Railroad work is dangerous. Employees of the railroad are exposed to serious risks of injury everyday. Because of this danger, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) in 1908. For over 100 years, the FELA has provided the only legal remedy for railroad workers injured or killed while in the service of the railroad. Railroad employees are not eligible for state workers’ compensation benefits.
Houston Train Accident Lawyer
Ben Bronston & Associates proudly represents railroad workers who have been injured on the job as well as those who have been wrongfully terminated, disciplined, threatened or discriminated against for reporting injuries or other safety concerns.
All too often railroad companies use disciplinary and other employment threats to intimidate workers who were injured on the job and workers who report safety issues. The use of threats, intimidation, harassment or other means to suppress accident or safety information is a federal crime.
In fact, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have recently increased their enforcement of these federal laws and made it known to all railroad companies that intimidation for reporting accidents or safety issues will not be tolerated.
Railroad Injury Information Center
- Laws Protecting Railroad Workers
- Personal Injury Claims for Railroald Passengers in Texas
- Why Every Houston Railroader Needs UM/UIM and PIP on their Personal Auto Insurance
- How to Get Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection
- How to Get Personal Injury Protection
Laws Protecting Railroad Workers
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) is a law that gives railroad employees the right to sue for injuries they have suffered on the job. FELA is similar to laws allowing individuals to sue for workers compensation and personal injury after accidents. However, FELA is specifically designed to protect railroad workers who are injured on the job.
Personal Injury Claims for Railroald Passengers in Texas
When a passenger on a railroad is injured, he or she may be able to hold the railroad company or owner liable. For example, if the passenger is involved in a railroad accident that could have been prevented if not for the negligent actions of the railroad company or railroad employees, he or she can file a law suit against the railroad. By filing a lawsuit, the passenger may be able to receive compensation for his or her injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other damages.
Negligence is the central issue in a FELA injury case. Once you have suffered an injury, the railroad’s legal department sets out to prove that the railroad was not negligent and/or that your own negligence caused your injury. The railroad only has to pay your FELA claim if the railroad is found to be negligent. However, even if the railroad is negligent, its liability for your injury will be reduced by the percentage of negligence attributable to you.
But if the railroad is found to have been in violation of certain FRA rules they will not be able to argue that they were not negligent. This is called negligence per se and is a major victory for an injured railroad worker. The first step in accomplishing this again goes back to making sure to identify dangerous conditions that may qualify as FRA defects on your accident form.
The following is a list of common FRA defects that if present at the scene of an accident should absolutely be listed on an accident report:
- ‘Slipped due to Muddy Ballast’ (49 C.F.R. 213.33)
- ‘Vegetation near tracks caused me to trip’ (49 C.F.R. 213.37)
- ‘Slipped due to oil on locomotive floor’ (49 C.F.R. 229.119)
- ‘RCO malfunction’ (49 USC 20701)
- ‘Failure of a co-worker to give proper car counts during a shove’ (49 CFR 218.99)
- ‘I pulled the pin lifter and cars failed to uncouple’ (49 USC 20302)
- ‘Automatic coupler failed to couple’ (49 USC 20302)
- ‘Hand brake malfunctioned’ (49 USC 20302)
- ‘Grab iron/step/ladder rung bent’ (49 CFR 231)
- ‘Failure of co-worker to follow radio rules’ (49 CFR 220.49)
Often it can be hard to get your thoughts straight right after an injury. Because of this, be sure to use the term ‘etc.’ when describing injuries or dangerous conditions on your incident report in case more information or injuries become clearer later on.
Remember that just writing down your injuries or unsafe working conditions on the accident report doesn’t necessarily prove the case for you. But if you don’t write it down you are making the railroad’s job to disprove their negligence that much easier. It is also important to keep in mind that FELA cases can still be won even though there was no FRA defect. An experienced Houston FELA lawyer will know how to argue against any claim that your negligence caused your injury, but correctly filling out your accident report is crucial to the success of your FELA case.
Here are 8 vital tips for any Texas railroad worker to help level the playing field in case of injury.
- Get medical treatment immediately after an injury.
Call an ambulance if necessary. After getting immediate medical care, consult with your own doctor to discuss all injuries.Seeking medical attention quickly is important for your physical recovery and also for the immediate documentation of the cause and extent of your injuries following your accident. Any interference by the railroad in this process is illegal and should also be documented.Remember that company doctors work closely with the railroad legal team. If you find yourself at the company doctor, be honest and cooperative but remember to point out any unsafe conditions that caused your injury and remember that any pre-existing conditions did not previously keep you from doing your job. Afterwards, it is very important to follow up with your own doctor.
Often you may not immediately realize the extent of their injury. However, getting treatment as soon as you realize you are hurt is the best thing for your health as well as your claim.
- Complete an injury report immediately after your injury occurs and save a copy for yourself.
Not only is it required by rule, but doing so also prevents the railroad legal department from successfully arguing you were hurt at home or somewhere other than at work. You should not leave the premises, unless you do so in an ambulance, before filing a report. Leaving without filing a report only gives the railroad a chance to argue that your injury occurred outside of your employment.
- List all unsafe conditions on the accident report.
You need to write down any unsafe conditions you had to work in that may have contributed to your injury no matter how insignificant they may seem. Many unsafe conditions are so commonly seen by railroad employees that they often forget to mention those conditions on their accident report.
Handling this correctly is critical to the success of your case.
- Get photos of unsafe conditions.
To the best of your ability and within company policies, take pictures of the accident site immediately after the accident. It is very important to make sure you have evidence of the scene at the time of your injury. This will prevent the railroad from fixing the problem and later arguing that the conditions were safe at the time of your injury.
- Obtain contact information of witnesses.
Do your best to obtain all contact information of any person who may have witnessed your injury, as they will be very important to proving your case. Getting vital information such as name, address and phone number will allow you or your attorney to get in contact with them.
- List all equipment involved in your injury.
Make sure to list all equipment involved in your injury on your injury report. This is important to your case so that the right equipment will be inspected for any defects.
- Save all paperwork.
Save all paper work associated with your job. For example: save track bulletins, track warrants, switch lists, etc. Any documents relating to your injury could be important in proving the railroad’s negligence in your case.
- Consult with an FELA Lawyer.
Hiring an experienced FELA attorney evens the playing field and eliminates the risk that you will be taken advantage of.
Why Every Houston Railroader Needs UM/UIM and PIP on their Personal Auto Insurance
You may be unaware that that many Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Protection (UM/UIM) or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policies will cover you in an accident even if you are not in the insured vehicle when the accident happens. Having these additional coverages on your personal driving insurance may help you as a Houston injured railroader recover in any of the following common situations:
- Grade Crossing Collisions – In some instances, trucking companies are merely required to have $750,000 in liability insurance. The train’s property damage alone may exceed this amount as most locomotives are valued at well over $1 million. In a bad grade crossing collision, an injured railroader would be well served to have UM/UIM and PIP on their personal auto insurance.
- Carryall Collisions – Carryall vans are often poorly maintained and the drivers are often undercompensated and overworked. Also, because railroaders are often transported late at night drunk drivers can be an additional problem. If an uninsured or underinsured driver runs into a carryall your UM/UIM or PIP may cover you. Likewise, if the carryall company causes a bad wreck resulting in major injuries to its passengers, UMP or PIP may cover an injured railroad worker.
- Government Vehicles – If there are damages from a grade crossing collision or carryall collision with a government vehicle such as a school bus or garbage truck, UM/UIM or PIP may be needed. This is because in Texas, government vehicles have a liability cap of $250,000 per person per incident.
How to Get Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection
UM/UIM can often be extended to as much as $300,000 per person for only a small increase in monthly premium. You should ask your insurance agent about this kind of addition to your policy. It should be noted though that some UM/UIM policies may have an exclusion for accidents which happen on the job, under the assumption that Texas Workers’ Compensation systems will provide relief. A specific request to their insurance agents may have to be made to have this exclusion removed from coverage.
How to Get Personal Injury Protection
Personal Injury Protection is also available through your personal driving insurance. In fact, your insurance agent may be required by law to offer PIP to you and collect your signature in the event that you decline it. In some cases, if they failed to do this you may still recover. Like UM/UIM, PIP is generally affordable compared to the alternative of not having it.