Chicago Railroad Injury FELA Claims Lawyer Fighting for Injured Workers
Railroad work can be dangerous and taxing on the body. As a railroad worker, you may be regularly exposed to the risks of accidents, repetitive injuries, or industrial chemicals.
Most employees who get injured at work can file a workers’ compensation claim under their state laws. But railroads are operated by the federal government, not by the states. Unfortunately, that means railroad workers aren’t covered under state workers’ compensation laws–including those that would normally protect employees in Illinois.
The law recognized that railroad employees needed similar rights in their workplace, too–especially because of the high-risk nature of railroad work. As a result, Congress enacted into law the 1908 Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) to cover railroad workers and give them the right to compensation if they get hurt on the job.
Under FELA, railroad companies must:
- Enforce certain standards and safety regulations
- Provide all employees with proper safety training and supervision
- Ensure that certain tools and machinery provided are safe
- Avoid placing unreasonable demands on their employees.
If you’re a railroad employee, almost any injury you suffer at work will be covered under FELA. This is true even if your job duties aren’t focused on or around trains.
However, FELA claims have their complications.
State workers’ compensation laws work on strict liability. That means as a worker; you don’t have to prove that your employer was negligent or at fault for your injury. You simply must prove that your injury happened while “in the course and scope” of your employment.
However, FELA claims require that you show:
- Your injury occurred while you were at work,
- Your employer was negligent, and
- Your employer’s negligence caused all or part of your injury.
That puts a lot more responsibility on you to prove your claim. Fortunately, our legal team is here to help, and you are not alone. At Kramer Injury Law LLC, we help our clients get the compensation they deserve for their railroad injuries. Our passionate team knows the law inside and out. Our lawyers are here to support you in every step of the process to help you get the medical treatment you need.
We also work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay us until we recover compensation for you. So you don’t have to worry about how you can afford a lawyer when you should be focused on recovering your health. Call our Chicago offices now for your free consultation at (312) 775-1012. You can also fill out this form online to get a free case evaluation.
What is Everything Involved in a FELA Lawsuit?
A Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) lawsuit is a way for railroad workers to get properly compensated for injuries they’ve suffered on the job. With a FELA personal injury lawsuit, you can hold your employer responsible for the conditions that led to you getting injured.
Personal injury cases are fact-specific. The only way to find out if you have a FELA lawsuit is to talk to a lawyer about your case. If the facts of your case point to a strong personal injury claim, your attorney will file a civil lawsuit for damages under the FELA statute.
FELA damages could cover both economic and non-economic losses you’ve experienced as a result of your injury. With a FELA lawsuit, you could get monetary compensation for:
- The cost of your present and future medical treatments
- Wages you’ve lost as a result of being unable to work because of your injury
- Physical, mental, or emotional pain and suffering
- Any permanent or long-term disability you experience
Because of the statute of limitations, you only have 3 years to file your FELA lawsuit after you knew or should have known of your injury. After that, you could lose your chance.
Cumulative Wear and Tear Injuries
Cumulative wear and tear injuries involve repeated stress to your body over months or years. On their own, these injuries may not be major. But added up over time, they can leave a lasting impact on your quality of life. Such injuries include:
- Arthritis, chronic joint pain, or carpal tunnel syndrome
- Back, spine, hip, or knee injuries from repeated physical labor
- Hearing loss from exposure to loud worksites
Cumulative injuries can be complex, with symptoms that are hard to pinpoint over time. Your hearing loss may be so gradual that you may not realize it until it gets really bad. If you realize your injury years after the statute of limitations has passed, your lawyer can help you establish why you may not have had reason to know until now.
Catastrophic injuries often involve a sudden incident, like an accident or malfunction on site. They could be caused by a fall, fire, explosion, spill, or collision. They could even be caused by the inattention of a coworker in the active and dangerous railroad environment. You may experience:
- A broken skull, concussion, or another type of traumatic brain injury
- Broken bones, contusions, bruises, cuts, or burns
- Ligament, muscle, or tendon tears
- Impalement, punctures, or gash wounds
- Limb amputations
Catastrophic injuries often involve significant medical therapy and physical rehabilitation. In the most severe cases of injury, a complete recovery isn’t even possible, and you may need functional assistance for the rest of your life.
Injuries from Toxic Exposure
Dangerous chemicals and solvents are often transported via freight on railroad tracks across the country. The railroad itself exposes workers to many chemicals known to cause cancer. You may get exposed to their effects gradually over time or suddenly in an accident.
Toxic exposure could lead to serious conditions or diseases down the line, such as:
- Leukemia, asbestosis, mesothelioma, or other types of cancer
- Heart, lung, kidney, or liver disease
- Reproductive system disorders
- Brain damage
To make matters worse, chemical injuries can prove difficult to pinpoint cause and effect–especially if you’ve experienced low-level exposure over a long period of time. In large-scale operations, you may not even be the only employee who gets injured. Your circumstances could lead to a consolidated litigation case with numerous workers who’ve fallen ill.
What are Common Cause of Railroad Worker Injuries and How do I File Them?
Even with air travel, railroads remain a big part of modern life–from cross country Amtrak routes to Chicago area regional rails, commuter trains, subways, and trams. And while train accidents are less common than car or truck accidents, they can still be devastating, causing serious injuries and fatalities to employees as well as civilians.
Railroad accident cases are fact-specific, taking into account the unique circumstances of the incident. A railroad accident may be caused by:
- Negligence on the part of the railroad company, its management, or train operators
- Human error causes dangerous conditions or derailments
- Reckless pedestrians and drivers or cars stalled on the tracks
- Mechanical failure or defective tracks
- Speeding trains or unprotected railroad crossings
- Old or sub-standard equipment that the company failed to replace
- Freight cargo that’s improperly loaded or sealed
Railroad workers face unique dangers and risks on the job. But if you work for a railroad company, you’re covered under FELA whether you work on the actual tracks or in an office setting. So carpal tunnel syndrome from computer work is covered under FELA just as well as a back injury from doing physical labor on the railroad tracks.
How Do You File a FELA Lawsuit?
FELA lawsuits are unique for multiple reasons, which is why you should find a lawyer who understands the challenges that come with the process of filing a FELA lawsuit like:
- Unlike workers’ compensation claims, you can get general pain and suffering damages for your injury. These non-economic damages are assigned to compensate you for the physical, mental, and emotional pain caused by the injury you’ve suffered.
- Another difference with workers’ compensation claims is that FELA claims can get you full compensation for your injuries and lost wages. Workers’ comp claims often have a cap under state law that means you won’t get 100% of your missed wages. Also, your company may only have to pay for the effects of your injury for the next several years. In contrast, with a FELA claim, you can get compensation for all your lost wages and medical treatments, even if that extends for decades through the end of your life.
- Railroad companies generally want to avoid going to trial because juries are often sympathetic to injured employees. Going to trial could mean a much larger monetary judgment, so railroad companies are incentivized to settle. Our lawyers can help negotiate an out-of-court settlement to take care of your needs.
- Your railroad injury claim may not involve an insurance company. Instead, you may deal directly with a designated claims agent at your railroad company.
- Your railroad company may suggest that you get checked out by a specific doctor that they recommend. You should find your own doctor because the one recommended by your company may be friendly towards them and evaluate you in a way that challenges your injury claims. Instead, you should find an independent doctor. Our lawyers can help you find proper medical treatment to document the full extent of your injuries.
The first step in filing a FELA lawsuit is to talk to a FELA lawyer about your case.
How do I Win My Injured Railroad Workers Claim?
When you call our Chicago area FELA lawyers, you’ll get a free consultation where we’ll go over the facts and details of your case with you. After your consultation, we’ll give you an assessment of whether your FELA claim has a good chance of success.
Unlike workers’ compensation claims, you have to prove employer negligence to have a successful FELA claim against your railroad company. Once you file your FELA civil lawsuit in court, our lawyers will help you gather the evidence you need to prove your claims. Because you need proof of negligence, it’s extremely important to document your injuries–that means getting medical attention as soon as possible and filing an incident report with your employer.
Once your FELA claim has been filed, your lawyer can help you negotiate a settlement with your railroad company to cover the losses related to your injury. If you’re unable to finalize a settlement agreement, your FELA claim will go to civil court.
Proving Fault and Responsibility in FELA Cases
To hold your railroad employer responsible for injuries you’ve experienced on the job, you must prove that your employer was legally negligent. In other words:
- Either your employer acted unreasonably in the circumstances,
- A reasonable person would have acted differently under the same situation, or
- A reasonable person would have taken action where your employer did not.
To prove that your employer owes you compensation for your injury, you must establish 4 particular points in your FELA case:
- You are an employee of a railroad company,
- You were injured while on the job or in the course of your work duties,
- Your employer’s action or inaction caused your injuries, and
- Your injuries resulted in actual damages such as medical bills or lost wages.
The stronger your proof, the stronger your FELA case is going to be.
Documentation and Investigation
Because proof is so important in FELA personal injury cases, you should start documenting your injuries as soon as you can by seeing a medical professional.
Depending on your needs, your doctor can start a paper trail of your injury, including:
- Recording their medical diagnosis based on a physical examination
- Blood work or other imaging records like CAT scans, MRI scans, or x-rays
- What types of medical treatment do you need for your injury
- Whether you’ll need physical therapy and for how long
- Any specialists you need to see
The sooner you can start documenting your injuries, the better you can prove the effect they’ve had on your life. You should also document your injuries to get an accurate assessment of how much compensation you need to live with your injuries for the rest of your life.
You must see an independent medical professional–not a doctor recommended by your railroad company. Your employer’s recommendation may seem convenient, but their doctor may downplay your injuries to get the company off the hook.
In addition, you will probably need documentation from your employer about the conditions that led to your injury. Sometimes, this requires additional investigation. If your employer is acting in bad faith or trying to save face, they may obstruct your ability to gather the evidence you need.
At Kramer Injury Law LLC, our attorneys know how to deal with uncooperative defendants. If your employer fails to give you the records you need, we can go to court to get a legally binding order for the railroad company to hand over their documentation.
Damages and Compensation in FELA Cases
Once you’re able to prove that your employer’s negligence caused your injuries, the next issue will be how much they should compensate you for your losses and suffering. FELA cases are a unique type of personal injury case. When most employees get injured on the job, they can file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ comp claims are more straightforward but only reimburse you for a part of your lost wages. A FELA lawsuit may be harder to prove, but it also allows you to get more in damages.
As a railroad worker injured on the job, you can get compensated for the following under FELA:
- Economic or “compensatory” damages: Economic damages cover the actual monetary losses you’ve suffered because of your injury. This includes the cost of your current medical treatment and any treatment you will need in the future, any past or future income you’ve lost as a result of being unable to work, and any additional bills from medical necessities or long-term care.
- Non-economic or pain and suffering damages: Unfortunately, injuries often go deeper than the physical, with pain and suffering that lasts for months or even years. Chronic health conditions could leave you in near-constant pain or discomfort. While it’s impossible to undo the past, a FELA lawsuit can compensate you for the physical, mental, and emotional pain you’ve suffered. The more severe or long-lasting your injury, the more likely you are to qualify for pain and suffering damages.
- Punitive damages: While economic and non-economic damages focus on the victim, punitive damages focus on the party responsible for the injury. Punitive damages exist to punish the responsible party for their behavior if it’s reckless, malicious, intentional, or extremely negligent. These types of damages are reserved for the worst type of behavior, where railroad companies put the lives of their employees at risk.
Depending on the specifics of your case, your damages may amount to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. The only way to know how much to expect in damages for your case is to talk to a lawyer about your situation.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me Negotiate a FELA Settlement?
When negotiating a settlement agreement in a FELA case, the outcome will depend on how both sides believe your case will do if it goes to court. If you’re able to show your employer that your case is so convincing it would do well in court, they’ll be much more likely to offer you a proper settlement offer. Because they know if your case comes down to a judgment in front of a judge or jury, they’d be in trouble.
This is why the legal team at Kramer Injury Law LLC prepares each case as if it’s going to go to trial from the beginning–at no cost to our clients. We present your best case from the get-go. This sets the tone for the rest of your settlement negotiations–your employer knows to take you seriously because you’ve got a serious case to present.
It’s important not to accept any settlement offers from your employer until you first talk to a lawyer who is independent of your company. Once you accept a settlement agreement and sign its terms, you’re usually barred from bringing up the same claim in court again. Many companies lowball their first settlement offer, hoping you’ll take it and move on. If you sign a settlement before talking to a lawyer, you might be leaving so much more on the table than you realize.
Your lawyer can make sure you’re getting what you deserve in a settlement based on the rights you have. If you’re unable to come to a settlement agreement with your employer, then your FELA case will go to trial, where it will be decided by a judge or jury. The lawyers at Kramer Injury Law LLC can help you in every step of this process, supporting you whether you settle or go to court. When you hire us, we level the field at the negotiation table. Call our Chicago offices now at (312) 775-1012 or fill out the form for a free case evaluation.