What is the law on railroad injuries?
Under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), railroads are required to provide compensation to railroad employees who are injured on the job. FELA states that every common carrier by a railroad is liable for damages to any person who suffers injury while under the employ of a common carrier resulting from negligence on behalf of any person charged with operating the carrier. A common carrier, as defined by the FELA, is anyone who operates a railroad as a means for carrying the public - or that holds itself out to the public as a company engaged in the business of transporting persons or property by rail in exchange for compensation. To recover under the FELA, a plaintiff must prove for elements: 1) the railroad operates as a common carrier engaged in interstate commerce; 2) the plaintiff was employed by the railroad to perform duties in furtherance of the railroad’s interest.
On the other hand, there are separate states laws that govern railroad accidents involving a vehicles or pedestrians and whether the carrier was responsible for the accident - these laws are generally very complicated and involve many factors. Indeed, in many instances, the federal government may be responsible for such accidents since it is the government that is charged with providing grade crossing protection. Nevertheless, railroads are responsible for providing adequate warnings of its impending arrival (such as maintaining the appropriate headlight brightness or whistle volume). Drivers and pedestrians, however, also have some responsibilities for operating their vehicle appropriately by, for instance, stopping a certain number of feet way from the grade crossing. Furthermore, it is difficult to make a valid claim against a railroad operator for driving at excessive speed, so long as the operating was following federal guidelines for speed limits.
If you (or a loved one) were injured in a railroad accident, you should contact a local attorney that specializes in railroad accidents immediately.