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Metro-North collision sends worker to hospital

Connecticut residents may have heard about the railroad accident that took place on Sept. 29 in Norwalk. This was the second time in two and a half months that a collision led to a Metro-North Railroad employee being hospitalized.

Around 3:55 a.m. that day, two track cars bumped into each other on out-of service tracks between South Norwalk and East Norwalk, resulting in a low-speed collision; track cars rarely exceed 5 mph according to a Metro-North spokesman. As a precautionary measure, one Metro-North employee was taken to the hospital for observation.

Amtrak faces safety challenges

Amtrak has been working to improve both its safety record and its customer service. Generally, the trains run on schedule between New York and Washington, D.C., since the company owns those tracks, but in other places, they are often delayed by freight trains.

There have been accidents and several near-misses in this fiscal year. In its first 10 months, three passengers and four employees died. In addition, nearly 800 passengers and 585 employees were injured. The company has until Nov. 1 to submit a plan of operation to the government that includes addressing these safety issues. Annually, it has around 115 operating violations. However, in the past year, it has had fewer incidents of tampering with a safety device, running a red signal and speeding. It also has plans to improve its drug and alcohol polices and testing and make its confidential reporting system more accessible to employees. According to the chief safety officer, it will take several years for these changes to lead to real improvements in the company's safety culture.

How are FELA claims different than workers’ compensation?

Workplace injuries can happen in any industry. However, the laws governing compensation are different depending on where you work. While workers’ compensation is a common protection for many employees, it does not apply to federal railroad workers.

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) protects railroad workers instead, and it has different requirements than workers’ compensation.

The FELA claims process for injured railroad workers

When railroad workers in Connecticut and around the country are injured in an on-the-job accident, they are covered by Federal Employers Liability Act rather than a state workers' compensation program. FELA coverage, like workers' compensation, helps injured workers financially while they are unable to earn a paycheck, but railroad workers seeking benefits must satisfy a requirement that workers injured in other sectors do not. Negligence is not generally taken into consideration when workers' compensation claims are evaluated, but it is of crucial importance in FELA claims.

This is because FELA benefits are only paid when injured workers can establish that their employers acted negligently in some way. The amount they receive is also reduced according to their share of the fault. Because of this, FELA claims are often contested fiercely by railroad companies. FELA claims are a complex area of the law, which is why injured railroad workers may be wise to seek out attorneys with previous experience in this area.

Injured railroad worker files FELA claim

Railroad workers in Connecticut and around the country who are injured in on-the-job accidents are covered by the Federal Employers Liability Act and not state-run workers' compensation programs. While injured or sick workers in other industries are generally entitled to compensation even if they acted negligently, railroad workers may be denied benefits if their injuries were entirely or partly caused by their reckless behavior. Another key difference between the two processes is that FELA claims are filed in court rather than with a workers' compensation insurance company.

One such case involves a man employed by the Texas-based Port Terminal Railroad Association as a switchman. On Aug. 29, the man filed a FELA claim against his employer in the Harris County District Court over injuries he suffered in a workplace accident in March. The man says that he suffered serious injuries to his neck, back and shoulder when he fell after entering the cab of a locomotive that had no floor.

How OSHA protects whistleblowers

Workers in New York, Connecticut and the surrounding areas are protected under OSHA whistleblower statutes. This means that employers are generally unable to retaliate against a worker for calling attention to illegal or harassing behavior in the workplace. Examples of protected activities include reporting a hazard on the job, refusing to engage in illegal activity or participating in an investigation. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against can file a complaint with OSHA.

Companies can protect themselves and their employees from retaliation by being proactive in developing an anti-retaliation program. Such a plan will require training and proper oversight once it has been implemented. The program should allow employees to speak without fear of any negative repercussions. This should be the case whether an employee is reporting a program within the organization or reporting possible retaliation on the part of a manager or owner.

NTSB: human error behind 2017 South Dakota railway crash

In September 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board issued its report on a railway accident that occurred in January 2017 in South Dakota. Railway workers and their employees in New York may be able to learn from this incident, which was the 52nd fatal railway accident to occur in the past 21 years.

The accident occurred when a BNSF train traveling at 35 miles per hour hit and killed two employees who were clearing ice and snow from a track switch. One was a 35-year-old gang foreman who had been working for BNSF for 10 years, and the other was a 58-year-old motor vehicle operator employed by the railway company for 39 years.

Electrician files FELA claim for railroad work injury

Railroad workers in New York who are injured while they are working on the job may be protected under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. This law is in place to protect railroad and other federal employees when they are injured because of the negligence of their employers.

News sources in Texas report that an electrician who was reportedly injured while working on the job at Union Pacific Railroad filed a lawsuit under FELA in the Harris County District Court against the railroad company. The man claims that he was injured on Dec. 12, 2016, while he was performing work on top of a locomotive. The man was installing equipment at the time of his injury accident.

Court rules in railroad worker lost wages case

Railroad workers in New York and around the country do not participate in the U.S. Social Security program. Instead, their retirement benefits, which are primarily financed by payroll taxes, are administered by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board. A panel of federal appeals judges in Arkansas were recently tasked with deciding whether or not the provisions of the Railroad Retirement Tax Act should apply to awards for lost wages in workplace injury cases, and they ruled that the wording of the law was unambiguous and no RRTA taxes should be deducted.

The case involved a railroad worker who was terminated by the BNSF Railroad Company in November 2012 for violating their attendance policies. The worker claimed that some of his absences were related to injuries he suffered in a workplace accident in 2010. The worker filed a retaliation claim against BNSF under the provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act over his firing, and he also pursued a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act alleging that his employer's negligence had contributed to his injuries.

What damages can I seek in a FELA claim?

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) works to protect federal railroad workers if they experience injuries while working. Different from filing workers’ compensation claims, FELA claims let workers obtain more extensive damages for their workplace injuries.

FELA claims involve many moving parts, but if your federal company acted negligently, you may not prove responsible for your inflicted physical or emotional trauma. In any FELA cause, to seek accurate damages, you want to hire an experienced FELA attorney to aid in developing your case. Ensuring that you receive the correct compensation involves identifying your company’s negligence, but if determined, you may prove eligible for extensive damage payments.

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