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Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) Lawyer

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn about the complexities of Federal Employers Liability Act claims, common injuries seen in railroad accidents, and the compensation available to victims. An experienced FELA lawyer at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers can help you navigate the legal landscape and seek the best possible outcome for your case.

Enacted in 1908, the Federal Employers Liability Act, or  FELA, empowers railroad workers to claim compensation for on-the-job injuries. The FELA Act is instrumental in holding railroad companies accountable for their negligence in providing a safe work environment and covers an extensive range of potential injuries that workers may experience. If you work for a railroad company and have been hurt due to its actions, you may be eligible to pursue a FELA claim.  

The dedicated team of railroad accident attorneys at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers is committed to fighting for the compensation you deserve for an injury caused by someone else’s negligence. Our Federal Employers Liability Act lawyers in Virginia are well-versed in these claims and relentlessly advocate for clients to seek a fair recovery from railroad employers such as Norfolk Southern and CSX.

Choosing an Experienced FELA Attorney

Selecting the right FELA lawyer can significantly impact the success of your claim. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers—co-founded by leading railroad attorney John Cooper—provides proven expertise and commitment to clients.  An Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys member, John has extensive qualifications and accolades that show his ability to represent injured railroad workers. 

Our attorneys are accomplished and have garnered an impressive record of case results that showcase their prowess in FELA-related lawsuits. Our law firm has collectively helped injury victims recover millions in compensation

For example, we helped a veteran recover $6 million after a fall caused injuries that left him a paraplegic. Other settlements include $2.86 million for a highway worker struck by a drunk driver and $4.725 million for an adolescent injured in an auto accident. You can feel confident that our attorneys will provide you with the same outstanding representation for your case. 

FELA cases operate under different laws than those covering conventional personal injury cases. Thus, you need a specialized attorney who thoroughly understands these laws and procedures. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we’re equipped with the knowledge and expertise needed to tackle these complex cases.

The Federal Employers Liability Act is not just a single law but a collection of measures designed to protect the rights of railroad workers. Here are some critical legal provisions under FELA that every railroad worker needs to know:

  • Employer liability: Under FELA, railroad employers must provide a safe workplace for their employees. This includes proper training, adequate safety equipment, and safe tools. They also must inspect work environments to ensure they are free from potential safety hazards.
  • Comparative negligence: FELA operates under a system known as comparative negligence. Unlike workers’ compensation, which is typically a no-fault system, FELA requires proof of employer negligence. However, workers partially at fault for their injuries can still recover damages. The amount will be reduced proportionally to their degree of fault.
  • Damages: FELA allows for the recovery of a broader range of damages than workers’ compensation. Recoverable compensation includes past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, and financial losses to the deceased’s dependents in fatal accidents.
  • Statute of limitations: Under FELA, injured workers must file a lawsuit within three years of the injury date. This three-year rule also applies to cumulative trauma claims, but the period starts when the worker knew or should have known of the injury’s connection to their work.

Our team of skilled FELA attorneys at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers is well-versed in all aspects of FELA and ready to guide you through the complex legal process to protect your rights.

For a deeper understanding of your rights as a railroad worker, we encourage you to access our free book, which provides comprehensive information on railroad injury rights. Additionally, our resources guide for railroad workers provides an array of helpful resources for railroad workers navigating FELA claims.

Dangers of Railroad Work and Common Injuries

Many people are unaware of the prevalence of railroad injuries and fatalities. In 2021, there were 893 railroad deaths and 5,781 nonfatal injuries. This was a 20 percent increase, the highest since 2007, and a 4 percent increase from 2021. It is not just workers who are killed and injured. Passengers and trespassers are also at risk.

Based on this data, railroad accidents are still a significant problem in the country. One way to mitigate these is knowing how they happen and how to stay safe. 

Factors Contributing to Railroad Injuries and Fatalities

There are unique factors that make the railroad industry dangerous for workers. The strenuous labor, extreme work conditions, heavy machinery, and immense size and power of trains all contribute to a higher risk of severe injuries and fatalities. Here are some factors contributing to railroad injuries and fatalities:

Hazardous Work Environments

Railroad work often takes place in extremely demanding environments. Workers may be exposed to severe weather conditions, high noise levels, and difficult terrain. Work schedules often involve long hours, night shifts, and irregular shifts, leading to worker fatigue and increasing the risk of accidents.

Equipment Failure and Lack of Safety Measures

Trains are complex machines that require regular maintenance and inspections. Equipment failure can lead to catastrophic accidents if proper checks and maintenance are not carried out. The lack of sufficient safety measures, including protective gear, safety protocols, and training, exacerbates these risks.

Human Error

Mistakes made by employees can have devastating consequences in the railroad industry. These errors can stem from various factors, including fatigue, stress, inadequate training, distraction, or impairment from drugs or alcohol.

Derailments and Collisions

Derailments and collisions are among the deadliest types of railroad accidents. These can result from several factors, including track defects, equipment failure, signal malfunctions, or human error.

Railroad Accidents Caused by Insufficient Staffing

The root cause of railroad injuries often stems from a systematic reduction in crew size and other staff over time by major railroads such as Amtrak and Norfolk Southern. The eastern freight giants continually seek to lower their labor costs, sometimes substituting manpower with machinery or simply downsizing staff without offering additional assistance for crucial tasks. This negligence leads to unsafe working conditions, resulting in potential injuries, which could have been prevented with adequate staffing.

Railroad workers are entitled to a safe work environment despite the industry’s inherent risks. If you or a loved one has been injured in a railroad accident, you may be entitled to compensation under the FELA. The experienced FELA lawyers at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers can help you navigate these complex claims and fight for fair compensation.

Common Injuries Seen in Railroad Accidents

Accidents in the railroad industry are all too common, often leading to severe and life-changing injuries for the workers involved. Understanding the most common railroad worker injuries can shed light on the inherent dangers of this field and underscore the importance of legal protection under FELA.

Musculoskeletal Injuries

One of the most common railroad worker injuries is damage to the musculoskeletal system, including sprains, strains, and tears. These injuries can occur from lifting heavy equipment, repetitive movements, or falls.

Head Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are frequent in railroad accidents due to falls, collisions, or being struck by objects. These injuries range from mild concussions to severe brain damage, often leading to long-term cognitive, physical, and emotional issues.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Given the physically demanding nature of railroad work, spinal cord injuries are prevalent. These can result from heavy lifting, slip and falls, or accidents involving moving trains. Spinal cord injuries can lead to partial or complete paralysis, significantly impacting a worker’s quality of life.

Burns and Electrocutions

Due to electrical equipment and flammable materials, railroad workers are at risk of burns and electrocutions. These injuries can lead to severe skin damage, nerve damage, and sometimes death.

Respiratory Diseases

Exposure to toxic chemicals, dust, and diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis. These conditions may take years to manifest but are often severe and life-threatening.

Why Are So Many Railroad Accidents Fatal?

Railroad accidents are notoriously deadly due to the immense size and weight of trains, the high speeds at which they operate, and the presence of hazardous materials. When accidents occur, the magnitude of force involved can result in catastrophic injuries or instant fatalities. Additionally, the remoteness of some railroad tracks can delay emergency response times, leading to higher fatality rates.

Railroad workers and their families must understand these risks and protect their rights under FELA. If you or a loved one have experienced any of these common railroad worker injuries, the skilled attorneys at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers are ready to help fight for the justice and compensation you deserve.

Compensation Under FELA

Under FELA, railroad workers have the right to seek compensation for their injuries. Unlike standard workers’ compensation laws, FELA enables workers to pursue a larger range of damages if they can prove that the railroad company was negligent or at fault for the injury.

Types of Damages Covered

FELA provides for recovery of a variety of damages, aiming to fully compensate injured railroad workers. These damages include past and future medical expenses related to the injury, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity if the worker cannot return to their job. Additionally, it allows compensation for pain and suffering, which can significantly increase the total compensation awarded.

Proving Negligence

One of the key aspects of a FELA claim is proving that the railroad company was negligent. Some examples of negligence are unsafe working conditions, improper training, inadequate equipment, and the failure to adhere to safety regulations. The company’s negligence doesn’t need to be the sole cause of the accident. It would be enough if it played any part in the worker’s injury.

The Impact of Comparative Negligence

FELA operates under the principle of comparative negligence. This means that if the worker is found partially at fault for their injury, their compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault. However, unlike other systems, being partially at fault does not disqualify the worker from recovering damages.

Securing Your Rights

Seeking compensation under FELA can be complex and requires the expertise of experienced attorneys. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we have the knowledge and experience to help railroad workers navigate the legal process and seek the compensation they are entitled to receive. If you’ve been injured on the job, don’t hesitate to ask for the legal support you need.

FELA Recovery Following the Death of a Loved One

In the unfortunate event of a railroad worker’s death due to a work-related accident, FELA extends its provisions to protect the rights of the deceased’s family members. This allows the survivors to pursue a wrongful death claim against the negligent railroad company.

Who Can Claim?

The deceased worker’s spouse, children, or designated next of kin are entitled to seek compensation under FELA. The damages recovered can help mitigate the financial strain brought on by the sudden loss, covering costs such as funeral expenses, lost future earnings, and loss of consortium or companionship.

The Process Involved

Like an injury claim, proving negligence is crucial for the victim’s family. It’s essential to engage experienced attorneys to establish the connection between the company’s negligence and the tragic incident.

At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we understand the profound emotional distress following the loss of a loved one. Our dedicated team is here to navigate the complexities of a FELA wrongful death claim, aiming to obtain justice for your loved one and financial security for the family left behind.

Filing a FELA Lawsuit

A FELA lawsuit is not a straightforward process. It requires diligence, experience, and a solid understanding of the FELA Act and its associated laws. It is initiated by filing a complaint in civil court detailing the specific damages and circumstances leading to the injury or death of a railroad worker. The defendant, typically the railroad company, is then given time to respond.

What Documentation Is Needed for a FELA Lawsuit?

The collection of comprehensive evidence is crucial for a successful FELA lawsuit. This includes medical records outlining the diagnosis, treatment history, and the connection between the condition and the workplace incident. 

Photographic evidence of the injury and copies of accident reports are also valuable. Witness statements can strengthen your claim, particularly from those who saw the accident or were aware of the hazardous conditions leading to the injury.

Steps in FELA Litigation

After the initial complaint is filed, a series of legal steps ensue. These include the following:

  • Discovery period: This is an exchange of information between the claimant and the defendant. It allows each party to gather evidence to build their case.
  • Negotiation: If the defendant is unwilling to settle, the claimant’s attorney can send a demand letter detailing the claim and requesting compensation. If the defendant agrees to negotiate, a settlement can be reached without going to court.
  • Jury trial: A trial date is set if no settlement is reached. The case is presented before a jury, which then decides on the claim’s validity and the compensation to be awarded.
Deadline to File a FELA Claim

According to the U.S. Code, Title 45, Section 56, a FELA suit must be filed within three years from the date of the injury. This statute of limitations is a federal law applicable to all FELA lawsuits across all states. Missing this deadline could jeopardize your right to compensation. Contacting a seasoned FELA attorney as soon as possible after a railroad accident is important.

At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we understand the intricacies of FELA claims and are committed to guiding you through each step, ensuring all necessary documents are properly filed within the prescribed time frames. We aim to help railroad workers and their families secure fair compensation for their losses.

Partial Liability of Injured Railroad Worker in Virginia

A FELA claim isn’t subject to traditional workers’ compensation rules but to the doctrine of “comparative negligence.” This means if the injured railroad worker is found partially at fault for the accident, their compensation is reduced by their percentage of fault. 

For instance, if you are 20 percent at fault and awarded $100,000, you will receive $80,000. This does not bar recovery. Even if the worker is 99 percent at fault, they can still recover 1 percent of their damages.

Contact a Skilled FELA Attorney Today

As a leader in FELA lawsuits, we’re committed to providing you with the professional, personalized legal counsel you need. For more information, contact us online or call (757) 333-333 for your free case evaluation. 

At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we offer free consultations, and our commitment is steadfast—we charge no fee unless we win. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and allow us to guide you through the process of seeking the compensation you deserve.

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