A locomotive engineer, Jeffrey Kalfas, of South Park, recently filed a civil suit against Union Railroad Company after enduring injuries while aboard one of their locomotives. Union Railroad Company began around 1896 and today is a Class III regional railroad that has long served the steel industry in western Pennsylvania.
The suit filed in Allegheny County Court alleges the organization was in violation of federal law after unsafe working conditions caused his injuries. Kalfas was working when he entered a locomotive and tripped over a broom that was positioned across the floor. He sustained injuries to his arm, elbow, shoulder, and neck. The claim states the defendant failed to maintain work conditions that were reasonably safe.
The locomotive where the accident occurred is said to have not been appropriately inspected and represented a failure of safety protocol enforcement. The conditions were described as being dangerous and the result of negligence and carelessness contrary to the provisions of the Federal Employer Liability Act (FELA). In addition, the Federal Locomotive Inspection Act was violated by posing a risk of injury and failing to comply with federal safety standards.
Enacted in 1908, FELA sought to protect those workers injured on the railroads. The industry has traditionally been known for abysmal safety standards leading to high rates of injury. Congress implemented the legislation to heighten safety by creating uniform safety standards and equipment requirements. It made common rail carriers liable for employee injuries or death caused or partially caused by negligent acts of individuals associated with the carrier, or damaged or defective property such as rail cars, machines, and equipment. Employees may bring FELA actions in federal or state courts.
FELA: Liability & Negligence
FELA is not associated with the Workers Compensations Act. It entitles those injured to compensation when a railroad fails to maintain a reasonably safe work environment by negligence or fault. A plaintiff must prove the employer's fault and responsibility. The idea of negligence involves the duty of an employer to maintain workplace safety and one of the following must be proven:
- The carrier failed in the duty to care
- The carrier failed to react as a reasonable person would have based on the circumstances
- The carrier's action was not that which a reasonable person would have done
FELA: Statute of Limitations & Damages
Actions must be brought within three years from when the incident occurred. In claims involving occupationally-based conditions or disease, the period of limitation begins when the party becomes aware of the existence of the condition or disease. Damages that may be recovered include the following:
- Past & future medical expenses
- Past & future pain, suffering, and losses of enjoyment
- Past & future income loss
- Emotionally-based injuries of mental distress
- In wrongful death actions, survivors of the deceased may be compensated for monetary losses and pain & suffering.
- Recoverable damages may be reduced by any amount proportionate to the plaintiff's fault or negligence in the incident