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Railroad Injuries - FELA

Requirements For Proving Liability Under FELA

October 25, 2016

Railroad workers who are injured on the job in Illinois may recover benefits from their employer under the Federal Employers Liability Act, but they must first prove that their employers were liable for their accidents and resulting injuries. There are several elements that the workers must prove in order to hold their employers liable for their injuries. If the employer provided a defective locomotive, the worker may show a breach of duty by the employer under the Locomotive Inspection Act if the worker is able to prove that the employer violated its provisions. FELA injury lawyers handle cases involving FELA alone as well as FELA cases that also intersect with the LIA violations.

Proving Liability Under the FELA

Unlike Illinois workers’ compensation, railroad workers must prove that their employers were negligent in order to recover for their injuries. Railroad companies owe a duty of care to provide their employees with a reasonably safe working environment. If a company fails to do so and an accident and injury results, a worker may be able to hold the railroad liable. There are a number of different duties that railroad companies owe to their employees, including the following:

  • To provide a work environment, tools and equipment that are reasonably safe
  • To protect workers from intentional harms from others
  • To conduct regular inspections to check for hazards
  • To enforce all safety regulations and rules
  • To provide adequate training
  • To avoid using work quotas that are unreasonable

If an employee is able to show that his or her employer violated any one of these duties and that that breach caused his or her injury even in part, then the railroad may be held to be liable. Railroads often try to argue that they did not violate their duties or that the railroad worker was negligent and that the worker’s negligent caused his or her injuries in part or in whole. If a jury finds that both the employer and worker were negligent, the worker’s recovery amount will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is attributed to him or her.

FELA Injury Lawyers: The LIA

Under the Locomotive Inspection Act, railroad companies are only supposed to use locomotives that are safe to operate and that do not have unsafe conditions that could result in personal injury. While the act does not offer a vehicle for a separate cause of action, it does work together with the FELA to make it stronger and to enhance it. Under the LIA, railroads are required to regularly inspect their locomotives, and the locomotives must pass a number of federally prescribed tests. There are many federal regulations that have been passed under the LIA. If a worker can show that his or her employer violated the LIA, then he or she will be able to prove that the employer violated its duty under the FELA and was negligent. FELA injury lawyers may argue that an employer violated the LIA when an injury accident involved a locomotive.

In Use Requirement Under the LIA

Under the LIA, an employee may show that the railroad either used or allowed a locomotive to be used when it was not safe to be used, could not pass the federal battery of tests or had not been inspected and it was unreasonably safe. Railroad companies may make a number of different arguments under the LIA. In one case in Illinois, the company argued that a locomotive that had been unhooked from a train and left on the main track was not in use as defined under the LIA. In that case, a worker was sent to retrieve the locomotive. When he was boarding it, he slipped on some loose gravel and severely injured his knee. The locomotive had been unhooked because it had communication problems with the front locomotive on the train to which it had been previously attached.

Courts consider a number of factors when they determine whether or not a locomotive was in use at the time of an accident. They look at where the locomotive was at, whether it was in the repair and maintenance station or on the tracks, whether the locomotive was being moved in order to repair it or to allow it to depart and what the injured worker was doing at the time of the accident. In the man’s case, the court found that the locomotive was in use under the LIA and that the communication problem was a violation of the act, allowing the plaintiff’s FELA case to move forward.

Proving liability under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act may involve complex arguments and an intersection of various federal laws. FELA injury lawyers often work with a number of different laws when they are building their clients’ cases in order to help them recover by proving that the railroads were liable.

If you have been injured in a personal injury or medical malpractice accident, do not hesitate to contact the Chicago accident and injury law firm of Cogan & Power at (312) 477-2500 to schedule a free case consultation, so that we can help you begin the process of recovery as soon as possible. If you cannot come to our offices in downtown Chicago, we will come to you. And because we take cases on a contingency basis, you will not pay any fee unless we get you compensation.