If you are a railroad employee who has been injured and files a FELA claim, you may be uncertain of what to anticipate. The claims procedure is complex, and it may be full of rude awakenings and inconvenient delays. Remember that every action involves at least two people, which implies that the timetable and events that occur may be beyond your control. However, you can minimize your confusion and frustration by hiring a FELA lawsuit attorney.
At Curcio Law Offices, we understand the FELA lawsuit process, as we have extensive experience handling railroad and train accident cases. No other Chicago personal injury attorneys will handle your case with such care and dedication. If you want a personal touch with aggressive representation, you need Curcio Law Offices. Contact our office today at 312-321-1111 or fill out our online intake form.
What Is the Federal Employers Liability Act?
The Federal Employers Liability Act is over a century old at this point. Back in 1908, Congress responded to the significant number of injured railroad workers with this legislation. It serves as the main source of legal compensation for those railroad workers injured on the job. This applies whether the worker sustained injuries in the railyard, on the tracks, or even in the office. Generally, a FELA lawsuit applies when the worker sustains injuries while on the job and when they work for a company that transports goods across state lines.
In other words, the claim must have an “interstate commerce” element. This element simply states that the railroad company does business in multiple states, or at least passes through multiple states. Due to the inherent nature of railroads, nearly every employee of a railroad company receives FELA coverage. One notable exception is if they work for a local commuter line. These tend not to connect to larger networks, which prevents them from crossing state lines.
What to Know Before Filing a FELA Lawsuit
If you suffer an injury while on the job, you can absolutely file a FELA lawsuit. However, we recommend the following things to know before filing your FELA lawsuit.
Go to Your Personal Doctor
No matter how you sustained your injuries, we recommend seeing your own doctor for an examination. The insurance and railroad companies will almost always insist that you see a doctor they recommend. While you can see a doctor they recommend, it always helps to get a second opinion from a trusted doctor.
But why does it matter? Simply put, the insurance or railroad company will always recommend someone biased in their favor. It could also be because that doctor’s evaluations tend to hurt, rather than help, a railroad worker’s case. Before you file a FELA lawsuit, we recommend seeing a doctor that you trust for your injuries.
Save Each and Every Document
In instances like this, you never know which piece of evidence will prove crucial. Keep any and all documents relating to your time and work on the railroad, as well as any papers connected to your injury. This includes the certification test as a doctor. Often, the doctor will not maintain a record of this, so make sure you keep one.
Hire the Right Attorney
FELA claims are federal matters. Therefore, you don’t have to restrict your search for an attorney to local options. For example, maybe you live in Florida, but your accident happened in Georgia. In this case, you can choose an attorney from neither of those states, like Illinois. Because FELA lawsuits are complex, it makes sense to hire an attorney with experience. That’s where Curcio Law Offices excels: experience. Since 1957, we’ve represented countless Chicago victims, including rail workers.
Don’t Wait to Start
Any FELA lawsuit starts out with the statute of limitations of three years. Therefore, you can file your claim for up to three years after you sustained your injury. However, as with many personal injury cases, it’s not always that easy. It is possible to complicate a FELA case. This is because these cases often interact with other areas of the law with far shorter deadlines.
As a result, your best bet is to contact a lawyer immediately. You might not have as much time as you think. You can avoid difficulties that might jeopardize your claim and prevent you from receiving full compensation if you act immediately.
Understand Your Rights
One of the most important steps is understanding the full range of compensation you might receive. FELA lawsuits don’t operate like workers’ compensation claims. They differ both in process and in the type and amount of compensation available.
In contrast to normal workers’ compensation, railroad workers who file a FELA claim may be entitled to 100% of their lost income (workers’ compensation is typically restricted at 80%). FELA claims, unlike traditional workers’ compensation claims, can additionally pay for pain and suffering. When you file a FELA lawsuit, our attorneys will always fight for full compensation.
How Does a FELA Lawsuit Work?
Workers on railroads only receive compensation for their injuries if they prove negligence on the part of the defendant. They must prove that the railroad company was at least somewhat to blame for the incident that caused your injury. This falls more in line with personal injury cases than with workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation cases pay employees regardless of fault for the accident.
Nonetheless, establishing carelessness in a FELA lawsuit is typically easier than demonstrating negligence in a traditional personal injury case. That’s because the worker simply needs to show that the railroad’s carelessness contributed in some way to his or her injuries. To put it another way, the employee does not have to prove that the railroad company’s carelessness was the major or exclusive cause of his or her harm. The burden of evidence is frequently referred to as “featherweight.” However, because FELA claims are subject to a “pure comparative negligence” criterion, if the worker is somewhat at fault, his or her compensation would be lowered proportionally.
Recoveries through a FELA lawsuit usually involve the following types of negligence.
- Failing to maintain or even enforce safety standards
- Inadequate employee training
- Too few employees to safely complete a job
- Failing to provide proper tools, safety equipment, and other types of equipment
Investigation of the Claims and Settlement Negotiations
Following your injuries, your employer and the train company will ask you to fill out an incident report. You should contact a FELA attorney as soon as possible following your accident to preserve your rights and ensure that your claim is not jeopardized in the early stages. Following that, the railroad will investigate the event. Your lawyer will investigate what happened, who was to blame, and the degree of your injuries on his or her own. The settlement of your FELA claim will most likely be discussed by you, your attorney, the railroad company, and the other parties.
Filing Your FELA Complaint
Your lawyer may launch a legal action on your behalf if your issue is not resolved quickly. It all starts with a complaint, which is generally followed by a summons. A complaint is a legal document in which the plaintiff states his or her claims against the defendant. This document is usually prepared by a lawyer.
After the complaint is made and delivered, the defendant has a specified amount of time to respond, generally three weeks. The defendant’s response states what parts of the claim they admit to, what they deny, what defenses they have, and whether they have claims against the plaintiff or any other person.
Discovery is a procedure in which the parties share papers and other information regarding the problems at hand. Written inquiries, document production, and depositions are all examples of discovery. Depositions are recorded and sworn statements are taken before a court clerk or other court officer.
Alternate dispute resolution, such as mediation or a negotiated settlement, can sometimes help the parties address all of their concerns on their own. When a case is brought under the FELA, the court will often compel the parties to go to mediation and attend obligatory settlement talks in order to resolve the issue before trial.
In many situations, one or both parties will file a request to dismiss the case, or at least a part of it. Essentially, the parties bring to the court those matters that are not in question, either because the parties have agreed on the facts or because the law mandates a decision based on the facts.
FELA Lawsuit Trial
The case will go to trial if the parties are unable to reach an agreement and the matter is not resolved by motion. A side can choose to have a jury in FELA proceedings. At a trial, attorneys for both sides present evidence and arguments, and the judge or jury decides on the unresolved problems. Once the judge or jury has made a conclusion, the judge will direct that the winning party’s judgment be entered.
A judge’s judgment can be appealed to a higher court by any party or both parties. However, an appeals court overturning a judge’s ruling is uncommon. Also, keep in mind that most settlements cannot be challenged if both parties agree to the conditions.
In your instance, it’s impossible to say how long all of these stages will take. The complete procedure might take anything from a few months to many years. In general, the less money on the line and the more difficulties that can be handled prior to trial, the easier and faster your FELA claim will proceed.
What Can I Recover in a FELA Lawsuit?
FELA lawsuits cover traumatic or catastrophic injuries sustained on the job. However, they also cover injuries from repetitive motions, work-related illness, and the worsening of a pre-existing condition. Injuries resulting from the following are some of the most prevalent FELA claims.
- Workers getting hit by trains
- Incidents with train couplers
- Street crossing collisions and injuries
- Cumulative stress on the body of the worker
However, one of the most essential features of FELA is that it sets no restrictions on how much money a railroad employee may collect in a lawsuit. This money can be used to cover the following costs.
- Current and future lost wages
- Current and future medical bills
- Physical and mental pain and suffering
- Permanent disability
- Loss of earning capacity
Statute of Limitations for Filing a FELA Lawsuit
Under FELA, an injured worker has three years from the date of injury to file a case. If the case isn’t filed within three years, it will probably be dismissed. Sometimes, however, it takes a worker a while to notice their injury. In these cases, the three year clock begins when the worker actually discovers their injury. If you sustain an injury as a railroad worker and want to file a FELA lawsuit, we recommend speaking with a railroad injury attorney.
Contact a Chicago Railroad Injury Attorney Today
At Curcio Law Offices, our Chicago personal injury attorneys dedicate themselves to helping the injured. We understand that the FELA lawsuit process might be confusing for those unfamiliar with it. If you or someone you loved suffered injuries as a railroad worker, you might have a case. For a free consultation, call our Chicago law office at 312-321-1111 or fill out our online intake form.