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What role does negligence play in a FELA claim?

Railroad workers in California cannot make claims under workers' compensation when injured on the job. Instead, they make a claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. FELA provides far greater remedies and benefits than workers' compensation law. However, in an FELA case, the injured worker must meet certain requirements that employees covered by workers' coompensation need not meet.

The railroad worker must prove he was injured while in the "course and scope" of his railroad employment. The worker must also prove that the employer failed to provide a reasonably safe work place. Typical allegations include: negligence or carelessness of a co-worker; defective equipment; failure to provide reasonably safe tools; etc. 

In some situations, the worker does not have to prove negligence. When the railroad violates certain federal regulations and safety standards, the railroad will be held liable for damages, even without proof of negligence. For example, violations of the Locomotive Inspection Act and the Safety Appliance Act make the railroad strictly responsible even if the railroad was unaware, before the injury, that the equipment was defective.

The concept of proving negligence can be confusing. It broadly means failing to provide reasonable safety measures to keep you safe on the job. The Court may consider industry standards and customs and use the measure of what is reasonable to the average person. 

This information is for education and is not legal advice. Each situation must be analyzed carefully to determine where the negligence occurred that lead to the injury. 

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