While most workers in the state of New York can file no-fault workers’ compensation claims for illnesses related to conditions they were exposed to during employment, things work very differently for employees of railroad companies and services. A federal law called the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) governs recovery for work-related illnesses sustained due to work on trains or in railyards from exposure to various cancer-causing substances like asbestos and diesel exhaust. The FELA allows for greater compensation than workers’ compensation but also comes with a few more requirements during the claims and litigation process. Filing a railroad cancer lawsuit in New York is not something you want to try handling alone, even if you have prior experience with FELA claims. Representation from a seasoned railroad cancer lawyer could make all the difference in how smoothly your case proceeds and what compensation you are ultimately able to obtain.
What Is Required for a Successful Claim?
The primary difference between a workers’ compensation claim and a FELA lawsuit is the role of negligence in causing the claimant’s damages. Employers with workers’ compensation insurance automatically assume liability for illnesses that are definitively work-related. However, a railroad worker seeking compensation through a FELA claim must be able to prove that their employer’s negligence directly caused—or at least contributed to —their illness in order to successfully recover. Importantly, a railroad claimant only has to establish that his or her railroad employer was a partial cause of the injury or disease. For example, under the FELA those who smoked cigarettes can still recover for cancer caused by their railroad work even if smoking might also have been a partial cause of the cancer. Only an experienced New York railroad cancer lawyer can guide you through this process.
In the course of employment in or around locomotives and railyards, railroad workers are exposed to numerous carcinogenic substances, often greatly increasing their risk of developing cancer in the years to come. Accordingly, filing a successful railroad cancer lawsuit in New York often revolves around proving that a railroad employer did not do enough to reasonably protect its employees from exposure to these harmful toxins.
While it is impossible to completely mitigate the risk of cancer that railroad work poses to employees, employers who fail to provide functional safety equipment like respirators, fail to enforce safety rules, or in any other way fail to provide the safest working environment reasonably possible could be considered liable for the cancer diagnoses of current or former employees. A qualified attorney could help clarify what evidence may be necessary to prove that such negligence occurred and assist with collecting and effectively presenting that evidence. Again, this possible even if the worker smoked cigarettes.
Basic Steps in the Filing Process
Filing a FELA lawsuit in New York for cancer-related to railroad work begins with submitting documentation to the claimant’s current or former railroad employer with details about the claimant’s diagnosis. Upon receiving that documentation, the railroad employer will generally conduct an investigation into the matter in anticipation of private settlement negotiations.
If these negotiations do not produce a mutually satisfactory agreement, the claimant’s legal counsel can file a complaint in civil court, either state or federal, that lays out the prospective case against the railroad employer. The employer has a period of time to answer the complaint, after which the two sides will trade further documentation and information during a period called “discovery.” Eventually, the case may proceed to a trial in front of a jury. At any point prior to a court handing down a verdict, the parties engaged in a New York railroad cancer lawsuit may agree to a private settlement or resolve their disagreements through Alternate Dispute Resolution or mediation.
A New York Attorney Could Help File a Railroad Cancer Lawsuit
Current or former railroad workers diagnosed with cancer have up to three years under federal law to file a FELA claim after they determine their illness was work-related. That being said, getting the filing process started sooner rather than later is almost always the best move, since relevant evidence may disappear and medical bills may start to pile up fast. Moreover, the question of when that three-year period started to run is a very subtle legal question. Simply put, the three-year period begins to run when the railroad worker knew or should of known he or she had a disease and that the disease was work-related. Consequently, someone with work-related cancer may under some circumstances be able to bring a claim for cancer that occurred more than three years ago. Only an experienced FELA railroad cancer lawyer can tell you whether you may still have a claim.
A qualified railroad accident lawyer could answer all your questions about filing a railroad cancer lawsuit in New York. Call today to schedule a consultation.