Derailment Claims under FELA

Derailment is one of the causes cited in personal injury claims in Federal Employers Liability Act or FELA. A derailment occurs when the train or part of a train leaves the railway tracks while it is in motion; it is also referred to as a disruption of the proper guidance of the railway. In most cases, a derailment occurs due to negligence.

Negligence is the gross failure of a party that has an obligation to keep people safe to uphold that duty. For example, a railroad company has an obligation to ensure that it’s railways and trains are up to code and safe to use. Train conductors have an obligation to operate the train at an appropriate speed. Station employees have to make sure the carts are attached properly. It goes on and on. One person’s failure to uphold his or her obligation to keeping the railroads safe can result in tragic accidents that leave innocent people with severe injuries. Victims of such accidents have a right to file an injury lawsuit to seek compensation for their medical expenses.

Common causes of derailment

  • Rail Breaks – A rail break causes derailment because the missing or detached portion causes a train to jump out of the track. The reasons for rail breaks may be due to metallurgical fatigue, manufacturing defects, brittling due to wheelburn, wheel out of round, and excessive cold weather tension. Regular track maintenance can detect (potential) rail breaks that will effectively prevent a derailment due to rail breaks.
  • Misalignment – Track failures due to misalignment can be caused by too-wide spaces between rails, buckling under hot weather, incorrect track geometry, flood waters compromising the integrity of the track support, cyclical harmonic harmonies, problem with rail profiles and unconstrained rail rotation. In many cases, these situations can be avoided or remedied with regular inspection and proper testing of the rails.
  • Human Error – Some derailments are caused by poor judgment or management, especially when it comes to loading. The usual suspects when it comes to a derailment include uneven loading, incorrect loading of middle cars when traveling a reverse curve with light cars, and inexperienced handling of the train. This is why it is important for routine rail inspections.

FELA Claims

If a railway employee is injured or dies due to a derailment, there is a good chance that the railway operator is liable due to inadequate inspection and maintenance procedures. Under FELA, an affected employee can claim for compensation if there is proof of negligence on the part of the employer. FELA claims can be complicated, so it would be advisable to retain a lawyer conversant with the intricacies of a FELA claim in the appropriate jurisdiction. This will ensure a reasonable chance of getting just compensation for injury and damages resulting from a derailment.



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