What is the FELA?

As a railroad employee you are engaged in one of the most dangerous occupations in America. Heavy equipment and railroad cars are hazardous, even when the utmost precaution is taken. In 1908, the U.S. Congress took action to protect the rights of railroad workers injured on-the-job with the passage of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA).

The FELA places liability on the railroads for on-the-job injuries or deaths sustained by their workers and caused, in whole or in part, as a result of the railroads negligence or the negligence of its employees. As an employee injured while working for a railroad engaged in interstate commerce, you are NOT eligible for Workers’ Compensation. The FELA is your ONLY remedy provided under the law.

When is the Railroad liable for damages under the FELA?

A railroad is liable when it negligently causes an injury to an employee. Simply put, what did the railroad do wrong to cause your injury or what did it fail to do right to prevent it? 99% of the time, there is at least some negligence on the part of the railroad.

Even if your own negligence contributed to your accident, you may still have a case against the railroad. Negligence of the injured worker can only reduce the amount of monetary damages, not defeat the claim altogether.

What are my rights under the FELA?

Any employee who is injured at work is entitled to fair compensation and to return to work, if medically qualified to do so.

Often, railroads try to get rid of injured employees by pressuring them into taking disability retirement or partial compensation. Under FELA law, you cannot be forced into retirement if you are physically able to do the work.

Railroads hire claim agents to negotiate with injured employees and their families. The agent’s goal is NOT to help you receive fair compensation – it is to protect the railroad management’s interests and to save money for the railroad. A claim agent does not always have your best interests in mind. It is your responsibility to protect yourself. We can help protect you.

Can the Railroad punish me for seeking justice under the FELA?

Injured railroaders or their families often feel the railroad will punish them or otherwise retaliate against them if they seek legal advice.

The Railroad CANNOT, under penalty of law, fire you for hiring an attorney. They may attempt to discourage you from hiring one in order to protect their own interests, but you are protected by the FELA for your right to seek legal representation. Additionally, federal law prohibits harassment or intimidation in the reporting of injuries. We will not tolerate any harassment of any employee seeking to enforce his or her rights under the FELA.

What determines the amount of compensation under the FELA?

  1. Lost wages
  2. Future lost wages, if unable to return to work
  3. Unpaid medical expenses
  4. Past and future damages for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life
  5. In the case of death, your family may recover loss of economic benefits and compensation for pain and suffering.

Am I entitled to disability or sickness benefits?

Yes. After you have been out of work for a required number of days, you are entitled to receive a weekly payment in disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board. Also, in addition to those benefits from the RRB, you may be entitled to supplemental sickness benefits. Ask your UNION REPRESENTATIVE if you qualify. If you are a new employee, your Union Representative or attorney can advise you as to your eligibility.

How long do I have to make a claim?

Generally, the FELA allows you to make your claim within three (3) years from the date you knew or should have known that you suffered from any work-related injury or disease. After that time, you may not file a complaint in any court for that work-related injury or disease. For this reason, you should get legal advice promptly, so that proper action can be taken to protect your rights for yourself and your family.
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