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If I'm injured while working for the railroad by a defective part of a locomotive or car, do I have to be able to prove the specific defect to have a case under the FELA, Locomotive Inspection Act or Safety Appliance Act?

 

            The FELA is the general law which protects railroad workers who are hurt while working for a railroad.  The Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA) and Safety Appliance Act (SAA) are amendments to the FELA.  Those regulations provide generally a railroad is strictly liable to an employee injured by a defective part or condition on a locomotive or railcar.  This means if an employee establishes that such a defect caused his or her injury, any contributory negligence or lack of reasonable care on the part of the railroad are not essential to the claim.  The claim focuses solely on the defective part or condition.  There are two methods for an employee to establish a part of a locomotive or railcar was "defective" for LIA or SAA coverage.  The first is through evidence of the cause of the defect in the equipment, such as a missing pin in a coupler.  The second is through evidence the equipment did not "operate as intended" at the time of the injury, such a brake wheel which unexpectedly catches or releases.  The employee's description of the failure of equipment may be enough to establish a case under these circumstances, but the more supporting evidence the better, particularly testimony from eyewitnesses to the failure of the equipment.

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