The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) was passed in 1908 due to the high number of railroad worker injuries and deaths. It allows railroad workers not covered by worker’s compensation to sue their employers when they are injured on the job. The railroad industry has fought against FELA, trying to get it removed or changed, but the legislation still stands, protecting railroad workers and holding railroad companies responsible for their negligence.
FELA claims are more complicated and work very differently to no fault workers compensation claims. Under FELA a worker must prove that the employer was at fault. However, even if the worker is partly at fault, the company can be held liable for their share of the fault under comparative negligence. This means that if the worker was 25% responsible for the injuries, then the company would have to pay for 75% of the damages.
The railroad industry wants to get rid of or change FELA because it means that they have to pay for their negligence or wrongdoing. Workers compensation claims don’t work that way. They are not paid directly by an employer because employers are required to pay for workers compensation insurance, which then covers those claims.
More than just accidents
One way in which FELA has been very important to railroad workers and their families is that it covers more than just injuries from accidents. In many cases it covers long term illness caused by working conditions. This aspect of FELA has helped railroad workers and their families collectively recover tens of millions of dollars for brain injuries caused by exposure to toxic solvents, the dangers of which the railroad companies were aware, but continued to use.
Railroad safety has come a long way since the late 1800’s, but it is still a dangerous industry. Unfortunately, it is made even more dangers when companies try to cut costs by cutting corners on safety, often at the expense of workers’ lives. Under FELA, railroad employees who are injured on the job may be entitled to compensation for:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost wages, including benefits
- Long term disability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Although FELA claims are more challenging that workers compensation claims, and require you to prove your employers negligence or wrong doing, the benefits can also be greater.
Fighting the railroad
The image of the underdog fighting the big railroad and their bullying tactics, out on the frontier, is romantic and exciting in westerns. In modern day courts, when you’ve been injured, it’s just a cold, ugly legal battle where you’ll be up against teams of attorneys, complicated procedures, and strict time limits. There is one thing that hasn’t changed, though. When you’re up against the railroad you need help from someone that they will take seriously. Today, that’s an experienced FELA attorney.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job working for a railroad,contact an experienced FELA attorney today.