Railroad work has long been one of the most dangerous types of labor, posing a variety of hazards to hard working dedicated professionals. FELA is a federal law intended to provide railroad workers protection from work related dangers and legal rights to seek compensation in the event that injury is sustained on the job. Please read on to learn more about FELA, your legal rights, and the types of injuries that are common in the line of railroad work. To learn more about your FELA case, please contact our qualified and experienced attorneys.
What is FELA?
FELA, or the Federal Employers Liability Act, is a federal law that was passed by Congress in 1908 to protect railroad workers in the event of work-related injury or illness. This law was born after countless railroad workers suffered serious or fatal injuries during the course of their labor. At that time, no clear-cut laws protected the rights of injured railroad workers and assisted them in seeking compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses.
Since the law’s birthday, 26 attempts have been made to change the FELA and make it more difficult for injured workers to receive the help they deserve. Each time, Congress upheld the stipulations of the FELA, thus protecting railroad workers by acknowledging the serious risks posed to this class of workers and ensuring their legal right to fair compensation.
How Does FELA Protect Injured Railroad Workers?
FELA provides protection for injured railroad workers by allowing them to file a FELA case to seek compensation for their losses and suffering from negligent employers. It also allows the loved ones of those who have died due to railroad injuries to seek monetary compensation for their losses and pain.
FELA allows injured workers or their families to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, disability, pain and suffering, and other losses.
FELA and Workers Compensation
The FELA protects workers who are not directly covered by worker’s compensation laws. One of the big differences between FELA and workers compensation is that FELA cases are often handled in court, where a jury decides the amount of compensation an injured worker will receive for his or her pain and suffering, medical expenses, and more. In a worker’s compensation claim, reparation is predetermined by set equations that often fall short in addressing the extent and specifics of an individuals’ case.
Compensation received through a FELA case is often much greater than is typically awarded through workers compensation.
A FELA case
Once an injured railroad worker has sought medical care for his or her injuries, the next step is to contact a qualified FELA attorney, who can carefully review all medical records, workplace conditions, and other relevant matters pertaining to your injury. It is wise to keep thorough records of medical care (including information regarding diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and all related costs), employer correspondence, and other relevant matters. These will help your FELA attorney to clearly evaluate your case to determine your legal rights and options.
Did you Know?
Since the inception of FELA, tens of millions of dollars have been paid by railroad
employers to injured railroad workers in compensation for injuries and harm
caused by workplace accidents.
How Is Compensation Determined in a FELA Case?
Generally speaking, a FELA case is governed by what is known as “comparative negligence.” Under the comparative negligence standard, the jury will decide what percentage of responsibility for the injury was due to employer negligence and then award damages using that percentage.
For example, if the jury decides that an injured railroad worker has suffered $100,000 in damages (including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering) and they determine that the employer was 80% responsible for the conditions leading to the railroad injury, then the worker would be awarded $80,000 in compensation.
In a FELA case, the injured worker and his or her legal team will provide evidence of the damages and show in what ways the negligent employer was responsible for the damages suffered. Thus, it is imperative to have a competent legal professional working diligently to protect your legal rights and secure the compensation you deserve.
Employer Negligence in a FELA Case
Railroad employers are responsible for keeping workers as safe as possible in the workplace by providing:
- Proper training
- A safe working environment free from health hazards
- Properly functioning and well maintained work equipment
- Safety equipment whenever necessary
When a railroad company or employer fails to sufficiently provide these things and a worker suffers injury or death, they or their loved ones have the right to seek compensation through a FELA case.
FELA Time Limits
It is important to be aware that FELA cases must be filed within a certain period of time as outlined by federal law. This time period, known legally as the statute of limitations, requires that FELA cases be filed within three years, beginning from the time of injury or the time when the injury was discovered. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, so it is always a good idea to speak with a qualified attorney to see if you are eligible to pursue a FELA case.
Pursuing a FELA Case
If you or a loved one has been injured during the course of railroad employment, it is wise to seek the help of a qualified FELA attorney who can evaluate your case to determine the best way to protect your legal rights. Our experienced attorneys are available to offer a free no-obligation consultation during which you can determine your best course of action following a railroad injury. Please contact us today to learn more.
Read on to learn more about common railroad injuries.
Common Railroad Injuries Covered by FELA
The following are some of the most common injuries suffered by railroad workers. Note that this list is not exhaustive and that numerous other workplace injuries suffered by railroad workers may justify a FELA case.
Exposure to toxic materials
Exposure to toxic chemicals poses a major threat to railroad workers and often results in brain damage (including toxic encephalopathy) and other serious health conditions such as cancer, seizures and lung disorders. One of the largest railroad companies in the country has settled over 450 FELA cases and paid up to $35 million in damages to workers who have suffered harm due to toxic chemical exposure on the job. Diesel exhaust, cleaning solvents, benzene, creosote, and asbestos are all toxic chemicals that pose serious risk to exposed railroad workers.
Ballast, a material made of rock, sand and/or gravel, is often used to create train track beds and, as such, is the most common type of ground on which railroad workers labor. Unfortunately, this material poses threats to workers because it has a tendency to shift under foot, increasing the risk of slipping or the development musculoskeletal disorders over the long term. Ballast injuries can include harm to feet, ankles, legs, and even the spine.
Repetitive Motion Disorders
Repetitive motion disorders, also known as repetitive stress disorders, are musculoskeletal conditions caused over years of performing the same physical motions on the job. With such conditions, the muscles and connective tissues become overly worked and suffer damage. The neck, hips, back, shoulders, hands, wrists, elbows, knees, and legs are all susceptible to injuries caused by repetitive motions on the job. While repetitive motion disorders are difficult to avoid in with long-term performance of similar tasks, prevention methods are available and should be taught by employers to railroad workers.
Head, Brain and Facial injuries
Head, brain and facial injuries, which can be serious, disfiguring and even fatal, can occur when railroad equipment malfunctions, heavy materials are accidentally dropped on a worker, a person suffers a serious fall, or in other dangerous circumstances.
Shoulder bursitis, an inflammatory condition common to railroad workers, can result from improper equipment lifting (sometimes due to inadequate safety measures), dropped objects, and other railroad hazards. Symptoms of shoulder bursitis include pain, tenderness, and swelling in the shoulder area.
Back and Neck injuries
Back and neck injuries are a serious threat posed by railroad work. Improper or heavy lifting, slips and falls due to dangerous ground and other hazards, repetitive motion, and other risks can all result in serious back or neck injuries. Back and neck injuries in railroad work can range from musculoskeletal problems to serious and permanent conditions, such as paralysis due to spinal cord injury.
Railroad workers can suffer hearing damage, tinnitus, and hearing loss, caused by exposure to high decibel noise in the workplace. Because the threat of hearing loss is so great in the railroad industry, several federal safety standards have been implemented to limit permissible noise levels and mandate noise monitoring on all sites of railroad work. Employers have a duty to protect workers from hearing damage and can be responsible for damage caused by noise in the workplace.
If you or a loved one has been harmed in the course of railroad work, please contact our qualified attorneys to learn more about your legal rights and options in a FELA case. You may be able to seek compensation for your lost earnings, medical expenses, pain, suffering and more.