Train Accidents Information Center


Railroad FELA Defense Tactics

The investigation process in a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) claim is an opportunity for the railroad employer's defense team to gather helpful information in the defense against the FELA claim. Claim agents, railroad officers and sometimes even attorneys may approach the injured railroad worker during the pre-trial investigation. Unfortunately, some of the information they attempt to gather may be damaging to the injured worker's case. An injured railroad worker would be wise to consult with an experienced FELA attorney before talking to any representative of the railroad.

The following tactics and arguments are commonly used by railroads when defending injured employees' FELA claims:

Medical Attention

Injuries that do not require immediate medical attention may be viewed skeptically. Delayed medical treatment could prompt an allegation by the railroad that the injury could have occurred off-duty. If you are injured during your work for the railroad, seek prompt medical attention regardless of how serious you initially believe the injury to be. Doing so will establish a connection between the accident and the injury. Do not allow a railroad manager to convince you that you do not require medical attention.

Video Surveillance

You may be surprised to learn that it is not uncommon for a railroad to videotape an injured employee during the first few months following an accident in an effort to capture footage of activity inconsistent with the medical allegations. A surveillance team may tape the injured employee going to medical visits and may even show up at the injured employee's home.

Conflicting Statements of the Accident and Injuries

If you file an injury claim you can expect to be contacted several times by your railroad employer. The rail company will seek multiple statements in an effort to find inconsistencies. Your recorded statements can be compared to the injury reports, manager and witness statements, claim agents' statements and even medical notes.

Remember, it is in your best interest to avoid making any statements until you have an attorney to advise you. Once you have retained an attorney, ethical concerns arise surrounding direct railroad communication with an injured employee about the accident. Be sure to consult your attorney before discussing your injury with anyone.

Legal Arguments

Defendants in FELA cases may make certain legal or factual arguments, depending on the facts of the case, including:

  • The railroad employer was not negligent or at fault.
  • The railroad employer did not violate any safety laws.
  • Nothing the railroad employer did or did not do caused the harm.
  • The railroad employer is not the type of railroad to which FELA applies.
  • The worker's own negligence caused all or part of the injury.
  • The worker filed the lawsuit too late.
  • The worker was injured outside of work duties.
  • The injured worker previously released any legal claims against the railroad.
  • The railroad employer may challenge the truth of alleged facts concerning the accident, working conditions or injury.

Conclusion

The resources a railroad has are enormous compared to those of an injured employee and may serve to severely limit the potential for an injured worker's recovery in a FELA claim. By contacting an experienced FELA attorney, you will help to level the playing field.

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