A Union Pacific railroad worker died after getting struck by a freight train in Arlington, Texas (TX). The fatal on-the-job accident happened around 11: 20 am on September 22, 2017, in the 800 block of Stadium Drive. The site of the deadly train crash is just south of Globe Life Park, where the Texas Rangers play their Major League Baseball home games.
Details on the incident are scarce, but it is known that the man who lost his life was a member of a crew working to switch rail cars from one track to another. Switching operations are among the most dangerous for engineers, conductors, switchmen and trackmen because the rail employees have little physical protection while dealing with moving locomotives, flatbeds, tankers and cargo containers.
My Virginia FELA attorney colleagues and I keep a close eye on railroad safety, accidents, injuries and deaths all across the country because incidents like this one in Arlington can happen anywhere at any time. In fact, at almost exactly the same time on the same day as this fatal on-the-job accident happened, a BNSF train collided with another freight train on open tracks in Temple, TX. Fortunately, no injuries were reported from that wreck.
When railroad workers do suffer injuries or get killed while doing their jobs, they have a kind of workers’ compensation protection under a law called the Federal Employers Liability Act. FELA claims do not follow the same rules as ones filed under a state’s workers’ comp laws, so consulting with an attorney who is dedicated to handling FELA cases can help ensure all the proper procedures to secure payments for medical bills and economic losses are followed.
Without providing too much confusing detail, collecting on a FELA injury or wrongful death claim requires either settling with your railroad employer or filing a lawsuit, either in a state or federal court which provides a venue under the federal law. The plaintiff must also prove that the railroad corporation or its officers acted negligently. An easy-to-read factsheet published by the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen explains negligence under FELA this way:
To prove fault by the railroad, you must show that the railroad was negligent. The most important concept of negligence is that there is a duty to furnish the employee a reasonably safe place to work. This duty of the railroad may not be transferred in any manner. It does not matter that the employee is at an industry or another railroad when injured. A showing of negligence requires proof that:
-- the railroad has been guilty of a lack of due care under the circumstance, or
-- has failed to do what a reasonable and prudent person would ordinarily have done under the circumstances, or
-- has done what a person under the existing circumstance would not have done.
Exceptions to the requirement of proof of negligence are the existence of a violation of the Federal Safety Appliance Act or the Boiler Inspection Act, which involve the failure of the railroad to provide certain very specific safety equipment. Most of these violations involve equipment used by operating craft employees.
Since the Union Pacific worker lost his life, his surviving spouse or children have rights to file a wrongful death claim. Whether they do so or not, my fellow Virginia FELA attorneys and I hope that any forms of negligence that led to this tragedy in Arlington are identified, remedied, and shared with other railroad companies like Amtrak, CSX and Norfolk to keep other workers safe.