The Workers compensation Attorney Group is a law firm that specializes in providing legal services to workers who suffer work-related injuries in their claims for compensation including claims for railroad injuries. Our firm operates in Orange County, California. Since the railroad injury claims must follow strict processes, it can be confusing to the ordinary railroad workers. As a result, The Workers Compensation Attorney Group has highly knowledgeable attorneys who have proficiency in providing representation for employees and railroad workers.
What is Workers’ Compensation Under California Law?
In California law, workers’ compensation is an insurance plan for injuries, illnesses or other disabling conditions during the time of employment. The employers are expected by the law to make workers’ compensation insurance that covers all the employees. This is required even if the employer has only one employee. When an employee is injured at work, one should immediately inform the employer. According to California law, you have up to 30 days to inform the employer. An employee who gets injured during the work, whether physically, emotionally or even financially is entitled to compensation benefits according to the California law. This also applies when one gets injured executing duties to the work even if they were off the properties of the employer. However, under the cases of extreme negligence, an employee may lose their right to compensation.
Workers’ Compensation for Railroad Workers
While manual workers are exposed to many harsh environments that may expose them to dangers, railroad workers usually work under more dangerous environments than most of the other manual workers. However, unlike other workers, railroad workers are protected by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), which was established in 1908. FELA seeks to move forward the compensations for injuries suffered by railroad workers during work or injuries related to work. For compensation, railroad workers follow certain procedures that are different from the compensation insurance of common workers. This kind of compensation is based on fault, requiring you to prove that the employer falls under fault for the injury you are suffering.
What Are Fault And No-Fault Based Claims?
Under the common workers' compensation, a worker may receive compensation if the injury occurs while doing the job. This is done without considering the negligence of the employee or the employer’s negligence when one if filing the compensation. No-fault system for compensation frees both the employee and the employer from the claims that may render them responsible for the injury suffered, or the accident that led to the injury. As a result, the employee is compensated without finding fault on either his/her side or the side of the employer.
The fault-based claim, on the other hand, requires the complainant to prove that the employee was to some extent negligent and resulted in the employee’s injury. In a railroad injury case, for instance, the plaintiff needs to show that the environment under which the employer assigned them work was unsafe and hazardous. Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) works under a fault-based basis. The act tries to monitor the working environments and holds the employers liable for injuries that occur to the employees. The employee can, therefore, advance the compensation claim in case the employer violates any of the regulations laid down by FELA.
What Are the Employer’s Duties and Responsibilities According to FELA?
During the enacting of FELA, Congress created a system that could not only enable workers to seek compensation but also provided the employees and railroad companies with the standards of working conditions for their employees. The FELA basically requires that the employers provide a conducive and safe environment for the workers. As a result, employees are required to ensure the following:
- Employers must provide adequate supervision. They must also ensure that the workers follow the rules set by the company in the workplace.
- Ensure that the workplace is free from unknown and known dangers by ensuring regular inspections.
- For safety, every employee is entitled to receive proper training as well as the experience relevant to the responsibilities they undertake.
- Provide reasonable regulations to protect the workers from deliberate acts of their colleagues and third parties. For instance, crime
- Providing a warning to the workers against any hazardous and unsafe conditions.
- The workplace is free from dangers. This includes providing well maintained working tools and equipment as well as providing the workers with relevant safety devices.
- The employers must also provide assistance to the workers in cases where their tasks go beyond the worker’s abilities and physical limitations.
- Employers must also ensure that they do not allow implementation or use of inappropriate work quotas as far as time or production is considered.
What Is the Burden of Proof?
In order for a plaintiff to succeed in a FELA claim, they need to establish fault. It does not matter how big the fault was, provided it led to the cause of the injury. This fault is also known as the burden of proof. In this case, one needs to provide some evidence that the employer was somehow negligent and that negligence played a part in causing the injury one suffered. If the railroad company failed to meet the standards set by FELA and other organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the complainant will always have an easy time while establishing a claim.
OSHA and Their Regulations
- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provides the regulations under which the manual workers are expected to work, according to the federal regulations. The employers and railroad companies are expected under OSHA to provide the workers and employees with safe working conditions. OSHA outlines the rights of the employee as well as the obligations of the employers in order to mitigate the deaths and injuries related to the job. The following are the employees’ rights according to OSHA:
- In case of violations of the laid down OSHA regulations, the employees have the right to call for an inspection by OSHA representatives. This is in case the employers repeatedly violate the OSHA regulations or fixes safety issues that go against the rights of the employees. The employees should, therefore, call for inspection without fearing any harassment.
- The railroad workers also have the right to file OSHA complaints anonymously.
- The railroad workers have the right to access their medical records.
- The workers are entitled to accessing and reviewing the standards as well as regulations governing their working environments. Employers should allow workers to access these regulations without hiding.
- The workers have the right to be provided with OSHA posters in their workplace and access them so that they can be aware of the regulations governing their working environment.
- The employees, on the other hand, are expected to meet the following obligations under the OSHA:
- The employees should provide training to the workers on hazard communication programs that enable the workers to handle accidents while executing their dutie7s and tasks.
- Bring to the workplace OSHA's visual representations to create awareness to the workers on their rights and what is expected of them as well as their employers or railroad companies they are working for.
- The employers are obligated to let the employees know the right places for them to access their exposure and medical records. The employers are not expected to keep these records hidden from the employees. Instead, they should avail them to the employees at their request.
- The employees are also obligated to ensure that all the workers are aware of the dangers and risks they are exposed to while executing their duties. The workers should, therefore, be provided with the knowledge on how to handle and operate the machines and pieces of equipment. They should also be taught how to move around the premises in order to reduce the possibilities of injuries.
What Is The Process Of Establishing A FELA Claim For Railroad Injuries?
If you suffer a railroad injury while at work or suffer an injury related to the work, you may not be sure of what is going to happen. This is because the process can be complicated if you are not aware of it. The process may bring you frustrations, surprises or even delays. The following is a chronological order of establishing a FELA claim. Following these orders will ensure that your rights to compensation are not compromised.
What to Do if You are Injured?
Once you or someone close to you is injured while working as a railroad worker, you are required to report to the supervisor and fill an injury report form. When filling the form, one is required to provide thorough and accurate information. This includes giving the possible factors and conditions that could have led to the injuries suffered.
The employer is expected to provide the employee with medical attention as well as treatment immediately after the injury, more so in emergency cases. Your own doctor should thereafter provide you with an independent medical evaluation. You are also required to keep copies of the records made by the doctors, bills as well as other important documents in the course of treatment.
Investigation and Negotiation
Investigations are conducted by the employer or the railroad company on the incident that caused the injury. The employee's attorney will also conduct his own investigations on the extent of the injuries suffered as well as the person at fault. After the negotiations, the employee’s attorney together with the employer and/or the railroad company will negotiate on the settlement of the injury.
As an employer, it is advisable to make a separate personal report. This report should describe in detail the occurrence of the accident as well as the suffered injuries. This report is very important since it will be used by your attorney. This report should also describe properly the nature as well as the magnitude of the injuries and also the impacts of the injuries to your personal life as and the job. In this report, you may include the details of the people who were present during the accident.
The employee should also keep a good record of the time they are absent from work as a result of the injury. This includes times you missed the job following medical appointments.
Filing of a Complaint
In case the employer and the employee’s attorney did not come to an agreement after the negation, one can file a civil action. The attorney can also file the complaint on behalf of the plaintiff. A complaint acts as a legal document that outline s the claims an employee is raising against the employer or the railroad company. In this case, the employee becomes the plaintiff while the employer becomes a defendant. After making the complaint, the defendant is given three weeks (in most cases) to answer the complaint. The defendant will present the parts of the complaints that they admit to, their contests as well as claims they may have against the employee or any other persons. The parties then exchange information and documents about the relevant issues for seeking legal help. This process is called discovery. The discovery can take place in the form of written questions, depositions or document production. The discovery is then formally transcribed, and the court reporter is given the sworn statements.
Sometimes a lawsuit filed in FELA may be given back to the parties by the judge to try and resolve it through mediation or negotiation before the trial. This is referred to as (ADR), alternative dispute resolution.
In case the parties do not succeed to resolve the dispute, the case will proceed to a trial in which FELA allows a party to have a jury if they want. During the trial, the attorneys from both sides present their arguments and evidence. The judge or the jury will then come up with a decision on the case. Both the plaintiff and the defendant are however allowed to seek an appeal from the high court in case they are not satisfied with the verdict of the case.
What Are The Benefits Of A Successful FELA Claim For A Railroad Worker?
When one succeeds for a FELA claim, they are entitled to some benefits. The following are some of the benefits of such a claim:
- Emotional suffering
- Physical suffering and pain
- Loss of the capacity to earn a living
- Permanent disability. This covers either partial or full disabilities
- Future and past lost wages
- Future and past medical expenses.
What Are The Injuries Covered By The FELA Compensation?
Under FELA, there exist four categories of injuries that are covered by compensation. The following are the four categories:
- Traumatic injuries - These are such injuries as muscle strains, joint sprains, fractures and disfiguring burns and broken bones or even more serious such injuries.
- Occupational illnesses - Occupational illnesses are the illnesses that the employees suffer as a result of injuries in the course of their job. They include loss of sight, loss of hearing, and mesothelioma and lung cancer among other illnesses.
- Repetitive illnesses -These are the illnesses that one suffers as a result of repetitive tasks. They may also be caused by noise, vibrations, awkward positions mechanical compressions as well as mechanical compressions. These conditions are also called stress disorders.
- Acceleration or exacerbation of the pre-existing injuries - FELA also covers the existing injuries if work-related reasons worsen their conditions.
How Do I Show that the Railroad was Negligent?
As mentioned earlier, for a successful claim, the plaintiff does not need only to show that the railroad company or the employer was negligent but also shows that the negligence played a role in causing the accident or the injury. Due to the vastness and complexities of the railroad companies, there are several ways in which they can be negligent while handling the workers. The following are the categories in which the negligence of railroad companies fall:
- Failing to provide training to the workers
- The company may fail to provide the workers with enough working tools and equipment
- The failure of the railroad company to provide the workers with adequate and relevant safety rules at the workplace
- Failing to provide adequate manpower to the workers
- Failure of the company to provide safety and protective clothing and tools among others.
The negligence of the railroad company may lead to injury causing scenarios such as equipment defects due to lack of proper maintenance, derailments and collisions, workers being exposed to toxic substances such as cleaning solvents and other chemicals, falls and slips caused by slippery floors and surfaces, human error in terms of mistakes done by the management or colleagues as well as road-railway accidents, for instance when a train collides with a vehicle on a highway.
Other than proving the negligence of the railroad company, one must also prove to the court that he or she is:
- Directly employed by the railroad company
- Temporarily employed by the railroad company or is doing a short-term project.
- Is working as a contract worker for the company on the premises or off the premises of the company
- Suffered an injury while in a moving vehicle owned by the railroad company.
- The FELA insurance coverage may also in some cases cover the status of an insured driver or workers’ automobile insurance.
It is also important to note that railroad workers’ compensation under FELA does not only cover the injuries suffered by workers who spend their time along the railway lines or in trains but also the clerical staff. Subordinate staff members are also eligible for railroad workers’ compensation under FELA provided that they suffered an injury while at work or doing job-related tasks.
What Happens If The Employee Is at Fault for Their Injury?
In some cases, the employees may find out that the injuries they suffered were caused by their own negligence. However, this should not prevent them from filing a compensation claim. This is due to the fact that one may find that the injury was also caused by some additional factors that show the negligence of the employer or the railroad company. Such factors are also known as contributory negligence. According to the contributory negligence clause, the railroad company may be held accountable if its negligence led to at least 1% of the suffered injury. While determining the amount of compensation one receives for the damage, the court will consider the percentage of fault of the employee that led to their injury.
For example, someone files a compensation claim, and the court finds out that the amount of compensation that the plaintiff should be paid is $50,000. The court further finds out that the plaintiff’s negligence that caused the injury was 25%. In this case, the amount of compensation ($50,000) will be reduced by 25%. As a result, the plaintiff will receive $12,500.
In conclusion, the process of obtaining railroad injury compensation can be complex even when you have filed a successful, claim and you are aware of how the system operates. This is because you may not know all the rules that apply to every kind of injuries as well as the circumstances surrounding the case. It is also important to note that the laws differ from one state to another
Finding a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Near Me.
When you suffer a railroad injury in Orange County, it is important to contact a workers’ compensation attorney to represent you in the court. This is because the attorneys are aware of all the processes in the court for workers’ compensation in railroad injuries cases. The attorneys are also able to evaluate the evidence to come up with legal cause that is in your favor for the case. At The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Orange County, California, we have highly reputable attorneys who specialize in providing legal services including workers’ compensation for railroad workers’ injuries. Our attorneys are always willing and ready to work with our clients. If you need help in railroad injury compensation, feel free to call our Orange County workers compensation lawyer at 562-485-9694 and talk to one of our attorneys about your case.