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Railroad Injury Blog

The Locomotive Inspection ACT (LIA)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Locomotive Inspection Act (“LIA”), codified at 49 U.S.C. § 20701 indicates as follows:

Requirements for use: A railroad carrier may use or allow to be used a locomotive or tender and its parts and appurtenances:

  1. are in proper condition and safe to operate with unnecessary danger of personal injury;
  2. have been inspected as required under this chapter and regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Transportation under this chapter; and
  3. can withstand every test prescribed by the Secretary under this chapter.

The LIA places an absolute duty on a railroad to comply with safety standards. Under the LIA, it is unlawful for a railroad to operate any locomotive on its rail lines unless it has been inspected, is able to withstand prescribed safety tests and is safe to operate. A railroad’s violation of the Act results in strict liability. What that means is that there is no consideration regarding whether the Railroad was negligent with respect to whether it caused a Railroader’s injuries. Negligence was discussed earlier in this blog here. The issue of negligence is not relevant to the claim that the Railroad violated the LIA, since the LIA imposes an absolute duty on the Railroad for injuries cause in whole or part by violations of the Act. In addition to the absolute duty placed on the Railroad, there is no consideration whether the injured Railroader was negligent or whether his or her negligence played any part in causing his or her injuries. In other words, if a jury determines the Railroad violated the LIA, it cannot then consider whether the injured Railroader was contributorily negligent and then reduce his or her damages for comparitive fault. Contributory and comparitive negligence was discussed earlier in this blog here.

By Matt Darby

2012 Was A Good Year For Amtrak

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Washington Post reported last week that Amtrak carried record passenger traffic in 2012. According to the report, Amtrak carried a record 31.2 million passengers last year. That was 55% increase since 1997.

A link to the report is here.

By Matt Darby

Sequestration Will Reduce Certain RRB Benefits

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The United Transporation Union (UTU) indicated on its website today that certain Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits will be reduced because of sequestration. Because of the mandatory budget cuts that went into place on March 1, 2013, RRB unemployment and sickness benefits will be reduced by 9.2 percent. Daily unemployment benefits will be reduced to just under $60 while daily sickness benefits will drop to $55.34. Budgetary reductions will not effect the payment of RRB retirement, survivor and/or disability benefits. A link to the UTU article can be found here.

By Matt Darby

MD Appellate Court Upholds Jury’s Verdict In FELA Case Involving Injured Railroader

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Today the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision favorable to an injured Railroader that was represented by BSGFD in a FELA claim. In that case, a Baltimore City jury awarded the Rairoader 1.24 million dollars to compensate him for injuries he sustained to knees as a result of his employment as an locomotive engineer. The Railroad filed an appeal with the Maryland Court of Appeals in an attempt to have that award overturned. The appellate court ruled in favor of the Railroader and held that the Railroad had failed to prove that his claim that he developed knee injuries as a result of walking on large ballast was precluded by federal law.

By Matt Darby

NTSB Indicates That Goodwell, OK Train Crash Could Have Been Prevented

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicated yesterday that the June 24, 2012 collision involving two Union Pacific trains that occurred near Goodwell, Oklahoma could have been prevented by positive train control (PTC). Three Railroaders were killed as a result of that collision. A link to the NTSB’s website regarding that investigation can be found here. A link to the NTSB’s preliminary report can be found here.

By Matt Darby

Contributory And Comparitive Negligence In FELA Cases

Saturday, February 23, 2013

As I indicated last week, to recover damages in a Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) case, there is a requirement that the Railroad act negligently in producing a Railroader’s injuries. See here. Contributory negligence is a similar concept except that it’s an action or inaction on the part of the Railroader which leads in some manner to his/her own injury. In determining whether a Railroader was contributory negligence a determination is made as to whether he/she took, or failed to take, actions which a reasonably prudent person would have taken under the circumstances. If there is a finding that Railroader acted negligently and that negligence played any part in bringing about his/her own injuries that person will be deemed to be contributorily negligent.

A determination of contributory negligence does not bar a Railroader from recovering damages for his/her injuries. It does result in a reduction of damages in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to the injured Railroader. This is the concept of comparative negligence. If the finder-of-fact (usually a jury) determines that the Railroader was contributorily negligent, it then must determine the percentage to which the Railroader’s own negligence contributed to his/her injuries. That percentage of negligence is then used to reduce the Railroader’s damages. For example, a jury determines that a Railroader is entitled to damages for his/her injuries in the amount of $1,000.000.00. The jury also makes the determination that the Railroader was contributorily negligent in causing his/her own injuries and that contributory negligence contributed 25% to those injuries. The Court would then reduce the damage award by 25% to $750,000.00.

The real importance of the concepts of contributory and comparative negligence is the fact that a Railroader can recover damages for his/her injuries event if he/she was partially at fault in causing them.

By Matt Darby

CSXT’s Accident And Fatality Record

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Today the Baltimore Sun published a graphic concerning CSXT’s accident and fatality record in Maryland and nationwide.

That data can be found here.

By Matt Darby

Negligence And FELA Claims

Friday, February 15, 2013

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

AAR Announces Railroad Investments And New Hires

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In a press release dated February 6, 2013, the American Association of Railroads (AAR), a railroad industry trade group, announced that the nation’s freight railroads intend to invest an estimated $24.5 billion dollars in 2013 to build and maintain America’s freight railroads. The press release also indicated that freight railroads estimate that that they will hire more than 11,000 employees this year. The press release can be found here.

By Matt Darby

The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

I am constantly referring the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”) in my blogs. I thought it might be a good time to explain what it is and what it does.

The FELA provides a cause of action, or a method by which railroad employees engaged in interstate commerce, or their survivors can seek compensation for injury or death caused by the negligence of any employee or agent of a railroad or by defects in equipment caused by a railroad’s negligence. The FELA was initially enacted by Congress in 1906 in response to the high number of deaths and injuries suffered by railroaders. It was immediately declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not to be rebuffed, Congress passed the FELA again in 1908. That statute is the same law that covers and provides compensation to injured railroaders today.

Courts have interpreted the FELA to impose a lesser burden on a plaintiff than the common law. Common law proximate cause rules are relaxed meaning that the railroad’s negligence only need to have caused the injury in whole or part, a requirement that courts have interpreted to mean, to any degree, no matter how slight. This standard was reaffirmed in 2011 the case of CSX Transportation v. McBride. A jury question regarding this slight causation requirement may be created by entirely circumstantial evidence.

Under the FELA, a railroader’s contributory negligence is not a bar to recovery, but only results in a proportionate reduction of damages. This means that even if an injured railroader is partially at fault in causing his or her own injuries, he or she can still recover damages for the injuries suffered. In situations involving the violation of a safety statute, contributory negligence has no effect on the recovery. Also, the doctrine of assumption of risk is not a consideration in FELA cases.

Finally, under the FELA, an injured railroader can bring his or her lawsuit in either state or federal court. A suit brought in state court cannot be removed by the railroad to federal court.

Over the next several months I hope to explain and explore the FELA in greater detail.

By Matt Darby

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