The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) acts as a failsafe for injured railroad workers. Although FELA is in some respects similar to workers’ compensation – it provides compensation and income for those injured on the job – its origins and operation are actually quite different. Experienced railroad injury attorneys must be familiar with FELA and all its implications for injured railroad workers.
FELA is a federal law, passed by Congress in 1907 in response to the great dangers that railroad work involved, and the vast national benefit that these workers were creating.
Under FELA, when a railroad worker is injured on the job, he has a federally-administered system available for obtaining compensation. This aspect of FELA is similar to workers’ compensation. While workers’ compensation provides relief for the vast majority on-the-job injuries, however, railroad workers seeking recovery under FELA must demonstrate that their injury was the result of negligence by the railroad itself, an equipment manufacturer, or one of the railroad’s agents or employees. Common scenarios giving rise to FELA claims include (but certainly are not limited to) collisions and derailments, accidents involving a train and a motorist or pedestrian, and the exposure to diesel fumes or other toxins.
FELA applies to most railroads nationwide, including everything from nationwide freight lines to both national and local commuter passenger rail systems. And FELA covers virtually every railroad employee – even those whose jobs do not involve tasks in or around trains. The types of injuries covered are also wide-ranging: from railroad accidents to asbestos exposure disease to repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Some of the most common traumatic injuries covered by FELA are:
- brain injuries and spinal cord injuries
- back and neck injuries
- disfigurement, dismemberment, or permanent disability
- broken bones
- burns or electrocutions crushing
- joint injuries (commonly knees, shoulders, or ankles)
Workers covered by FELA can obtain settlements and compensation for their injuries. Likewise, if a railroad worker is killed on the job under conditions covered by FELA, her family can obtain compensation akin to a wrongful death action.
Like most comprehensive federal laws, FELA requires expertise to properly negotiate. There are several ways of obtaining compensation under FELA. First, an injured railroad worker can go straight to the source, filing a claim with either the railroad company itself, or the contractor responsible for the injuries. In the alternative (or if the direct claim fails), in some circumstances the injured worker can file a lawsuit in federal or state court.
It is important for those injured in the course of work for the railroads to find competent, experienced counsel who can help them navigate FELA’s requirements and get the maximum compensation for their injuries. First and foremost, there are strict timing requirements for FELA claims, and the failure to meet those requirements can result in a forfeited claim. An experienced train accident attorney such as those at Passen & Powell can ensure that your case does not run afoul of FELA’s rules and requirements.
Experienced railroad accident attorneys can also help to keep a victim on the right path – making sure that he seeks the proper medical attention and follows through on diagnoses and treatments, and ensuring that he has access to experts who can not only give him the best chance of a full medical recovery, but the best chance of a full legal recovery, as well.
For a free consultation with a Chicago railroad accident attorney at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.