In Part One of this Railroad Liability series we discussed how the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, or FELA, is a negligence or “fault based statute”. Negligence or fault can be established against the railroad under FELA if the railroad failed to exercise ordinary care to protect the safety of its workers. In Part Two, we will review two additional statutes and regulations that complement FELA.
Railroad Safety Statutes and Regulations that Supplement The FELA
To supplement the FELA and to “facilitate employee recovery”, Congress passed the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA) and the Federal Safety Appliance Act (SSA), both of which can establish railroad responsibility. In other words, If the railroad violates a safety provision in the LIA or the SSA, the railroad is responsible for any injuries or damages that are caused by the violation.
In addition, the Federal Railroad Administration has created safety regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR can be used as a basis for establishing fault against a railroad employer under the FELA. A violation of a safety regulation in the Code of Federal Regulations imposes absolute liability on railroad employers.
Injuries that Can Be Caused By A Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Violation
Many different types of injuries have been caused by a railroad employer’s failure to comply with the Code of Federal Regulations, including injuries caused by:
- Broken engine seats
- Train derailment
- Broken grab irons
- A failure to couple
- Radio rule violations
- Debris on the floor of a locomotive
- Defective switches
- Hours of Service Act violations
Injuries Caused “In Whole Or In Part” By the Violation of Federal Law
When a railroad employee is injured, the railroad’s violation of a safety statute or regulation does not have to be the only cause of the injury for the employer to be liable. Once negligence as a matter of law is established, the railroad is “absolutely liable” for an employee’s injury, if the violation simply contributes “in whole or in part” to the cause of the employee’s injury.
While some railroads have argued in FELA cases that this safety regulation is overly harsh, courts have ruled on the side of railroad employees, often referencing the dangerous nature of railroad jobs. One court responded to the railroad’s concern of too harsh laws,
“But harsh too is the inevitable consumption of lives, limbs and livelihoods by the railway industry. Employment in the railway industry remains perilous; we expect employers to maintain the highest standard of care. This includes observing statutory standards of care specific to the industry as well as other statutory obligations with equal diligence.”
Hiring an Experienced Railroad Injury Attorney
If you have a question or concern about whether an injury was caused by the railroad’s failure to comply with a federal safety law or regulation, contact the FELA attorneys at Harrington, Thompson, Acker & Harrington, Ltd. immediately. There is no fee for a consultation with an experienced FELA attorney and we are here to assist you. Contact one of our railroad injury lawyers today.
In the next part of this series we will discuss in greater detail how a violation of the Locomotive Inspection Act and other Federal Safety Statutes impacts a FELA case