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Do I have to prove negligence in every case against the railroad?


A: The FELA provides for compensation for injury resulting from the railroad's failure to provide its employees with a safe place to work. In many cases it is necessary to prove that the railroad was negligent in failing to provide a safe working environment, proper training, adequate assistance to do the job and/or safe equipment. However, in some cases, where an employee is injured as a result of a defective safety appliance, or violation of a federal safety regulation, necessary for the employee to do his job, no proof of negligence is required. Congress has enacted statutes that provide strict liability in such as case. These are known as the Safety Appliance Acts. (49 U.S.C. §20318 et seq. and Federal Boiler Inspection Act (Locomotive Inspection Act), 49 U.S.C. §20701 et seq) They are designed to protect the worker from unsafe workplaces and do so by imposing absolute liability on the railroad if a violation of a Safety Appliance Act or Federal Safety Regulation causes an employee's injury. For example, if a grab iron breaks while an employee is holding it, causing the employee to fall to the ground and be injured, the railroad will be strictly liable for those injuries. In order to recover, the employee only has to prove that the grab iron broke. If the grab iron broke, it is assumed to be the railroad's fault. The employee does not have to prove negligence to recover. Good care by the railroad is not a defense.