If you are a railroad worker who has been injured in an accident on a third party owned property, you might be wondering whether you can sue the railroad company for damages. The short answer to your question is – yes, you can.
What Does the Law Say?
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) states that a railroad company can be held accountable for any injury sustained by a worker during the course of their employment – even if the injury was sustained on a third party owned property or was caused by a third party owned vehicle.
The Risk of Injuries to Railroad Workers on Third Party Owned Properties
As a railroad worker, you might have to travel long distances and work on third-party owned worksites as part of your job. While the railroad company you work for might take all the necessary precautions to ensure a hazard-free work environment, the same cannot be said about third-parties like contractors or transportation service providers. As a result, you are at a higher risk of suffering injuries while working on third-party owned properties.
Determining Liability in Accidents Occurring on Third Party Owned Properties
For instance, if you are injured in an accident involving a car, van, or any other vehicle provided by your employer to transport you to your worksite, you can sue your employer for damages – even if the accident was caused as a result of a mechanical defect or due to the negligence of the driver. Similarly, if you are injured on a worksite owned or leased by a contractor, you can hold your employer accountable as well.
This is because a railroad company’s duties are generally considered ‘non-delegable’. What it means is that a railroad company cannot delegate any activity – which the company would have handled by itself – if a third-party was not hired. Even if they outsource a particular activity to a third-party, they still have to take responsibility for the actions of the third-party.
For example, if a railroad company hires a transportation services provider to transport their employees to and from worksites, they are supposed to make sure that the vehicles are maintained properly. If they do not, and if a vehicle malfunctions as a result, they can be held financially responsible for the deaths, injuries, and other damages resulting from an accident.
Similarly, if a contractor fails to provide you with the protective equipment you need, and if you get injured as a result, you can still hold your employer accountable, as they are supposed to make sure that the contractor complies with the safety standards recommended by state and federal agencies.
Circumstances under Which a Railroad Company Cannot Be Held Accountable for Your Injuries
If your injury was caused by a party that does not have any contractual relations with the railroad company that employs you, you can only hold the at-fault party – not your employer – for your injuries.
For example, if the vehicle you are riding in – which is provided by your employer and operated by a third-party – is hit by a negligent motorist, you can only hold the motorist responsible for your injuries – not your employer or the third-party.
Similarly, if the vehicle malfunctions due to a manufacturing defect – which your employer or the third-party could not have known about – you can only hold the manufacturer accountable – not your employer or the third-party.
These are, however, exceptionally rare circumstances. In a vast majority of cases, injured railroad workers can hold their employer responsible for the tangible and intangible losses resulting from their injuries.
Establishing Liability in FELA Claims
Generally, establishing liability in FELA claims is easier compared to conventional personal injury claims. In a personal injury claim, you are required to prove that the at-fault party’s negligence was solely or primarily responsible for your injuries. In a FELA claim, on the other hand, you are only required to prove that your employer’s negligence was partially responsible for your injuries.
Still, it is important to hire an experienced railroad accident attorney to handle your claim, as your employer might try to blame you for the accident, as a result of which your compensation might be reduced.
FELA claims are subject to the doctrine of comparative negligence, under which your monetary damages can be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault. So, you need to hire a skilled attorney who can only establish your employer’s negligence, but also refute their arguments regarding your own negligence and make sure you are fully compensated for your injuries.
Looking to File a FELA Claim against Your Employer? We Can Help You!
The railroad accident attorneys at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn have over 50 years of combined experience in handling FELA claims. We have successfully represented hundreds of railroad workers over the years and managed to recover millions in financial restitution.
We can hold your railroad employer accountable for your injuries and fight aggressively to recover the monetary damages you are owed – through negotiation or litigation. Call us today at 800-752-0042 or contact us online for a free review of your FELA claim.