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Late last week the derailment of five Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western Railroad engines took the life one railroad worker and injured another. The train derailment seems to have been caused when the base beneath the railroad tracks collapsed. This caused the engines to tip; two of those engines ended up falling below the tracks and onto the banks of Turtle Creek. One railroad worker involved in the accident died at the scene, and an injured colleague was taken to a Bismarck hospital.

Railroads are required by the Federal Employers Liability Act (or “FELA”) to provide a safe place to work for their employees. News of last week’s derailment raises a concern about the safety of the workplace for the railworkers at that site. Railroads are required to inspect and maintain their tracks. Failure to do so is a breach of the duty that FELA imposes – the duty to provide a safe work environment for railroad workers. That requirement was put into place because of the importance of rail to our country, and in response to the numerous injuries sustained by rail workers during the 1800s and 1900s. Rail is still very important to our country and, unfortunately, railroad workers still sustain injuries on the job. For that reason, FELA remains in force.

In order for the families and victims of this accident to be compensated, all that they would have to prove is that the railroad was negligent in maintaining the workplace. If the derailment was in fact caused by deficiency in the road bed which supports the tracks, the railroad should be liable under FELA for the injuries and death caused by this derailment.

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