FELA
 
Federal Employers' Liability Act
 

In 1908, Congress passed the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) in order to protect the rights and safety of railroad workers. The enactment of the Federal Employers' Liability Act occurred in the United States long before the passage of state workers' compensation laws. This law favorably positions and protects railroad workers who are injured on the job. Under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, a railroad worker can seek compensation for injuries suffered due to the negligent acts or omissions of the railroad company. The Federal Employers' Liability Act requires that the injured employee prove negligence on behalf of his or her employer. Once liability is proven, injured employees are entitled to compensation for a full range of related damages.

If employer negligence is the cause of injury to an employee of any railroad company, that individual is entitled to awards for the following damages:

  • Past and future wage loss
  • Past and future medical expenses not covered by employer-provided insurance
  • Loss of earnings capacity
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional suffering
  • Disfigurement or scarring
  • Partial or permanent disabilities

Under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, injured railroad employees are entitled to trial by jury in either the Federal or State Court system. This is important because larger jury verdicts are more likely to result in larger cities than in a rural community. Furthermore, minority railroad workers may have a better chance of a fair trial in larger cities.

The Federal Employers' Liability Act is different from workers' compensation laws in a few important ways. First, in non-railroad job-related injury cases it is assumed that the employee "assumes the risks" involved in his or her occupation, while under the Federal Employers' Liability Act this is not a legitimate claim. Second, partial negligence on the part of the employee is not necessarily grounds for case dismissal or a reduction in an award for damages. Often the employee's injury is a result of several acts of negligence on behalf of the railroad company. An attorney specializing in Federal Employers' Liability Act law can help sort through the details of your case and discover negligent acts committed by the railroad company. This can greatly increase the chance of a successful result in a Federal Employers' Liability Act claim.

Seeking the professional legal advice of an attorney who specializes in Federal Employers' Liability Act lawsuits is essential to a successful case. It is also important to seek professional advice because the railroad companies have specially trained lawyers and adjusters whose job it is to prevent the railroad companies from being proved liable for their negligence or to otherwise minimize the employee’s damages. Contacting a qualified attorney with the ability to successfully pursue and protect your legal rights under the Federal Employers' Liability Act is the best way to pursue compensation for railroad work-related injuries.  If you have questions or if you need help finding a qualified attorney, please .

 
 
FELA FAQs
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If you have any questions that are not addressed here or you have additional questions, feel free to .
 
 
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There are three basic requirements that an injured railroad worker must establish to recover damages under the Federal Employers' Liability Act:
  1. The injuries must have occurred in the course and scope of the employee’s work duties with the railroad. The Act does not require that the injuries happen on railroad property, as long as the injuries occur in the furtherance of the railroad’s business. Generally, the law is lenient in determining if a worker was acting within the course and sense of employment. If you have questions, please .
  2. The railroad must be engaged in interstate commerce between two or more states.
  3. The railroad must have caused or in some way contributed to cause the injuries sustained by the railroad employee.
 
 
 
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There are six (6) basic types of damages:
  1. Past and future wage loss, including loss of earnings capacity.
  2. Past and future medical expenses over and above those covered by employer-provided health insurance.
  3. Past and future physical pain and suffering.
  4. Past and future mental and emotional suffering.
  5. Disfigurement or scarring.
  6. Partial or permanent disabilities.
 
 
 
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For the most part, all injuries sustained in the course of railroad employment are covered by the Federal Employers' Liability Act.  If you have been injured and you believe it may have happened while in the service of a railroad but are not sure if it is covered by FELA, please .

There are four basic types of injuries covered by F.E.L.A:
  1. Sudden and traumatic injuries such as broken bones, back strains, pulled muscles and tendons, lacerations and other types of "traditional injuries."
  2. Repetitive stress injuries that develop gradually and are not traceable to a specific date or incident. Examples of these types of injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and hearing loss.
  3. Aggravation of pre-existing conditions. For a worker to be entitled to damages, he or she must either injure a part of the body never previously injured or aggravate a part of the body previously injured. When an incident aggravates or accelerates a pre-existing physical condition or injury, it is considered a "new injury" under FELA.
  4. Occupational diseases are covered when it can be established that they developed as a result of some negligence on the part of the railroad. Examples of occupational diseases include lung cancer, skin diseases and asbestos related diseases.
 
 
 
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Yes, FELA is a fault-based system. Contrary to state Workers' Compensation statutes, which are no-fault statutes, evidence of fault or negligence on the part of the railroad is required to establish the injured worker's right of recovery.

The test for determining the railroad's negligence is whether the railroad's actions or inactions played any part, even the slightest, in causing the worker's injury or death.
 
 
 
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Yes, the Federal Employers' Liability Act has broadly imposed a duty upon the railroad to provide its employees a safe place to work. This includes the duty to:
  1. Provide adequate manpower.
  2. Provide adequate tools and equipment
  3. Properly maintain its tools and equipment.
  4. Make adequate inspections of premises and off-premises work areas.
  5. Create and enforce work safety rules.
 
 
 
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No. When it is established that the railroad was negligent in causing injury to a worker, the railroad cannot use as a defense the fact that the injured worker was partly responsible for causing the accident. The negligence of the injured worker is taken into account, however, when determining the amount of monetary damages that the worker is entitled to receive in a FELA case. For example, if the railroad was negligent in causing an injury which is worth $10,000 and it is determined that the injured worker was 10% comparatively negligent in contributing to the cause of the injury, the monetary damages would be reduced by 10% or $1,000. The railroad, in this example, would be liable to pay the injured worker $9,000.
 
 
 
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Yes. A Federal Employers' Liability Act case must be filed in court within three years of the date of accident. In the case of repetitive stress injuries and occupational diseases, the three year statute of limitations begins to run when the injured worker knew, or reasonably should have known, that he or she might have a work-related injury.  In some instances, determining whether a particular case is time-barred can be difficult.  If you have any questions, please .
 
 
 
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If a suit is not filed within the statute of limitations, whatever rights an injured worker had will be lost permanently.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is why it is absolutely critical that you consult with a Federal Employers' Liability Act attorney as soon as possible after an accident to evaluate whether a case exists.
 
 
 
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Yes.  Railroad rules require you to give prompt notice to the railroad after sustaining a work-related injury. While not required by FELA, it is advisable to complete a written accident report form. If you are going to complete such a form, you should consult with a FELA attorney to make sure that you are not filling out such a form improperly. Railroads will use anything you say or write against you to minimize their damages. After you complete such a report, be sure to make and keep a copy for your records.
 
 
 
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Yes. Injured workers have the right to be treated by doctors of their own choosing even though frequently the railroad will try to steer, direct or even force injured workers to be treated by company doctors or clinics.
 
 
 
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No. You are not required to provide a claims agent with a recorded or written statement under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. It is important to remember that statements are not taken for the benefit of the injured worker. The purpose of the statement taken by a claims agent is to minimize the amount of money that the railroad has to pay the injured worker. Again, it is critical that you contact your local union and a qualified FELA attorney before you give any type of statement to a claims agent.
 
 
 
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Absolutely! Immediately after being injured, you are involved in an adversarial legal system. The railroad has a team of claims agents, investigators, attorneys and doctors whose primary responsibility is to minimize the amount of monetary damages paid to the injured worker. In order to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits provided under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, you need to "level the playing field" by hiring an experienced FELA attorney as soon as possible after being injured on the railroad.
 
 
If you have sustained an injury during the scope of your employment with the railroad, you want to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you receive the maximum recovery provided by law.  If you know and are comfortable with a qualified FELA lawyer, please contact them.  Otherwise, please for assistance.