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What is FELA and how does it apply to railroad worker injuries?

Employee safety should be the goal of any employer regardless of whether here in Connecticut or elsewhere across the country. Even when it is, injuries occur and the injured employee has a right to workers' compensation benefits. Except, railroad workers are not eligible for those benefits, so what happens with railroad worker injuries?

In 1908, the federal government recognized that the hazards facing railroad workers across the country needed to be addressed, along with what happens if they are injured. That year, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act to provide a way for injured railroad workers and their families to seek restitution. Injured parties can file suits in state or federal court against their employers and/or the railroad companies.

The act also provides railroad companies and employers with a uniform standard of liability as it applies to safety and working conditions for employees. Railroad workers must show that one or more parties violated the standards in order to receive compensation for their injuries. Fortunately, the burden of proof required for FELA claims is even less than in a personal injury claim that might be filed against another driver in a car accident.

Even a small degree of negligence that somehow contributed to the injury could result in a successful FELA claim. If a railroad company or employer violated regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Safety Appliance Act or the Boiler Inspection Act, among other federal safety standards, an injured employee could use those violations as evidence. On the other hand, if the injured worker is found to be at least partially responsible for his or her injuries, any award could be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the worker by the court (comparative negligence).

Even though the burden of proof is considered to be "featherweight," that does not mean that all FELA claims for railroad worker injuries are won before they begin. A Connecticut attorney who routinely works with injured railroad workers will understand the proof that is required, the possibilities of comparative negligence and what damages a worker could receive. His or her knowledge, advice and assistance could prove invaluable.

Source: Findlaw, "Railroad Worker Injuries / FELA - Overview", Accessed on April 10, 2017

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