Railroad workers working on a railroad.

What Protections for Workers Are Provided by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)?

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was passed by congress in 1908 to address the high rate of accident-related injuries in the railroad injury and to promote uniformity of safety practices. FELA applies to both railroad companies and their employees. In fact, FELA is the exclusive remedy for injured railroad workers seeking compensation from their employer for the harm they have suffered.

Protections Under FELA

FELA is comparable to workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees in that it is intended to give injured workers a way to be compensated by their employees for on the job injuries. There are, however, several important differences. For instance, for an employee to receive the protections granted by FELA, such as compensation for job-related injuries, the employee must be able to show fault. Those railroad employers that are covered by FELA have the duty to provide a reasonably safe work environment for their employees. What is considered to be “reasonably safe” requires a fact-specific analysis pertaining to the circumstances of a particular situation. In the event that a FELA claim goes to court, which may be brought in either federal or state court, the factfinder, or jury, will be tasked with deciding what is actually “reasonably safe.” This is all to say that a railroad company will not be responsible for compensating a worker just because he or she was injured in a work accident. The accident must have been caused, at least in part, by the company’s failure to provide a reasonably safe workplace.

FELA compensation awards tend to be higher than those awarded in workers’ compensation cases. FELA, however, applies the “comparative negligence” legal doctrine that can reduce the amount of an award an injured party ends up receiving. Comparative negligence means that, if a party is held to be partly liable in causing an accident that resulted in the injury, their compensation award will be reduced by the percentage of fault they are assigned. Damages that are recoverable in a FELA claim include:

  • Past medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Permanent disability
  • Full disability

FELA does not just protect workers who sustain traumatic injuries, like broken bones, in job-related accidents. FELA also will cover railroad workers who sustain injuries such as carpal tunnel and other repetitive motion injuries. Occupational diseases like lung cancer and asbestosis are also covered along with aggravations of a worker’s preexisting conditions.

Railroad Worker Injury Attorneys

If you are a railroad worker who has sustained a job-related injury, speak to the knowledgeable FELA attorneys at Cooper Schall & Levy. We are well-versed in this area of the law and here to help you recover the full and fair compensation you deserve. Contact us today to have any of your questions answered!