In a personal injury claim, the statute of limitations limits the amount of time for the injured person to bring a claim. Cases can be dismissed for not being filed on time. In such a case, the injured person would receive no compensation. Therefore, injured railroaders should not delay in contacting our law firm. An experienced attorney can inform them of the rights they have against the railroad and concerning any possible statute of limitations issues.
Railroad workers are protected under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), under which the statute of limitations is three years. This means that an injured railroad worker has just three years to file a lawsuit against the railroad. This three year time limit is fairly easy to calculate when applied to an injury like a broken bone, because it would be three years from the date of the accident that caused the break.
However, the statute of limitations regarding occupational exposure cases, such as cancers caused by asbestos, diesel fumes, silica, creosote, or welding fumes does not run from the date of initial exposure. This is because the occupationally related cancer or other disease (such as COPD or asbestosis) is not immediately identifiable. These diseases only develop many years after work place exposures to hazardous dusts and fumes because of the latency period.
Due to the lengthy period over which these diseases develop, the FELA follows a Discovery Rule in calculating the statute of limitations. This rule requires a railroad worker to file a lawsuit within three years from the time they knew or reasonably should have known that the cancer or disease was caused by occupational exposures.
It is important to know that railroad workers bringing a claim under the FELA can file a claim regardless of when they retired, even if they retired 10, 20 or 30 years ago. For example, if you retired from the railroad in 1995 and were first diagnosed with cancer on May 1, 2017 and suspected it was work related at that time (i.e. on May 1, 2017) the statute of limitations would require a lawsuit be filed by May 1, 2020.
Another possible scenario involving the statute of limitations would be if you retired from the railroad in 2000 and were diagnosed with lung cancer on January 1, 2013. At the time of diagnosis, if you did not know or suspect the cancer was work related, the statute of limitations would not start to run. If you first learned that the cancer was work related in 2017 and proceeded to file your claim in 2017 it would be within the three year statute of limitations, even though the cancer was diagnosed in 2013. Again, the three year “clock” does not start to run until you know or suspect the cancer is work-related.
The experienced attorneys at Doran & Murphy have represented thousands of railroad workers under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA). If you believe you were exposed to asbestos, diesel exhaust, silica, creosote, welding fumes or other harmful chemicals during your work for the railroad and have been diagnosed with cancer, contact us to discuss your legal rights under the FELA.