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Railroad Accident Attorney

Access to railroad accident information can help victims better understand their options and what actions they should take. The experienced lawyers at Arnold & Itkin LLP provide this information resource in the hope that it will inform the railroad injury victim and assist them in the pursuit of justice.

If you or family members have been injured in a railroad accident, contacting a railroad accident lawyer should be an immediate priority.


What is FELA?

FELA refers to the Federal Employers Liability Act. Congress created FELA in 1908 when railroads were the primary engine for expansion in the United States. The railroad industry saw unprecedented growth as the westward moving US population built new communities and industries. President Theodore Roosevelt championed legislation to protect railroad workers who were experiencing high death tolls and tremendous numbers of grievous injuries while in the employ of the largely unregulated railroad industry. FELA created regulations for a safe workplace environment and the guaranteed right of workers and their families to be compensated in the event of workplace injury or death.

Who can make a FELA claim?

Usually, any employee of a common carrier railroad company who is injured on the job can make a FELA claim. In the unfortunate event of the work related death of a railroad worker, the worker's family may also make a FELA claim. There are some cases where non-railroad employees who are under contract to the railroad company, or who work for companies under contract to the railroad company, are eligible to file a FELA claim.

How is FELA different from typical state run workers' compensation claims?

In a worker's compensation claim, the worker must only prove that he or she was injured 'on the job'. No claim of liability by the employer is necessary. Compensation is then set and distributed by the appropriate state government agency. On the other hand, railroad employees involved in a FELA claim, must prove that the injury they sustained on the job was caused by the owner or operator, if different, of the railroad company. This means that through some action or inaction in the workplace the railroad company is, at least in part, liable.

What does my lawyer mean when he describes FELA claims as "featherweight"?

When a FELA claim is described as being "featherweight", its means that the burden of proof for liability is small. If the railroad company can be proven to be liable, even in a very minor way, then they will be found liable for the injury in the claim.

I'm a railroad worker and while on the job I slipped on loose stones in the rail bed and fell. As a result, my back was injured and I'm in constant pain. Should I file a FELA claim?

You may have a very strong case. "Ballast" is the gravel and crushed rock that makes up the rail bed. "Ballast" injuries are not uncommon. You should talk to a qualified railroad injury attorney immediately.

Are awards from injury claims larger with workers' compensation claims or with FELA claims?

Usually, awards from FELA claims are much larger than awards from state workers' compensation claims. Awards can include the loss of past and future wages, pain, suffering, emotional distress and healthcare.

Which body of the federal government regulates railroad operation and safety and administers FELA benefits?

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has the authority to author and enforce all regulations concerning railroad operation.

Is there a body of regulations that specifically regulate safety for the railroad industry?

Yes. Chief among a number of federal safety regulations is the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970. This act assigns, by direction of the Secretary of Transportation, regulatory responsibility to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The FRA has responsibility for all areas of railroad safety, and the authority required to investigate and prosecute violations of any rail safety law. Pursuant to the Railroad Safety Act, the FRA has created a regulatory framework for track, freight cars, operating rules, operating practices, including control of alcohol and drug use, engineer qualifications, bridge worker safety, radio use, rear end markers, glazing of windows on locomotives, cabooses, and passenger cars.

Can any railroad employee, regardless of the type job they perform, file a FELA claim?

Usually, yes. As long as the injury occurred while the employee is on the job and he or she can prove liability on the part of the railroad company, it is probably a valid FELA claim.

I'm a railroad employee and I have a serious illness that I believe was caused by exposure to chemicals transported by the trains I work on, can I file a FELA claim?

Yes. 1.7 million tank cars filled with a variety of chemical products are transported by rail every year in the US. Many of these tank cars contain hazardous materials that can leak or spill. Many spilled or discarded hazardous materials pollute the rail yards and rail right of way. Workers can be exposed to these dangerous substances on a daily basis. You should contact a qualified railroad injury attorney immediately.

Train Accident FAQs

Are there safety regulations that control what kinds of warnings and safety equipment are installed on railroad crossings?

There and state and federal regulations in place that govern the safety of railroad crossings, but safety devices such as lights, barriers and audible warnings are not mandated for every railroad crossing. This determination is typically made by state regulatory agencies. It is interesting to note that only about 20 percent of railroad crossings in the United States employ warning lights and barriers.

Is it OK to walk, jog or ride bikes on railroad right of ways?

No. Railroad right-of-ways are private property and are very dangerous.

What is the most prevalent cause of non-employee railroad fatalities in the United States?

The Federal Railroad Administration reported that in 2006, trespass fatalities, the number one cause of all rail-related deaths, increased by 14.5 percent to 530. In addition to children playing near the tracks and on rail bridges, this includes those who jog, ride bikes, fish and walk near or over tracks.

What does the term "negligence" mean and how is it applied to train accident claims?

Negligence refers to culpability or blame assigned to an individual or entity that has neglected to exercise the level of responsible behavior required to prevent harm in a given circumstance. In the case of train accident claims, negligence refers the behavior of railroad employees, management, operators, and owners that contribute to train accidents and resulting injury and death. Negligence in these circumstances is often determined at trial by a jury.

What is the most common cause of train passenger injury?

By far, most train passenger injuries occur on railroad property while traveling to a train, boarding a train, or leaving a train.

What is the most common type of train accident?

According to Operation Lifesaver®, a train-safety organization, a train strikes a vehicle or a pedestrian at a rail crossing approximately every 2 hours in the United States. There are over 1,600 accidents at train crossings every year.

Who is responsible for railroad safety regulations?

At the federal level, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Department of Transportation (DOT) share regulatory responsibility for railroad safety with the FRA having the responsibility for primary oversight. Each state has regulatory bodies that regulate and inspect railroad operations in their state.

For more answers and information to all of your questions, contact a railroad injury lawyer from Arnold & Itkin LLP.

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