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Railroad Negligence and the Federal Employees Liability Act

Every year thousands of passenger and freight trains pass through Central Illinois, as it is a central hub for railroad traffic originating throughout the country, and even internationally from Canada and Mexico. Millions rely on trains every day, including manufacturers shipping goods, hazardous materials, and natural resources. Then, there are the commuter trains, such as Amtrak, that provide service to thousands of people traveling throughout United States every day.

Railroad passengers, and the public-at-large, trust that train operators are properly licensed, well-rested, and able to perform their duties in the safest way possible to protect the safety of those around them. We also trust that trains are properly inspected and that all parts are carefully manufactured and fully operational. However, railroad accidents and derailments do happen, and oftentimes these accidents are the result of the negligence of train operators, the railroad company, or the train’s manufacturer. When passengers or people nearby suffer serious injury or death as a result of railroad negligence, they may be able to take action to hold the wrongdoers accountable.

railroad negligenceThe Federal Employees Liability Act (FELA) is remedial legislation originally enacted by the United States Congress in 1908 to compensate railroad workers for personal injuries and occupational diseases suffered in the course of their employment. Today FELA protects railroad workers and those injured by the railroad.

Due to the remedial nature of FELA, the plaintiff’s burden of proof in a FELA action is much less stringent than it would be in an ordinary negligence action. Hahn v. Union Pacific R. Co., 352 Ill. App. 3d 922 (5th Dist. 2004). A plaintiff is only required to elicit evidence that railroad negligence played just the slightest part in producing his injury. Id.

A plaintiff naming the railroad as a defendant may file his/her lawsuit in state or federal court. However, regardless of whether the lawsuit is filed in federal or state court, federal substantive law applies.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of the railroad, you may deserve compensation. The experienced railroad lawyers at Steigmann Law, PC can discuss your case with you and help determine the recovery options available.