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NJ Transit injury cases settled as sovereign immunity is limited

The New Jersey Transit Corporation had been holding up the resolution of a FELA claim for two years by invoking the sovereign immunity defense. This is the defense whereby defendants state that they are immune from federal lawsuits. Connecticut residents should know, however, that the New Jersey legislature has passed a law limiting the use of that defense by NJ Transit.

The FELA claim was filed by an injured NJ Transit maintenance worker. Originally, the courts ruled in his favor, but in January 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against him. With the passing of the law, the court vacated its January decision and reinstated the first verdict. The plaintiff received the $824,152.59 settlement that was agreed upon in that first verdict.

The attorney representing the injured railway worker has applauded the latest ruling, saying that now the rights of injured NJ Transit workers have been restored. With this one case resolved, the dozens of other railway injury cases that were being held up in the state of New Jersey can be resumed.

The sovereign immunity defense had been seen by many as having a negative effect on injured railway workers themselves. When the odds are against the workers, workers may feel reluctant to pursue a case or even to report unsafe working conditions.

Injured railway workers do not file for workers' compensation like others do. Instead, they file what are called FELA claims. The process is similar to that of filing a personal injury claim; for example, victims must prove that the railway company's negligence led to the injuries. They may also receive much more in damages, including lost wages, medical expenses both past and future and pain and suffering. With a lawyer, victims might have a better chance of arriving at a fair settlement.

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