William Grammar worked for Illinois Central Railroad for nearly 40 years until he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2011. Mr. Grammar believes that his kidney cancer was caused by long-term workplace exposure to harmful chemicals and fumes — including asbestos, diesel exhaust and pesticides — without proper respiratory equipment. He is now suing his former employer for negligence under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.

Federal law provides that, as an employee of a railroad carrier, you can sue your employer for damages if:

  • You suffer an injury or illness in the course of your employment, and
  • Your injury  results, wholly or partially, from negligence by your employer or its employee, or from a defect in its cars, engines, track, roadbed, boats, wharves, appliances, machinery or other equipment, due to its negligence

The critical element in a successful claim is being able to demonstrate that your employer was negligent and that the negligence was a cause for your injury. The level for proving negligence is relatively low; you only need to show that the railroad carrier did not provide a reasonably safe working environment.

If your injury is partly due to your own negligence, your award of damages may be reduced by the proportion of your injury that can be attributed to your own negligence. For example, if you suffered lost income and medical costs of $50,000 but a jury finds you were 20 percent responsible for your injury, your damages would be reduced to $40,000. Your damages will not be reduced by your own negligent contribution, however, in situations where your employer breached certain federal safety laws.

You may also be able to bring a FELA claim for an occupational disease or mental illness. These claims have to be started within the three-year statute of limitations. If you are unsure whether you can bring a claim, speak to an experienced FELA attorney as soon as possible.

For guidance on the merits of your FELA claim, arrange a consultation with a knowledgeable St. Paul railroad law attorney.