Understanding FELA Claims
Railyards and rail lines are tough places to work, requiring workers to be determined and focused on the job. Large freight cars, locomotive engines, heavy machinery, dangerous obstacles, and sometimes, grueling conditions create significant hazards for those who make their living on the railroads. The potential for serious injury in Virginia rail yards and on the tracks is very high. If you have been hurt, you need the maximum compensation that you are entitled to. The FELA attorneys at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers have represented workers harmed in Virginia and elsewhere and the families of deceased railroad workers for decades. We have battled for payouts from CSX, Norfolk Southern and many other big rail operators over injured and deceased railroad workers.
Our experienced Virginia railroad accident lawyers also litigate cases for workplace-related illnesses that come from exposure to dangerous chemicals and substances. These are everyday hazards for railroad workers. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we fight for railroad workers to get them back to where they were before their accident. Workers are protected by an important piece of federal legislation. If you have been injured or suffer from medical problems related to work on a railroad in Virginia, we can help.
What is FELA?
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was passed by Congress in 1908 to protect the rights of people employed by rail companies and rail yards who were injured on the job. Under this act, you are allowed to sue a rail company for a railroad accident and seek compensation for your injuries if it is found the company did not provide a safe working environment. Unlike the workers’ compensation system, the railroad must have been to blame for your injury. You can be compensated for:
What Happens When Virginia Railroad Workers Suffer a Permanent Disability?
Most railroad jobs require workers to be able to lift certain amounts. If you are permanently unable to perform your duties due to a railroad work-related illness or injury, you have a permanent disability. In this case, we will fight for you to receive a full recovery for this disqualification, which will provide you with lost wages for the rest of your railroad career.
Does FELA Cover a Death from a Virginia Railroad Accident?
The family of a railroad worker who dies as a result of injuries or a medical condition sustained on the job may file a lawsuit for wrongful death against the company. FELA wrongful damages include the economic loss of wages of your husband for the rest of his career and compensation for his conscious pain from the injury until his death.
Railyards can be dangerous places. There are numerous trains moving around and one mistake on the behalf of a supervisor can prove fatal. In 2015, a worker was killed at Richmond’s ACCA train yard.
Injuries Covered Under FELA
You can seek compensation under FELA for preventable injuries caused by unsafe conditions or defective equipment. If you have been hurt by heavy railroad equipment or poor conditions at rail yards in places like Norfolk, Newport News or Richmond, you may be eligible for legal recovery under the law. Unlike workers’ compensation, FELA requires that the railroad company or its employees be at fault for a railroad worker accident through failure to provide a safe place to work.
Common types of accidents involving Virginia railroad workers include:
1. Coupling Accidents
Workers may be crushed between two cars when incorrect procedures are followed.
2. Slip and Fall Accidents
Railroads are hazardous places. Workers may trip on loose material and fall down embankments or fall from slippery surfaces on a train.
3. Cumulative Trauma Injuries
Long hours of walking on ballast can lead to knee and back injuries. Riding on improperly maintained rails can cause serious back and spinal injuries.
When trains collide such as in the 2018 accident in Cayce, South Carolina, the two people who died on the Amtrak train were workers. People who work on the railroad often suffer the most serious injuries in derailments.
5. Lifting Accidents
Lifting heavy objects may cause a spinal disk herniation in workers. We have seen cases in which railroads asked demanded their employees lift objects that are far too heavy.
6. Falling Objects
Railroad workers hoist up many heavy objects. When falls occur they can be devastating, causing traumatic brain injuries or deaths.
7. Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals
Virginia’s railroads transport large amounts of hazardous materials from chlorine to crude oil which is transported to Yorktown and Hampton Roads and is highly combustible. Exposure to hazardous substances and chemicals is linked to lung cancer and other serious diseases.
Can Virginia Railroad Workers Be Disciplined for Reporting Unsafe Conditions?
Under federal law, you cannot be disciplined or face retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions or seeking medical treatment. The Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) 49 U.S.C. §20109 prevents any railroad company from discharging, demoting, suspending, reprimanding or in some way discriminating against an employee who provides information regarding a violation of safety rules reporting an injury or testifying in a FELA case. This section of the legislation is known as the whistleblower protection program. If your rights under the whistleblower program are violated by an employed, you may have grounds to sue the railroad.
Attorneys Helping Clients With Railroad Crossing Accidents
Virginia has a number of important railroad towns with tracks extending throughout the state, westward into coal country, and northward into the DC metro area. These lines are important to the state’s economy but often run through areas where highway grade crossings are poorly maintained, poorly marked and kept in an unsafe condition. In 2018, the passenger of a garbage truck was killed and six people were injured in a crash on a grade crossing between an Amtrak train and the truck in Crozet. If you or a family member has been injured at one of these crossings, particularly as a passenger in a car or truck hit by a train, the railroad company may be responsible for your injuries. We file suits and make claims against any railroad company, such as:
- Norfolk Southern
- Short lines like the Buckingham Branch
- Commuter rail lines
- The Norfolk and Portsmouth Belt Line
- The Commonwealth Railway.
To discuss the options in your specific circumstances, just give us a call.