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Who Is Covered by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act?

For over a century, the essential railroad workers of the United States, such as yardmasters and conductors, have been protected by FELA: the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. Instead of relying on workers’ compensation laws to recover benefits after being injured, railroad workers have FELA, which enables them to recover damages even in circumstances where they are partially at fault for their injuries.

That said, it can be tough to know who is covered by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, such as you or a loved one. Are all railroad employees covered? If so, when can you recover damages, and how much negligence must you prove to receive benefits? These are some of the questions you may have.

In this detailed guide, we’ll answer the above and more. If, however, you would prefer to speak with someone directly about FELA or your situation specifically, please contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-516-342-2200; it will be our honor and privilege to provide you with more information as well as a free case evaluation.

Who Does FELA Cover for Workplace Injuries?

FELA exclusively covers and applies to railroad workers for the US federal government. These individuals have special protections because their workplaces are more dangerous than average. Specifically, railroad employees are at a greater than average risk of injuries, including but not limited to:

  • Broken bones
  • Muscle sprains, strains, and/or ligament tears
  • Joint injuries (e.g., bursitis, arthritis, dislocations)
  • External lacerations and/or internal bleeding severe cuts
  • Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • And more

FELA was originally drafted before modern workers’ compensation laws were created. FELA has remained a viable means of claiming benefits or compensation rights for railroad workers for over 100 years.

However, FELA does not apply to railroad workers who are not injured on the job or due to workplace duties. It’s very similar to workers’ compensation laws in that it is intended to provide railroad employees with benefits or damages if:

  • They are injured at the workplace or in the course of their regular duties away from the workplace AND
  • They are injured because of employer negligence, at least in part

If you are injured away from the workplace, or if you are injured because of your own mistake/an act of God, then FELA may not provide you with the opportunity for damages or benefits. A well-qualified FELA lawyer will be able to assess whether or not you or a loved one are likely to qualify. If injured, you should speak with one ASAP.

Are Other Federal Employees Covered by FELA?

No. Police officers, medical personnel, federal construction workers, and other types of federal employees are not covered by FELA. Instead, they must either rely on other government programs/bills or workers’ compensation laws for their states.

To learn more now, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-516-342-2200.

Negligence and FELA Claims

Although FELA claims require injured workers to prove negligence on the part of their employers, they do not need to prove that their employers or any other at-fault party were entirely or mostly at fault. In fact, for a FELA claim to be successful, any negligence can serve as enough to award the injured party’s damages.

This stands in sharp contrast to traditional personal injury claims. Normally, injured parties have to prove that the accused party was grossly negligent and was mostly or entirely at fault for an accident/incident.

With FELA claims, an injured worker only has to prove that some level of negligence contributed to their injuries. If proven, the injured worker should be entitled to damages based on the circumstances of the case.

Common types of employer negligence for railroad workers include:

  • Lack of safety gear assigned to employees
  • Forcing employees to work in unsafe conditions and/or for unsafe amounts of time
  • Not providing employees with safety advisories or notices

Even with the lower burden of proof for FELA claims, it can be tough to gather the evidence you need to ensure your claim is a success. That’s why you should contact knowledgeable workers’ compensation and FELA claim attorneys like Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C.

As experienced injury attorneys, we’re well-equipped and ready to assist with your case in a variety of ways. We can:

  • Gather important evidence on your behalf, like medical notes from your doctor, camera footage, and more
  • Speak to insurance companies, your railroad employer, and other important parties
  • Negotiate on your behalf during arbitration, mediation, or even a court case
  • Properly file your FELA claim before the statute of limitations expires
  • Provide sound legal counsel throughout the claims process
  • And more!

For more information and a free case evaluation, call us today at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online.

Can You Recover Benefits Without Proving Negligence?

No. This is another big difference between FELA and workers’ compensation claims.

With a standard workers’ compensation claim, injured parties can recover damages regardless of who is at fault or whether their employer was negligent. With FELA claims, you can only recover damages if your employer was at least partially negligent and, therefore, responsible for your injuries to some extent.

This is a tradeoff, but it can work in your favor. Expert FELA attorneys like Schwartzapfel Lawyers can help you determine whether you have grounds for a successful lawsuit or settlement push, and will advise you accordingly.

What Kinds of Injuries Does FELA Cover?

FELA covers any injuries that a railroad employee may incur over their regular duties. Generally, this includes (4) injury types:

  • Repetitive motion injuries, which may include conditions like tendonitis and/or carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Traumatic injuries, like broken bones, pulled muscles, and more
  • Occupational diseases or conditions like hearing loss, asbestosis, cancer, and so on
  • Any aggravations for pre-existing conditions, such as issues with arthritis or cancer exacerbations

Once again, however, FELA only covers and provides damages for injuries sustained at the workplace or in the course of one’s regular duties. For example, if a railroad employee is injured on the commute home from work, those injuries are likely not covered under FELA.

What Damages Can You Receive for Your Injuries?

This depends on the circumstances of your case and the details surrounding your injuries. You may receive damages totaling hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars. The right law firm on your side can help maximize the damages you receive for your injuries.

Generally, FELA damages are intended to compensate you for:

  • Past and future medical costs
  • Lost income from time spent away from work
  • Loss of future earnings, if your injuries were debilitating or disabling in some way
  • Pain and suffering, as well as mental and emotional anguish

Additionally, if a railroad worker is killed on the job, their family may be able to claim FELA benefits to cover funeral expenses, lost income, and more.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

Ultimately, any railroad worker injured on the job is covered by FELA and may be able to recover monetary compensation to pay for medical bills. But it can be tough to know whether you have grounds for a claim, whether your employer was negligent, and how to file a claim properly.

Schwartzapfel Lawyers can help you with each of these questions and much more. As licensed New York City workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys, we’re well-equipped and ready to assist with your FELA claim as soon as you give us a call. We’ve already helped hundreds of New Yorkers in similar situations recover damages that have allowed them to pay off medical, rehabilitative, and other accident-related bills.

Best of all, we operate on a contingency fee basis. That means you won’t ever have to worry about paying us a penny unless we recover damages for you first through either a lawsuit or settlement.

Don’t wait! Your financial future is too important. Visit us online or call 1-516-342-2200 for a free case evaluation today.


Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. | Fighting For You™™

Railroad Worker Injuries and FELA Claims | Nolo

Railroad Workers: Occupational Outlook Handbook | Bureau of Labor Statistics

Negligence | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute

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