What laws apply if a railroad worker is injured in a motor vehicle accident while being transported in connection with work activities for a railroad? It's a good question and the information below will shed some light on the legal procedures that should be followed in this particular situation (Note: This article does not cover injuries in a motor vehicle accident while a worker is driving to or from their home, which is likely a different situation not normally covered by the FELA).
If the driver of the taxi/van service is at fault in causing an accident or injury to a railroad worker, who is being transported as part of work activities, not only are the driver and taxi service the driver works for potentially responsible parties, but the railroad is also equally liable under what is called the non-delegable duty of the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). In such a situation the options are to bring a claim against the taxi/van company and its driver as well as the employing railroad. In this scenario, it will not matter if the insurance of the taxi service or its driver is inadequate, because the full liability of the railroad is equally applicable. The reason the railroad is liable for the conduct of the taxi driver is because the railroad arranged for the taxi service so this is considered a service supplied by the railroad just as if the railroad's own employee was the negligent or careless driver of the taxi.
Although it probably will not matter in the above scenario, because the railroad worker is injured in a motor vehicle, a regular car insurance policy with uninsured motorist coverage could have applicability, but it would only apply if the railroad did not have enough coverage. This would probably never occur in this scenario.
2. What happens if I am in a motor vehicle accident while being taxied by a company the railroad hires, and the cause of the accident is not the taxi driver but the negligence of a driver in another vehicle?
This scenario is much more difficult and we have had this scenario arise in litigation. If the cause of an accidental injury (while being transported for work) is not the taxi/van/supervisor driver, but another car or truck driver, then your railroad employer would not be liable for the circumstances of the accident. In other words, the whole basis of the FELA law that makes the railroad liable for injuries at work requires that there be some negligent or careless conduct by the railroad. Merely arranging for the taxi service is not negligent conduct, so the negligent conduct must be the taxi/van driver's negligent conduct for the railroad to be liable in this situation.
Accordingly, the options for insurance coverage are only as follows:
The insurance of the negligent third party driver that caused the accident would be the primary liability coverage that would apply. Whatever limit of liability the other driver that caused the accident had would apply just like in any regular motor vehicle accident. Then, the taxi company's uninsured/underinsured coverage would apply, and also the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage of the railroad worker's own car insurance would apply. Different states have different laws about how the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protection applies in relation to the liability policy that may exist for the negligent driver of the vehicle that causes the accident so you need to consult with a personal injury attorney for advice. Keep in mind, the taxi company must provide uninsured motorist coverage to the passengers in the vehicle including railroad workers, but only the state statutory minimum is required. Some of the railroads are requiring that the taxi/van service provide $1 million in uninsured motorist coverage. Also, the railroad worker's car insurance policy that they have at home may often be combined with the taxi/van company's coverage.
3.General advice to railroad workers:
My advice is to have not less than $500,000.00 of uninsured motorist coverage on your own car insurance policy, which means you need to talk to your own car insurance agent. This uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is probably the most important coverage on your car insurance policy because it covers you in case of an accident in a taxi or van, where there may be inadequate insurance on a third party driver that causes the accident, assuming the taxi driver is not the responsible party. If you, as a railroad worker, have $500,000 uninsured motorist coverage then you know, as a fallback, you have no less coverage in a taxi or van than that amount, which may only apply if the taxi or van service carries inadequate coverage.
About the Editors: Shapiro & Appleton& Duffan is a law firm which focuses on injury and accident law and we have experience handling FELA and general railroad injury cases. Check out our case results to see for yourself. Our primary office in based in Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA). Our lawyers hold licenses in NC, SC, WV, KY and DC and have handled hundreds of railroad injury and FELA cases. We would like to send you one of our FREE reports about railroad injury and FELA cases, including the Do's and Don'ts When Injured at a Railroad - The Railroad Workers FELA Rights and What Railroad Claim Agents Agents Won't Tell You (But You Must Know). We are ready to talk to you by phone right now-we provide free initial confidential injury case consultations, so call us toll free at 1-800-752-0042. Our injury attorneys also host an extensive injury law video library on Youtube . Furthermore, our lawyers proudly edit the Virginia Beach Injuryboard and Norfolk Injuryboard as a pro bono public information service.