Under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), railroad workers who have been injured on duty, or who have developed a disease due to working conditions, are protected.
What about retired workers? If a railway worker suffers an injury and then retires before making their claim, does it matter?
FELA claims: The fundamentals
Traumatic injuries, diseases and conditions that have aggravated pre-existing illnesses are all covered by FELA. For a FELA claim to be successful, the onus is on the employee to prove that the negligence of an employer has resulted in injury or illness.
Claims of this type are unique in character because the employee only has to prove that the negligence of an employer played some role in the harm. As a result, the acts or omissions of the company could only be partially responsible, but they could still be held liable.
The time limits for filing a claim
FELA claims are subject to a statute of limitations. Therefore, even if the worker has a strong case, it could be dismissed if not filed within three years. Identifying when the clock starts for accidents is usually straightforward. For example, if a train derailment caused an accident, it’s easy enough to tie injuries back to that date. However, specifying the time limit for some physical harms can be problematic. Different types of diseases do not always present symptoms immediately.
Typically, workers will be expected to have brought the claim within three years of the date on which they either knew about their work-related injury or should have known about it. Crucially, this three-year rule also applies to retired railroad workers. The time limit applies from the date that the injury occurred, rather than when the person last worked for the company. When the employee retired is of no relevance.
As a current or former railroad worker, getting familiar with your legal rights and obligations could be beneficial for both your health and legal protections.