By, Eric Sutton
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act ( FELA ) was passed in 1907 because of the high risk of injury when working on railroads. It is similar to Workers’ Compensation, but specifically applies to railroad employees, or those contracted to do work for a railway.
A major difference between the Federal Employer’s Liability Act ( FELA ) andworker’s compensation plans is that claims filed under FELA must show that the injuries the employee received are, at least, partly the fault of the railroad. The fault, or negligence, of the railroad can be slight and still qualify for recovery.
In order to file a claim for relief under FELA the following basics must be satisfied. First, the injury sustained must have occurred while the employee was working at their job with the railroad as part of the railroad’s furtherance of its interstate transportation business. This means that the injury may have occurred off of railroad property, as long as, the employee was working for the railroad. The employer railroad must have been negligent. Negligence is usually defined as the failure to use the appropriate amount of care for the circumstances. As mentioned above, the degree of negligence does not have to be very high. The courts use what is called the featherweight burden of proof in showing negligence. This burden makes is much easier for the plaintiff when bringing suit under FELA, as compared, to ordinary negligence cases. The last thing the FELA Claimant must show is that the negligence played some part in causing the employee’s injuries.
What if the employee is partly responsible for the accident causing the injuries? The railroad can still be found liable for the injuries. The amount of damages or compensation available will be affected. If the railroad is found to be 90% responsible, they will have to pay 90% of the available damages award.
The duty of the railroad to use the appropriate amount of care results in certain duties the railroad must adhere to. These duties include keeping the workplace safe, inspecting the workplace for risks, warning the employees of risks, protecting employees from the intentional acts of other employees, providing adequate training, and enforcing safety regulations.
All FELA claims are subject to a three-year statute of limitations. Therefore, a claim must be filed with the courts within three years after the employee receives the injury, or, in the case of repetitive task injuries, within three years of when the employee learns about or should have learned about the injury. It is also important that the employee promptly informs the railroad of his/her injury.
The employer can be found liable for various forms of damages including: pain and suffering, lost wages, disability and medical expenses. A showing of damages can be made from a showing of various types of injuries.
What might be considered regular or traditional injuries like broken bones and lacerations are covered. Also, injuries resulting from repetitive tasks like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis are covered. Injuries that develop over time on the job, like the loss of hearing or lung cancer, are also grounds for recovery. Generally, an injury must be “new” to meet the standards for recovery. However, pre-existing injuries that are aggravated by working conditions do qualify for the recovery of damages. In addition, injuries like lung cancer or chemical exposures, known as occupational injuries, meet the criteria for recovery.
– Were you injured while working on a railroad or for a railway company? –