The Safety Appliance Act

The origins of the Safety Appliance Act – known as the SAA – date as far back as 1893. As the name suggests, the SAA is a federal statute which requires railroads to equip their railcars and locomotives with properly working safety appliances, including automatic couplers, handbrakes, safe sill steps, secure grab irons, and others. The SAA also mandates that trains have operational and efficient power brakes. In conjunction with the SAA, the Federal Railroad Administration has issued numerous federal safety regulations governing when particular safety appliances are required. For practical purposes, these regulations are treated like part of the SAA. Thus, a railroad can violate the SAA in either of two ways. It can violate the express terms of the SAA, or it can violate the provisions of one of the federal regulations.

The SAA does not create a separate cause of action for an injured railroad worker but works in conjunction with the FELA. However, the SAA differs from the FELA in several significant ways. If a railroad violates the SAA or any of the federal regulations created pursuant to the SAA, the railroad is strictly liable to a worker who is injured as a result. Unlike the FELA, the injured worker does not need to prove that the railroad was negligent, only that the railroad violated the SAA. Also, if a railroad violates the SAA, the railroad is barred from using the defense of contributory negligence at trial. In other words, the railroad cannot argue that the injured worker acted unsafely in causing his injury. Like the FELA, the defense of assumption of the risk is barred in SAA claims, meaning that the railroad cannot argue that the injured worker assumed the risk of his employment.

If you have suffered an on-duty injury, it is important to have attorneys experienced in FELA law and SAA law protecting your rights and the security of your family. As soon as a railroad worker suffers an on-duty injury, the railroad’s risk management department and claim agents begin protecting the railroad’s interest. These people frequently take a “blame the worker first” approach, resulting in biased incident investigations, witness intimidation, and claims of “safety” rule violations by the injured worker. You need to get tough SAA and FELA attorneys working for you to protect your rights as hard as the railroad is working to protect theirs.

In order to protect yourself and your family’s security, it is important that you understand your rights and obligations when you suffer an on-duty injury. Brian Reddy has over 20 years of experience litigating and trying cases against railroads on behalf of injured workers. Call us at (419) 482-1467 anytime for a no fee and no pressure initial consultation with Brian Reddy. We intentionally limit the number of cases we take to ensure that each case is given the attention it deserves from an experienced FELA lawyer, not a secretary or paralegal. If we take your case, we are committed to offering you advice and assistance throughout the process. However, any decision about whether to accept a settlement or proceed to a jury trial is entirely up to you.