Employees in many professions face the possibility of injury on the job. Unfortunately, railroad workers face a greater risk than most, due to the dangerous nature of railroad work. As a response to this heightened risk of injury, the federal government passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) in 1908 to provide railroad workers with certain rights and protections. Under the FELA, railroad companies are required to enforce safety regulations, to provide proper safety training and supervision, and to refrain from making unreasonable demands of workers. If an employer fails to adhere to the FELA’s regulations and a worker is injured as a result, he or she can bring a FELA claim against the employer. A successful FELA claim provides the injured worker with compensation for his or her medical treatments, for lost wages, and for pain and suffering. In this section, you’ll find articles discussing railroad injuries, employer responsibility, and the FELA claim process. Information for consulting with an attorney is also provided.
Common Types of Injuries
The most common hazards facing railroad workers include electrocution, falling from moving railway vehicles, being struck by a moving train, and being struck by objects during railroad construction or repair. These mishaps can result in broken bones and back/neck injuries, and in severe cases, the injuries can be fatal.
Background to the FELA
Congress enacted the FELA in 1908 to protect railroad workers, who were suffering injuries and death at high rates during the industrialization boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Despite the FELA’s enactment, railroad workers continue to face higher risk of injury and death than do workers in many other fields. For example, in a recent year, railroad workers were twice as likely to be killed on the job compared to the overall rate for private sector workers. Although this statistic is troubling, it can be considered progress of sorts, as the fatality rate for railroad workers has at times exceeded three times the average rate across industries.
FELA’s Employer Requirements
Under the FELA, railroad employers have a duty to provide a reasonably safe workplace. Employers that fail to do so may be liable for worker injuries incurred on the job. As one might expect, the definition of “reasonably safe” is a contentious issue in many FELA claims.
In contrast to workers’ compensation claims, a successful FELA claim requires an injured worker to prove that his or her employer acted with negligence (workers’ compensation claims do not require that an employer acted negligently, only that the employee was injured while on the job). Another important difference between FELA and workers’ compensation claims is that a FELA claim can include payments for pain and suffering, while workers’ compensation claims do not. This means that a successful FELA claim can provide an injured railroad worker with more money than a workers’ compensation claim would. Employer negligence under the FELA can include providing inadequate training or safety equipment to employees, imposing unrealistic deadlines that force employees to work shifts or hours that result in unsafe conditions, and requiring workers to use tools that may be unsafe. Note that in general, a FELA claim must be filed within three years from the date of injury.
John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981.
John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder.
In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home.
John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation.
John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates.
Service to the Community
John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
The information provided on this web site is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as legal advice. Every case is different and requires individual attention before such advice can be given. Neither the transmission nor receipt of general advice to or from our website will constitute an attorney-client relationship.