Would FELA Still Cover an Old and Worsening Injury?



In 1986 while working for the RR I injured my hearing running a track spiker. We had asked for hearing protection for several days in a row but the supervisor kept forgetting to bring them out to the job site.
After several days of the screaming deisel motor located directly behind my seat, my hearing began to ring, so I went to a ENT specialist and he told me to learn to live with it. There is nothing they could do for me. So I did, and the ringing continued, never letting up but I dealt with it.
I was laid off in 1989, not returning to work so after 48 months of not bidding on a job they removed me from the roster or terminated me. After a few more years, about 1996 my hearing started deteriorating more, the tinnitus becoming much more aggravating. Not only was I getting the ringing noise that I had grown somewhat use to but I started getting chirping and buzzing noises along with the ringing making it very difficult to concentrate on much. It makes it tough to sleep on a regular basis, and that really screws up life. I am always fatigued to the max even on days that I do sleep good, it only takes a few hours of the tinnitus noise and you feel wiped out.
Had the Doctor I visited in 1986 told me that this could get this bad down the road I surely would have taken some kind of action with the railroad then but there was so much less known about tinnitus at that time. I have talked to other attorneys that have told me that I should be due some compensation for this injury but would have to find the right attorney that deals with federal law. Would FELA cover an injury like this?

–Harvey, Woonsocket, SD


The FELA would apply if this railroad was involved in Interstate Commerce. If the FELA didn’t apply, Worker Compensation laws would apply. The problem is, as I am sure you have been told, that the statute of limitations has long since run.
The statute of limitations for FELA actions is three years. Workers Compensation statutes of limitations vary from state to state. Hence, the statute of limitations ran long ago. It is not a defense that you did not know the injury was as severe as it is or that it would last longer than you thought.
The statute of limitations have been enacted to protect defendants from being sued long after an injury. The are upheld time and time again. Some exceptions which extend the statute of limitations include 1) incarceration; 2) being a minor; 3) the discovery rule (where the injured person is not aware that an injury was wrongfully caused.) However it is clear that you were aware of this based on your letter.; 4) Concealment by Defendant.
Consult local counsel in your state in order to evaluate local law, but I see no remedy due to the time that has passed. I wish you the best of luck.