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FELA – A Railroad Employee’s Protection against Erring Railroad Employers

The tremendous increase in the use of trains in transporting people and cargo between the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century also saw a great increase in the number of work-related accidents involving railroad workers.

It is the duty of railroad employers to make sure that their employees are provided with a place safe enough to work in. Besides state laws, there are also federal laws on the standards of safety that employers need to follow. In the case of railroad work, some of the safety standards include:

  • Proper job training of those hired
  • Tools and equipment needed to perform job should be in good working condition
  • Sufficient lighting in work area
  • Enough man-power to accomplish required work
  • Area of work is properly maintained and cleaned
  • Proper supervision of and in the workplace
  • Provision of safe walkways
  • All the train’s brakes (hand or manual brakes) should be without defects and in good working condition (including connecting pipes, air reservoirs and air hoses)
  • All and each of the parts of the locomotive should be safe for use and always working properly

If an injury is sustained by any employee during the course of his/her work, he/she is protected by Federal Employer’s Liability Act or FELA, giving him/her rights to file a claims lawsuit against the railroad employer for financial damages, like medical expenses, disability (partial or permanent) and wage loss.

FELA was passed by the US Congress in 1908 to solve the financial problems railroad employees (and their families) were put into in the event of employee injury or death. For the FELA claim to be valid, however, three important facts will have to be proven:

  • That the employee was injured during the performance of work
  • That the work area was not totally safe, the equipment and/or tools available for use were defective
  • The accident was a clear result of the unsafe work area or working condition

Understanding your rights as a railroad employee and knowing well what FELA stipulates are ways of ensuring that you never get to suffer financial troubles in case something goes wrong in the workplace.

New York City Train Derails, Killing Four

A commuter train traveling from Poughkeepsie to Manhattan derailed early yesterday morning, killing four passengers and injuring at least 65 more.

At the time of the accident, the train had initiated a sharp turn on tracks that run along the intersection of the Hudson and Harlem rivers. Trains travel at speeds of 70 mph on the straightaway leading up to this turn, but typically slow down to 30 mph to safely make it past the curve. The derailed train’s conductor claimed the brakes became unresponsive as the vehicle approached the turn, possibly being what caused the train to careen off the tracks.

The train line serves some 26,000 people on an average day. Thousands of New Yorkers have had their commutes disrupted by this train accident, which officials say will take about a week to clear up.

This is not the first time a train has malfunctioned along that stretch of track. In July of this year, a freight train derailed in the same area.