Railways pose a uniquely dangerous environment where injuries are both more likely and more severe. Injuries that occur on or near a railway are often the responsibility of the railway operator, including special laws designed to protect railway workers from the extremely high risks that come with employer negligence. Not only are railways dangerous, but the injuries they cause can be severe, disabling, and long-lasting. If you or someone you know has experienced a recent railroad accident injury, you are not alone. An experienced railway injury lawyer at Morrow & Sheppard LLP can help you understand your case and seek support for your medical bills through FELA and personal injury law.
Common Causes of Railway Injuries
What can cause a railway injury? Around such large machines, many circumstances can result in an injury inside or near railway cars and tracks. The four most common causes of railway injuries are human error, equipment malfunction, track & infrastructure issues, and unsafe work practices.
People must be very careful when moving around an active railway. Even when all precautions have been taken, it is possible for an operator to make a mistake or even for a passenger to accidentally fall or get caught in an extremely dangerous fashion. Fatigue or distraction after working long hours often causes operator mistakes. This, in turn, can result in either passenger or employee railway injuries. Passenger injuries are often the result of clumsiness, fatigue, or even jostling at the wrong moment.
Some railway injuries are not the fault of a human but of the railway equipment. For example, a signal failure can cause trains to collide or fail to help passengers stay clear of dangerous areas at the wrong moment. Defective train parts may lead to door malfunctions or braking issues that can suddenly cause the train to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, which can result in injury.
Track and Infrastructure Issues
If the track did not undergo proper maintenance or if something occurred since the last check, some railway injuries may be caused by track and infrastructure issues. Poor maintenance can cause the train on a track to malfunction, either accelerating too much, failing to brake, or even derailing. Obstructions on the track are even harder to control. If a vehicle, animal, or even a large rock is on the track at the wrong time, both trains and people can be damaged.
Unsafe Work Practices
Safely operating a railway takes expert handling. Insufficient training or inadequate safety measures can significantly reduce the safety of a railway experience. When this happens, injuries can occur due to the lack of skills or resources to prevent the injury.
Legal Rights and Compensation for Railway Injury Victims
The railway is accompanied by special laws that hold a railway operator responsible for injuries, with federal protections for those injuries sustained by employees who are subject to railway employer negligence.
Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)
FELA is the Federal Employers Liability Act which applies specifically to injuries and death that occur as the result of a railway employer’s negligence. An employee’s contributory negligence cannot cancel a claim, only reduce it. In addition, no contributory negligence will be found if the employer has violated railway safety statutes. Unlike worker’s compensation, surviving immediate family members may also use FELA to seek compensation if a railway injury kills a railway employee.
Federal and State Regulations
Every state may have individual safety, injury, and liability laws regarding railway injuries. However, inter-state rail lines make each railway operator subject to multi-state and federal regulations. This means that liability stacks and state-brought cases cannot be removed at the federal level. Safety standards for the railroad industry are the employer’s responsibility and are meant to minimize the risk to employees.
Filing a Claim
In order to file a railway injury claim, the statute of limitations will vary by state but is usually two or three years. For FELA-specific claims, the statute of limitations is three years. You will need medical evidence of the injuries, as well as proof that you were traveling or were in the vicinity of the railway for other reasons.
Types of Compensation
There are several types of compensation you might claim if you or a loved one has suffered a railway injury.
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- FELA-specific compensation provisions
Medical expenses cover the costs of recovery, while lost wages compensate for the financial loss of being unable to work. Severe injuries may warrant a pain & suffering allowance, and FELA must provide a set amount of monetary compensation based on factors like costs, negligence, and safety statute violation.
Types of Railway Injuries
Railway injuries vary widely depending on the cause and exposure to danger. Different injuries are more common among workers, passengers, pedestrians, or motorists.
Railway workers are at a constantly high risk of sustaining injuries on the job. Railroad worker injuries are typically considered occupational hazards and specific safety statutes are put in place to prevent all or most railroad worker injuries.
Passengers are most likely to sustain a railway injury when boarding or disembarking. Sprained ankles and twisted knees can occur if tripping over the gap. Wrenched limbs and worse can occur if the train suddenly has not come to a complete stop. Falling onto the tracks is also extremely dangerous, either due to a third rail (high voltage) or the risk of colliding with a moving train. Accidents while on the train are also possible, including slip & fall type injuries or injuries from falling luggage.
Pedestrians and Motorists
Pedestrians and motorists outside the train are at risk of crossing incidences. Collision with a train occurs when a pedestrian or motorist has not cleared the tracks when a train comes through. These injuries most likely happen because of a signal failure or no apparent warning of the approach of a train.
Hiring a Railway Injury Attorney
Railway injury attorneys can provide legal guidance and act as your advocate if you sustained injuries on or near a railroad, or as the result of a railway company’s negligence. They can help you best represent and defend your case to win the compensation you deserve after such an injury.
Expertise in Railroad Accident Law and FELA
Railway attorneys who have experience with FELA cases will not let a case lie until they have tried every avenue. We understand the industry-specific regulations that a railway employer must adhere to and have experience defending FELA cases against big railway teams.
Proven Track Record
Working with FELA cases can be difficult. That is why a proven track record for your railway injury attorney is essential. Client testimonials are a great source of proof that the attorney you are considering has already shown that they can achieve the results you seek for your railway injury compensation.
Personalized Legal Support
Lastly, an experienced railway injury attorney can personalize your legal support with more than a one-size-fits-all approach. We will dedicate attention to your case and maintain communication transparency throughout the process.
Contact a Railway Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Here at Morrow & Sheppard, we provide protection and legal guidance to anyone who sustained injuries in a railway setting. If you or anyone you know has been injured on the job with a railway or as the result of railroad activity, contact us today. Book a free consultation for your personal injury or FELA case. We’ll help you seek the best possible outcome.