Railroad Accidents FAQs
What is FELA?
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) is a federal law passed by Congress in 1908. Before it was passed, the railroad industry was continuing to grow in the United States, which unfortunately led to more injuries sustained by those who worked on trains and railroads. Before FELA, injured workers had limited rights and remedies when they got hurt at work. Thus, FELA was passed to increase safety on the railroads and compensate railroad workers injured on the job. FELA allows injured train or railroad employees to sue their employers for negligence, which can provide recovery for their injuries and damages.
To succeed in a FELA lawsuit, the worker must be able to prove that at the time of the injury, he or she was a railroad employee covered under the law, was injured while working, that the employer’s actions caused the incident (or repetitive injuries), and that the injuries resulted in damages such as medical bills and time missed from work.
How is FELA different from workers’ compensation?
Each state has different workers’ compensation laws, and they typically do not apply injured railroad employees, subject to certain exceptions. The main difference between workers’ compensation and FELA claims centers on liability, or fault. In a workers’ compensation claim it is typically not necessary for the injured party to prove that his or her employer was responsible for what happened. While workers’ compensation is known as a no-fault system, FELA centers on proving fault, as FELA plaintiffs do assert negligence of the railroad company, their agents, or defects in machinery or equipment as part of the claim for recovery.
FELA can also provide greater monetary recovery to employees than workers’ compensation. For instance, when an injured employee misses work, workers’ compensation provides recovery for a percentage of the employee’s lost wages while FELA allows for full wages. In addition, FELA permits employees to recover damages for pain and suffering while those damages are excluded under workers’ compensation.
Under FELA, injured railroad workers may be entitled to a variety of compensatory damages for the injuries they sustain on the job, including the following:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Lost wages (past and future)
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Permanent disability
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress (past and future)
What about comparative negligence?
Under FELA, an injured railroad worker may recover damages even if he or she contributed in part to the accident. FELA claims are handled under pure comparative negligence, which means an employee’s negligence is not a complete bar to recovery. After fault is allocated among the employee and the company, the employee’s damages will be reduced by whatever percentage that he or she is found to have been negligent or responsible for the incident.
As a railroad employee, do I have a case for injuries sustained on the job?
If you have been injured while working on a railroad, it is important to consult with a qualified railroad injury attorney as soon as possible. The FELA attorneys at Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz can evaluate your case through a free initial consultation and begin taking steps to protect your legal rights. If a loved one has died as a result of a railroad injury, surviving family members may be able to bring a wrongful death claim.
How long do I have to file my claim?
The statute of limitation to file a FELA lawsuit in court is usually three (3) years from the date of the injury. The date of injury may be difficult to determine for cumulative trauma injuries that occur over time, such as repetitive stress on the injured worker’s back or knees from lifting heavy equipment, bending over, or using defectively designed equipment. It is important to consult with an attorney who can protect your legal rights as soon as possible. Failure to file within the applicable statute of limitation can result in the claim being barred forever.
How much will it cost me to file my claim?
The law firm of Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz handles all cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that we only receive our fee if we collect monetary damages on your behalf, and the fee comes out of the recovery.