Unlike state workers’ compensation claims that compensate injured workers’ for their injuries, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”) requires that a determination be made that a Railroad was negligent in causing an injury to a Railroader. The mere fact that a Railroader was injured during work does not automatically entitle him or her to recover damages from the Railroad. Railroads often argue that they are not an insurer of their employee’s safety.
Under the FELA, negligence is defined as the failure to use the same degree of care which persons of ordinary prudence would use in the circumstances of a given situation. It can be the doing of something which a reasonably prudent person would not have done or failing to do something which a reasonably prudent person would have done under the circumstances. Part of acting reasonably requires the Railroad to guard against risks and dangers of which it knew or by the exercise of due care should have known. Also, the degree of care required by the Railroad varies with the risk. The greater the chance of risk to the safety of an employee, the greater required level of care.
Some examples of a Railroad’s negligence are as follows: 1) a Railroad’s failure to properly train its employees to perform a certain type of work duty that results in a Railroader’s injury; 2) a Railroad’s failure to remove debris from its rail yard; 3) a Railroad’s failure to inspect it equipment for defects; and 4) a Railroad’s failure to have an ergonomic program to protect its employees from repetitive trauma injuries (That particular issue was addressed in an earlier blog post that can be found here).
By Matt Darby