You work for a Railroad. It is not an easy job. More likely than not, you work outdoors. You work in all different types of weather conditions. You work during the hot summer months and in the freezing cold as well. You work around extremely dangerous equipment. It is not a job that you do by yourself. It’s a job that you work with others who may hold your life in their hands.
Railroading has always been considered an extremely dangerous occupation. Congress recognized this in 1906. That is the year that the United States Congress introduced the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). This piece of legislation was enacted because Congress understood that working on the railroad was an extremely hazardous occupation. Congress also understood that the best way to make working on the railroad as safe as possible was to make sure that the railroad attempted to provide its workers with a safe place to work. In their wisdom, Congress decided that to make railroads try and have a safe workplace, the main incentive would be to allow railroad workers to sue their employers if in fact they failed to provide their employees with a safe place to work. It was understood that giving railroad workers the power to sue their own employers would serve as a great incentive for the employers to try and make it a safe place to work. So in fact, in 1906, railroad workers were given the opportunity to sue their own employers. This is a rare privilege in the United States, as more often than not, you cannot sue your employer and your sole remedy would be workers compensation. However, no one is given a free ride. In order for a railroad employee to successfully sue their employer, they would have to show that the railroad “failed to provide a safe place to work”. In other words, just because you are injured, does not mean you are entitled to a recovery. You have to show that the railroad did not provide you with a safe place to work and that failure led in any way, even the slightest, to your injury.
What does all this mean to you? It means that you can be reasonably assured that at some point in time during your railroading career, you are going to get injured. If you want to be successful in making a claim against your employer, you have to show some kind of negligence on the part of the railroad, which led directly to your injury. The railroad, knowing that you do have this burden will fight you on this issue. They are going to attempt to show that either they were not negligent or that you were responsible for your own injury. Lets assume you are hurt on the railroad. This injury may be caused by a piece of equipment, or by one of your co-workers not being on the ball. In all likelihood, you are going to report your injury the minute it happens, or soon thereafter (some injuries take time to develop and may not occur right after the incident, but if you are injured, you will feel it). You will report it to the person right up in the chain of command. In all likelihood your foreman. Once you report the injury, a whole series of events beings to happen. The railroad has specific paperwork that you will have to fill out. The railroad may have a specific investigation process that you will have to go through, depending on the severity of the injury. But, the one thing to remember is that the entire investigation process is being shepherded by a claims agent. It is the claims agent responsibility to investigate the accident. It is the claims agents responsibility to find out what happened, who was at fault, and was any of the fault yours. Why is that important? Because down the road, that can be used against you in any claim that you may have against the railroad.