When you decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, you know there are certain forces that will work against you. Deciding whether or not to pursue your case may come down, at least in part, to making a determination about whether the potential benefits outweigh the possible risks. To best position yourself, then, it is important to eliminate as many risks as the law will allow you to knock out. Doing that, in many situations, requires an in-depth knowledge of the law. In other words, to give yourself the best possible chance of success, be sure you have knowledgeable Chicago injury counsel on your side.
As an example of knocking out certain risks, look at the case of D.R. and M.A. Both men were workers for the same railway employer. One December day in 2014, M.A. was the locomotive conductor and D.R. was the locomotive engineer on a train that collided with another train while at the railway’s yard in Joliet. The crash caused both the engineer and the conductor to suffer substantial injuries.
The men filed personal injury lawsuits against the railway, alleging that the employer failed to provide them with a safe workplace, which was a violation of the Federal Employers’ Liability’ Act (FELA.) One might expect that the cases would go forward as normal injury lawsuits, but the railway took a different a different approach. It filed multiple different counterclaims against both men. The counterclaims accused the employees of things like property damage (for failing to prevent the crash,) driving too fast, failing to observe a signal, and failing to remain alert and attentive, among other things.
These counterclaims had the potential to be catastrophically damaging to the employees’ personal injury lawsuits. They presented a variety of problems. One, they would potentially force the employees to litigate topics that might not have otherwise been a part of the trials absent the counterclaims, forcing them to expend resources on issues other than their injury claims. Additionally, and even more imposing, a successful result for the railway on the counterclaims could mean that, even if the employees did win their injury lawsuits, the damages awarded on the counterclaims could eat up most (or possibly all) of their injury damages awards, turning a successful outcome into a failure.
One of the keys, then, to pursuing a case like this is ensuring that the counterclaims never got to proceed, which is what D.R. and M.A. were able to do. They challenged the validity of the counterclaims and the trial judge in Cook County, as well as the Appellate Court, both ruled that the counterclaims must be thrown out. The counterclaims were not viable because they represented a violation of the FELA. As the trial judge explained it, the FELA “voids any device used by a common carrier with the purpose or intent to exempt itself from liability.” These counterclaims, because they could reduce or eliminate the employees’ injury damages awards, qualified as such a device, so they weren’t allowed.
The appeals court agreed with the reasoning announced by the trial judge. “The allowance of counterclaims for property damage not only intimidates potential plaintiffs from filing personal injury claims but also serves as a warning to other employees that might not have been injured, but that might be accused of being negligent, not to participate. The threat of retaliatory suits and potential silencing of employees is what” this part of the FELA was enacted to prevent.
For the success you deserve in your injury case, get the legal knowledge and resources you need. Consult the knowledgeable Chicago injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca. Our attorneys have been helping injured people for many years and are ready to handle your case. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.
More Blog Posts:
Spotlight: Workers’ Comp Reform Needed to Reduce Premium Rates, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Jan. 11, 2019
Illinois Railway Worker Obtains $21M Damages Award for Foot Injury Suffered in Railyard Accident, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Nov. 17, 2017