the law that the affected person(s) have, to launch legal proceedings. The statute of limitations under FELA laws is 3 years from the date of the accident that caused injuries to the worker. For railroad work-related injuries, the three-year limitation starts counting when:
- You become aware of your injuries
- You become aware that your injuries are work-related
You must contact an attorney as soon as possible after you sustain injuries in a railroad work-related accident. Notwithstanding the severity of the injuries, you stand to lose any rights to bring a compensation claim against your employer if you wait more than three years. Keep in mind that your employer has lawyers working on the case from the very outset.
As soon as you hire an attorney, they will start investigations into your claim to establish your employer’s FELA liability. The investigations include clicking photographs of the accident site as well as your injuries, recording statements of your fellow workers who were present at the accident site and those who knew about it, and inspecting any tools or equipment involved in your accident.
Collecting this evidence becomes harder if there is a delay in the investigation process. Also, any delay in filing your FELA claim will result in a delay in the settlement of your claim, or a subsequent delay in filing a lawsuit if the need arises. Your chances of recovering compensation for your injuries lessen or worsen with each passing day.
Does the FELA Statue of Limitations Begin from the Exact Date of the Accident?
It is difficult to establish a link between the injuries and a specific traumatic incident, especially if the worker suffers from a gradually progressing condition. Under these circumstances, the statute of limitations begins with the time of discovery of the injury by the worker or the time when the worker becomes aware of the link between the injury and the work-related trauma. The victim must take appropriate action as soon as possible to maintain the integrity of evidence and avert operational hurdles in the claim.
For instance, if you twist your ankle on a workshop that is slippery due to a leaking machine-oil drum, but do not give it too much thought and walk off. Over the next few days and weeks, if the nagging pain turns into an incapacitating injury, it may become difficult to recall and determine the exact date and time of the accident.
Establishing a specific date for an occupational hazard illness is even harder to identify than the date of a work-related accident injury. During 30 years of their employment in the diesel house, a worker may continuously inhale asbestos fibers, but a related illness or disease might take up to two decades to manifest itself.
The FELA Compensation Claim Process
Given below is the typical sequence of developments in a FELA compensation claim. An experienced FELA lawyer can explain how your claim follows the chronology of this legal process and guide you through the steps.
Filing an Accident Report, Collecting Evidence & Seeking Settlement
- Under the railroad regulations, injured workers have a duty to file a report about the accident. You must contact a competent FELA attorney as soon as you can after the accident that caused your injuries. This is the best way to preserve your rights as a railroad worker and ensure that your claim is not jeopardized.
- The railroad is duty-bound to thoroughly investigate the incident taking the report into consideration.
- Your attorney will collect evidence regarding your case and probe the extent of the accident and the nature of your injuries to establish your claim.
- Your attorney will start discussions and subsequent negotiations on your behalf with the railroad company for the settlement of your FELA claim.
Filing a Civil Suit
- If there is no suitable settlement offer from the railroad company, your attorney may suggest filing a lawsuit on your behalf. The civil action starts with filing a complaint prepared by your attorney that specifies your claims as a plaintiff in the case against your employer, who is the defendant.
- The complaint is then served to the defendant who must respond within a certain period, which is generally about 3 weeks. The response from the defendant lays out in detail the claims they admit to, the claims they will contest, and any claims that they might bring against the plaintiff.
- Next step is the discovery process where both parties exchange documents relating to the litigation. The discovery process involves written discovery where you need to answer written questions, and depositions where you must answer in-person and under oath, to the opposing attorney’s questions.
- If you and your employer do not reach a settlement till this point in time, the case moves on to a jury trial.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Railroad Accident Attorney Today
If you or someone you know is the victim of a railroad work-related accident, you should seek legal counsel from our competent railroad accident attorneys at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn. We understand the statute of limitations under FELA and can investigate and negotiate on your behalf to recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Call us today at 800-752-0042 or contact us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation and expedite your FELA claim process.