Know Your Rights

Know Your Rights When Hurt On The Job Under the Federal Employers’ (Railroad) Liability Act

Each and every year railroad workers by the thousands are injured or killed while on the job. The number of job accidents is increasing because of speed-up, reduced work crews, infrequent maintenance and because of the failure of the railroads to provide safe working conditions.

In many instances injured railroad workers or their survivors are left to fend for themselves. All too often the railroad companies, through claim agents, by waivers, and other methods, succeed in dodging their just, lawful responsibility.

The railroads often try to get rid of disabled workers by pressuring them into taking inadequate disability pensions. The railroads thus avoid their own legal responsibility and pass their obligations on to the Railroad Retirement Fund. Disabled workers and their families, as a result, often fail to receive decent support during the remainder of their lives. The little money they do receive is taken from their co-workers, from whose wages regular deductions into the fund are made by law.

But injured workers are entitled to and should receive their just, full compensation under the provisions of the U.S. Federal Employers’ Liability Act. They are entitled also, if medically qualified, when they so choose, to continue on their job and not be forced into retirement.

Today it is more important than ever that railroad employees know their rights. They should learn how to safeguard these rights when hurt on the job.

Many railroad workers have been led to believe that when a man is hurt on the job he or she is entitled only to “compensation”. Most railroad claims department agents usually tell these men and women that “compensation” is a percentage of the time or wages lost. This is not true. The idea that any injured railroad worker is entitled to only wages lost is not only false, but generally such a notion proves costly to the worker and their family. The fact of the matter is that railroad employees injured through the fault of the carriers are usually entitled under the law to receive much more than their lost time or wages if they only knew it.

When an employee of interstate railroad is injured (or killed) at work, their survivors come under the protection of a law of Congress known as the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. Under this federal statute an injured railroad worker is entitled to recover for not only the time or wages lost, but also entitled to be paid for all expenses for medical treatment, pain and suffering undergone and for any permanent injury, whether partial or total. If the railroad worker is killed, his survivors are entitled to recover all damages, without any limit upon the amount, which they have suffered as a result.

The law says a railroad is entitled to recover damages from their company under the U.S. Federal Employers’ Liability Act if the following facts exist:

(1) When the railroad is engaged, even in small part, in interstate commerce; that is, it either runs across state lines or handles interstate freight;

(2) When injury to the worker is the result, even in part, of the negligence (carelessness) of any officer, agent, employee of the railroad, or the injury is caused by any defect in the cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, road bed, or any other equipment of the carrier;

Negligence on the part of the carrier is doing something that a reasonable person would not have done or failing to do something that a reasonable person would have done. Even the slightest amount of negligence on the part of the railroad is sufficient for the carrier to be liable.

The railroads, under the law, have a duty to provide safe places of work for their employees. They must also provide enough help, safe equipment, tools and proper working conditions for them. If any railroad fails to take these safety measures, or if the employee is injured through the carelessness of any other employee, the railroad is held responsible. It is liable to the worker for any injuries or damages he may suffer as a result.

The amount of money an injured railroad worker is entitled to recover is decided by two factors: (1) how serious his injuries and losses are and (2) whether he can show that his injury was in some way, or in some part, due to the fault of the railroad, the negligence of any of its employees, or some defect in equipment, tools, or any unsafe working condition.