In 2008, there were nearly 2,500 train accidents in the U.S., involving 27 fatalities. Illinois had the second highest number of accidents in the nation. The Federal Railroad Administration defines a train accident as an event involving on-track rail equipment that results in monetary damage to the equipment and track above a certain threshold. However, when all accidents/incidents involving railroads are reported, the number of accidents climbs astronomically to 12,480 for the year, with 796 fatalities and over 8,500 injuries.
Railroad worker injuries are governed by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). FELA was enacted in 1908 to protect and compensate railroad workers for on-the-job injuries. State workers’ compensation statutes followed shortly thereafter. One must be careful, however, not to confuse FELA with workers’ compensation. In workers’ compensation, the employee gives up the right to go to court in exchange for prompt payment of benefits according to a predetermined schedule. Although such payments are considerably less than what one would expect to recover in a lawsuit, there is no requirement of a trial for the injured worker to prove negligence or fault on the part of the employer.
FELA, though, does require the worker to prove negligence on the part of the railroad in order to recover. Recovery, however, is not limited to a schedule of payments based on the type of injury; rather, the worker is entitled to recover various damages, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
FELA cases are subject to a statute of limitations, which means that you must commence your action within a certain period of time from the date of the injury, or your claim will be forever barred. Also, it is important to note that although the employee’s or injured party’s own negligence will not bar recovery, the amount of the award can be reduced in certain circumstances based on their contributory fault. FELA cases may be brought in state or federal court. The decision of which forum to pursue depends on many factors and can be a critical component of your case. An attorney knowledgeable with FELA cases and the laws in your state will be able to determine the best course of action.
Our firm practices extensively in the field of railroad injuries. In addition to our experienced attorneys, we employ a top-notch support staff, including investigators with previous employment experience in the railroad industry who know railroad operations and practices inside and out. If you or a loved one is a railroad worker who was injured on the job, contact the lawyers at Harrington, Thompson, Acker & Harrington, Ltd. to obtain the recovery you deserve.