Under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”), no action may be brought against the railroad unless it is commenced within three years of the date of the accident. This means that an employee, or his dependents if the employee loses his life, must file a lawsuit in court within that time limit. It is not sufficient merely to bring a claim to the attention of the railroad’s claim department; the case must actually be filed in court. Failure to file suit within three years bars the employee from making any claim for the damages suffered from that accident.
If the employee suffers an injury that develops over a long period of time, such as carpal tunnel or hearing loss, and there is no specific date on which the injury occurred, the three year time limit starts to run when the employee first discovers his injury and realizes that it is caused in part by his employment with the railroad. It is important in these situations to contact a railroad law attorney immediately after you discover that an injury exists so the time limit can be evaluated for your claim. Keep in mind that your time limit might start to run before you know the specific diagnosis of your injury. In many instances, merely being aware of the underlying symptoms is enough to start the clock running.
Many railroads try to convince employees that they can wait until after they retire to bring claims for conditions such as hearing loss. If you wait this long, you will usually be denied compensation because you are past the three year time limit. Do not trust the railroad or its claim department to advise you of your legal rights. The railroad saves money by keeping you from filing valid claims under the FELA.
If you think you have been injured at work, you can contact our office and get free advice, including an evaluation of the applicable time limits, at any time.