If you or someone you love worked in the railroad industry and were injured on the job or were diagnosed with an occupational illness, you may have options for recovering compensation.
While workers’ compensation is typically the sole legal remedy for injured workers, injuries and illnesses suffered by railroad workers fall under the scope of the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). As legal actions that are distinctly different from workers’ compensation cases, FELA claims require a specialized understanding of the law and the insight of experienced attorneys who know how to protect the rights of current railroad employees and retirees.
At SWMW Law, our award-winning team has helped engineers, conductors, machinists, trackmen, and other rail employees across the country in FELA claims involving serious injuries and occupational illnesses. For a FREE consultation, call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online.
Overview of FELA Claims
The Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA, is a federal law that applies to railroad workers who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.
Created in 1908, FELA’s purpose is like that of traditional workers’ compensation programs; it is meant to provide workers with access to compensation when they suffer injuries or illnesses that arise from the course of their employment. However, the similarities end there.
FELA claims are federal legal actions governed by a unique set of rules and procedures, and they are distinctly different from administrative workers’ compensation cases, which entitle injured or sickened workers to compensation regardless of who is at fault.
Some of the key elements of FELA claims are as follows:
- Employer negligence. Unlike workers’ compensation, which is as a no-fault insurance system, FELA claims require injured rail workers to prove that their employer was negligent in some way that caused or contributed to their injury or illness. In cases involving worker injuries, for example, this may entail proving that a railroad employer failed to comply with safety regulations, provide adequate PPE, or negligently created a hazardous condition.
- Damages. FELA claims further differ from workers’ compensation cases in that they allow injured railroad workers to recover damages that are otherwise unavailable through workers’ comp, such as past and future medical expenses, past and future lost income, pain and suffering, and other economic and non-economic damages.
- Statute of Limitations. FELA claims are subject to their own statute of limitations, or legal deadline, by which claims must be filed. Typically, railroad workers, retirees, or surviving family members have three years from the date of a work-related injury or death to file FELA actions. This three-year statute of limitations applies to occupational illness claims, with the clock starting on the day the employee or retiree receives their diagnosis.
FELA cases often pit workers, retirees, and families against powerful corporations that prioritize profits over people and have extensive resources to fight off claims.
This aggressive defense by railroad companies, compounded by the unique rules and intricacies of litigating these cases, make FELA claims complex and challenging matters. However, when successful, they can provide the compensation victims and families deserve following serious injuries and illnesses.
Who We Represent
SWMW Law has extensive experience representing current and former railroad employees in FELA actions involving both serious injuries and occupational illnesses. If you worked for a railroad company anywhere in the country and were injured on the job, we want to help.
Examples of rail workers we represent:
- Railyard engineers and yardmasters
- Conductors and engineers
- Maintenance workers
- Rail inspectors
- Brake, switch, and signal operators
- Railroad control engineers
FELA Claims & Other Legal Actions for Railroad Workers with Asbestos-Related Conditions
Asbestos was used widely in the railroad industry, and workers who helped construct, operate, maintain, inspect, and repair tracks, trains, and rail equipment were routinely exposed to harmful asbestos fibers, dust, and materials in the course of their employment. As a result, railroad workers are recognized as a leading at-risk profession for occupational asbestos exposure.
For railroad workers who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other illnesses that can be attributed to occupational exposure, FELA claims can be a viable source of compensation if workers are able prove that their employer’s negligence led to them developing the disease.
In addition to FELA claims, railroad workers with occupational illnesses like mesothelioma may have additional options for pursuing the compensation they need. This may include:
- Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims. Asbestos manufacturers knew as early as the 1930s that inhaling asbestos caused health problems but chose to continue exposing workers to the dangerous mineral for decades. When the truth came out, these companies were ordered to place funds into trust accounts that would be used to compensate people who became sick or died because of asbestos exposure.
- Personal Injury Lawsuits. Personal injury lawsuits are civil legal actions that allow victims to pursue financial compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other economic and non-economic damages. As civil claims, personal injury suits may be based on negligence, products liability, or other causes of action, and require victims (known as Plaintiffs) to prove their claims in accordance with a certain legal standard. When FELA claims against a railroad employer are not possible, personal injury lawsuits against asbestos suppliers, manufacturers of asbestos-containing products (such as brakes, gaskets, or insulation), or other liable entities can be viable alternatives.
- Wrongful Death Actions. Families of victims who died because of their exposure to asbestos can pursue civil wrongful death/survival actions to recover compensation. These claims are similar to personal injury lawsuits in that they can be based on different causes of action and place the burden of proof on Plaintiffs. However, they can allow for the recovery of compensation beyond damages suffered by victims themselves, including a loved one’s pain and emotional suffering, a spouse’s loss of consortium companionship, and funeral/burial expenses.
Each of these legal actions has specific rules and procedures and may be subject to varying statutes of limitations. Because every case is different, the best way to evaluate the statute of limitations that applies to your matter, your available options, and the best course or action for you is to have your case reviewed personally by an attorney with experience in this arena.
Speak with a FELA Claim Attorney: (855) 744-1922
FELA claims have strict requirements and procedural rules that can become significant hurdles for many railroad workers and families, and the railroad corporations who defend against them can act as major barriers to justice.
With over 100 years of collective experience and extensive resources, our team at SWMW Law has what it takes to take on the toughest claims – including FELA actions involving serious injuries or occupational illnesses like mesothelioma.
If you have questions about a FELA claim and how we can help, call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online. SWMW Law offers FREE consultations and can travel to you anywhere in the country.
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