People working in the railroad industry are at high risk because of the likelihood of accidents. If you get into such a mishap, chances are that you may face grave injuries more often than not. Obviously, these can translate into massive medical bills, rehab costs, lost wages, physical suffering, and emotional trauma. Fortunately, the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) comes to the rescue of injured railroad workers as it is designed to give them the financial support they require after a serious accident. However, securing FELA benefits is easier said than done. You will have to prove that the accident was caused by the negligence of your employer, another employee or a manufacturer to get the rightful claim. Here is all that you need to know about proving negligence in FELA claims.
The responsibilities of a railroad employer
Considering the hazards of the industry, employers have a responsibility for the safety of the employees. Essentially, they need to provide a safe working environment for all workers. While this includes the provision of appropriate safety training for performing their duties safely, the employer also needs to ensure that every person is provided the requisite and personal protection equipment (PPE). Further, the workplace should be free from hazards as well.
Establishing negligence of the employer
FELA is the railroad counterpart of the workers’ compensation insurance which applies in other industry verticals. Basically, you have to prove the negligence of the employer to file railroad injury claims and get the compensation you deserve. Negligence can be established in different situations, such as the following:
- OSHA violations
- The worksite does not have the basic safety standards in place
- Machinery is faulty or not maintained properly
- Lack of adequate proper safety training
- A supervisor fails to implement worksite changes despite being warned of their hazards
- An intentional act of harm
Apart from these factors, FELA may be awarded to a worker injured because of other acts of negligence provided they are able to prove it. Although it may not be easy to prove one of these factors definitively, the law has made things simpler for railroad workers. As long as you can provide a “featherweight burden of proof”, you can get a verdict in your favor. Simply speaking, you need not demonstrate the same level of proof which is required in standard personal injury cases. Just showing that the action or inaction of the other party contributed to your injury is enough.
The role of comparative negligence
Once you are able to establish negligence, compensation is calculated on the basis of the relative responsibility of each party involved. This is known as comparative negligence and has a far reaching impact on the compensation amount. Your relative level of fault for the mishap determines the value of compensation you get for your injuries. If the court finds that you are 50 percent responsible for the injury, you can recover half of the total determined benefits in compensation. Getting a seasoned attorney to handle your case is the best bet to secure the value that you rightfully deserve.
The railroad will probably argue that your actions were also a reason for the injuries you sustained, which could have a negative impact on the award. However, a FELA expert can help you strengthen your side of the story with the right evidence and arguments.