Former President Benjamin Harrison compared the risks railroad workers face to the risks soldiers face. “It is a reproach to our civilization that any class of American workmen, should in the pursuit of a necessary and useful vocation, be subjected to a peril of life and limb as great as that of a soldier in time of war,” he said in 1889. In response, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act.
Basically, FELA is a cross between a negligence claim and a workers’ compensation matter. FELA victims don’t have to prove the railroad’s negligence caused an injury. Rather, victims must prove negligence contributed to an injury. That’s a much lower standard of proof than a negligence case, and it’s just a little higher than the standard of proof in a workers’ compensation case. Additionally, like negligence claimants, FELA victims are entitled to compensation for both economic and noneconomic losses.
Multiple times over the years, railroad companies have tried to change the law and make these cases harder for victims to win. These legislative efforts have failed. So, railroad companies do the next best thing, as far as they are concerned. They fight these claims very aggressively in court. A Lexington personal injury attorney levels the playing field.
Railroad yards are covered with ballast. The areas around railroad tracks are usually covered with these tiny pebbles as well. It’s very difficult to keep one’s balance on these rocks, especially if they haven’t been property maintained. That’s especially true if the ballast is wet.
So, ballast increases the risk of a fall. Ballast also increases the injuries in a fall. The rocks are a lot harder than the ground.
Serious falls normally cause broken bones and other such injuries. Making matters worse, many railroad employees work alone in isolated areas. So, it may be quite some time before someone finds them and they receive medical treatment. By then, their physical conditions have deteriorated, and their injuries are much more difficult, and much more costly, to treat. The recovery period becomes longer as well.
Working alone increases the possibility of a serious fall injury. Working with others increases the risk of an assault. Railroad workers usually have little direct supervision. So, when petty squabbles break out, there’s no one to step in and reduce tensions. Instead, these tensions boil over and become violent.
Individuals are directly responsible for worker-on-worker assaults. Employers are indirectly responsible, and as mentioned, indirect responsibility is all that’s necessary, in terms of a FELA injury claim. Possible negligence theories include negligent hiring and negligent supervision. Frequently, employers don’t ask the right questions during the hiring process. And, as mentioned, adequate supervision is a constant problem.
Jesse James-style train robberies are rare, but these incidents do happen. More frequently, evildoers break into railyards to steal copper pipes and other valuable items. These robberies and break-ins, which often end violently, are often related to negligent security. So, once again, the employer is indirectly responsible.
In civil court, premises liability assault claims are often difficult to win, because of the foreseeability rule. But this rule usually doesn’t apply in FELA cases.
Railroad workers use lots of large machines, like bulldozers, and small machines, like powerful circular saws.
Frequently, the workers who operate large machines have little experience behind the wheel. That’s especially true if they’re just parking or moving the vehicle. Large machines are very difficult to maneuver in tight spaces. As a result, railroad workers often get caught between a large machine and a retaining wall or another fixed object.
Employers are clearly negligent in these situations, at least in part. The aforementioned principles, especially negligent hiring, usually apply in these situations.
Employers usually issue the most powerful available tools to workers. Frequently, employers also remove safety guards and other attachments, so the user can work faster. As a result, these workers often sustain serious injuries.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.