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From the Blog


What is The Federal Employers Liability Act?

September 14, 2021

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) of 1908 protects railroad workers injured on the job. Unlike Worker’s Compensation Insurance, FELA is fault-based, meaning injured workers must prove that the railroad was at least partly at fault for the injury. As long as the railroad worker is not 100% at fault for their own injuries, they have the right to sue for damages in a state or federal court.

If you are a railroad employee who has been injured on the job, we recommend taking the following steps:

  1. Seek medical attention.
  2. Report your injury to the company as soon as possible.
  3. Consider having a FELA attorney or union representative present when you fill out your accident report.
  4. Clearly identify any defective equipment or negligence that could have contributed to your injury.
  5. Do not let the railroad claims agent put words in your mouth! Do not give statements other than the information that is necessary for the accident report.
  6. Consult with your own Doctor as soon as possible.  Be sure to give them an accurate account of the accident.
  7. Keep a list of all witnesses to the accident.
  8. Keep a copy of all medical reports and expenses.
  9. Consult with a FELA attorney as soon as possible for additional information regarding your claim.

In this post, we will give an overview of FELA and its advantages over worker’s compensation claims. Let’s start with some FELA basics.

FELA Overview

Injured railroad workers can receive compensation for injuries that occur at work, including injuries that are the result of repetitive stress. Workers that get sick as a result of workplace asbestos exposure can also sue under FELA. In most cases, a FELA case must be filed within 3 years of the date of injury. However, if a railroad worker develops a disease (like mesothelioma) and is uncertain about the date of injury, they have 3 years from the date the disease is discovered to file a lawsuit.

The damages available to FELA plaintiffs far exceed those typically available for employees covered under worker’s compensation. Mental injuries, including emotional distress, can be recovered by workers who can show they were in the zone of danger, with a strong fear of physical harm. Depending on the nature and extent of one’s injury, a victim can recover damages for:

  • Past and future medical expenses,
  • Past and future loss of earnings, and
  • Pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life

If an injury results in death, the worker’s survivors may also be entitled to damages for their financial losses as well as pain and suffering.

Advantages of FELA

In the past, some railroad workers would have preferred their employers carry worker’s compensation insurance – but now railroad unions strongly support FELA. The Federal Employers Liability Act provides some advantages over traditional worker’s compensation claims available in most other industries.

Firstly, worker’s compensation claimants generally do not have the right to sue for damages in state and federal courts. Because FELA claimants can sue for damages, they typically receive much higher awards for their injuries than worker’s compensation claimants. FELA also applies the doctrine of comparative negligence, which means an injured worker may still be entitled to compensation even if they were partly at fault for their own injury.

Grissom Miller Law Firm Can Help With Your FELA Claim

Our attorneys know what it takes to maximize your chances of success when making a FELA claim. We have years of experience representing injured railroad workers and a track record of success. Together, we can help you recover the compensation you deserve to get your life back on track after an injury.

If you or a loved one were injured while working for the railroad, contact us to find out whether you have a valid FELA claim.