Most people know that if a person is hurt at work, they may have a right to be compensated through workers’ compensation laws. Each state has a unique and specific set of rules for how workers are paid for their injuries, following a workplace accident. Some industries, however, are very different. Railroad workers are covered by an entirely different law, known as the Federal Employee Liability Act (FELA), which governs how certain types of federal workers can be compensated following an injury. Railroad workers are one group that are frequently hurt on the job in Kansas City and the surrounding communities. An experienced FELA attorney can help you better understand how to pursue a claim for injuries.
FELA Cases are Federal
Since these actions are based on federal law, they are brought in federal court. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals explains that FELA actions are a “broad federal tort remedy.” When you are hurt on the job as a railroad worker, you must bring your action in federal court, based on federal statutory standards.
What You Have to Prove
In a typical workers’ compensation claim, you need only prove that you were acting in the course and scope of your employment and you were injured. You do not need to prove some form of affirmative negligence on the part of your employer. Federal employee liability act cases are different in this regard.
To succeed in your claim for injuries as a railroad worker, you must prove negligence by a “preponderance of evidence.” This is shown by proving all of the following:
- The defendant employer owed a particular duty to the employee
- The defendant employer breached that duty to the employee
- The breach was the direct cause of the employee’s injury
- As a direct result of the injury, the employee suffered some form of loss
- The number of damages or losses that should be compensated
How to Prove Negligence
This is where an attorney can be indispensable in helping you get compensation. There are many ways to prove negligence. For instance, there are a number of sources from which you and your attorney can draw potential theories of liability.
- Standards Recognized in Other Court Cases. Your situation, though unique, may be very similar to other injuries that the courts have already decided. Sometimes, the issue of whether a particular type of action was negligent has already been thoroughly decided.
- Industry Customs and Safety Rules. Industry standards often provide a terrific source of evidence for the specific duties that a railroad owes its employees. Violating these standards can be strong evidence of negligence.
- Res Ipsa Loquitur. This Latin term describes a legal theory that allows a jury to infer or presume negligence where there is no alternative explanation for an occurrence. While difficult to prove, this theory has proven useful at times.
- Per Se Negligence. Violations of regulations and state or federal safety laws are often used to prove that a violation of said laws is automatically or (“per se”) an act of negligence. For instance, it is illegal to drive drunk. If a drunk driver causes a crash, the fact of intoxication may be used to show that the driver was per se negligent. This same logic can sometimes be used in the context of federal employee liability act cases.
- Testimony. Ultimately, testimony from other workers, witnesses, and you as the plaintiff can all be very helpful in proving your case.
Don’t Take Chances With Your FELA Case
If you’ve been hurt on the job, and you are a railroad worker or other federal employee covered by federal employee liability act, do not trust just any personal injury lawyer to handle your claim. Call the Krause & Kinsman Law Firm today. We know FELA, and we know exactly what it takes to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Robert Kinsman is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Robert Kinsman is passionate about normalizing the life of his clients after they have been seriously injured. Learn more about his experience here.