Connecticut railroad workers may be familiar with the Federal Employers Liability Act. Passed in 1908, it continues to provide compensation for injured railroad workers and for the families of those workers killed on the job. This is regardless of whether the employees' primary duties are performed in or around trains.
New York residents may have heard that on the morning of Nov. 18, an employee with the industrial company Lafarge Canada was struck by a rail car in Seattle's Industrial District and, despite the efforts of co-workers and medics, died from his injuries. It is the sort of case that could lead to a claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act.
Railroad workers in Connecticut and around the country are not covered by workers' compensation programs. They instead file claims under the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act when they are injured on the job. Unlike workers who file workers' compensation claims, injured railroad employees only receive compensation when they can prove that their employer acted negligently. Compensation in FELA cases is also awarded differently. Workers' compensation benefits are determined by a fixed schedule, but compensation in FELA cases is awarded based on the employer's degree of negligence.
Connecticut residents may remember hearing about an Amtrak passenger train crash that killed two people and injured more than 90 others. It occurred on the morning of Feb. 4, 2018, in the city of Cayce, South Carolina. The Miami-bound train collided with a parked freight train at 53 mph after the conductor forgot to move the switch to keep it on the main track. The Amtrak train's conductor and engineer were killed.
Railroad workers in Connecticut probably know that they are covered under the Federal Employers Liability Act in the event that they are injured on the job. The process of filing a FELA claim can be complicated, so they should be familiar with at least some of the details. The steps taken immediately after the injury are perhaps the most crucial to the success or failure of a claim.
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.
Many New York City workers who live in New Jersey commute to their jobs through public transportation. However, they may not know that if a transportation worker gets hurt, it may be difficult for that person to file a lawsuit against his or her employer. This is because NJ Transit has claimed that it had sovereign immunity because it was a government entity and thus it cannot be sued under the 1908 Federal Employers Liability Act.
The Federal Employers' Liability Act allows rail employees who are in interstate commerce in New York and the rest of the United States to pursue damages from their employers for injuries they sustain while on the job. It overrides any existing state legislation and stipulates that the injured workers have to prove that the employer was negligent. It also requires that any financial compensation that is awarded is to be reduced in proportion to the worker's failure in adhering to safety policies in the workplace.
Railroad companies in New York, Connecticut and other states must ensure that employees enjoy a safe working environment. If a worker is hurt on the job, compensation may be warranted. One man in Missouri recently filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad, stating that he was injured in part because of an unsafe working environment. He also claimed that he didn't have the tools needed to do the job.
On May 21, 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board held a meeting to determine the cause of a December 18, 2017, train crash. On that day, Amtrak train 501 derailed from a highway overpass near DuPont, Washington, killing three passengers and injuring 65 others (57 were train occupants, eight were in vehicles along the highway). Connecticut residents should know that a lack of training on the part of the train engineer was behind the wreck.