A Complete Guide to the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA)

A Complete Guide to the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA)

Steven Schwartzapfel -Founding Partner Jun 8, 2022

For more than 35 years, Steven Schwartzapfel, the founding member of Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C., has been one of New York’s most prominent personal injury attorneys. Steve represents clients in all types of personal injury cases. His experience, skill, and dedication have enabled Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. to recover hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

Every federal employee has certain protections they can leverage to ensure they receive damages in the event they are injured on the job or in relation to their work. And while most employees benefit from workers’ compensation laws and protections, railroad employees don’t.

Instead, railroad employees are protected by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). This important piece of legislation has protected railroad workers for over 100 years. In this guide, we will break down FELA in detail.

For more information on FELA, workers’ comp, or if you have specific questions about your case, please contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today for a free case evaluation at 1-800-966-4999.

FELA Explained

FELA is a special act passed by Congress over a century ago. It recognizes the higher-than-average dangers inherent to the railroad industry while also serving as a legal basis for injured employees to recover damages for any injuries sustained due to negligence on the part of a railroad carrier, the agents of the carrier, or other individuals related to the railroad network.

FELA means that injured railroad workers can recover damages if those injuries are due to negligence from their employer. Moreover, it relies on a lower standard for negligence compared to workers’ compensation claims.

What Does FELA Cover?

FELA covers any injuries sustained on the job or in the course of one’s duties to the railroad company/carrier they’re employed by. However, FELA only offers benefits and damages for injuries sustained that are due, at least in part, to the negligence of one’s employer.

For example, if you are injured while driving to work one day, those injuries are not covered under FELA. Consequently, you may not receive damages or compensation from them.

However, if you are injured while working at your railroad position, and that injury occurred in part or entirely because of employer negligence, you may be entitled to major damages in order to cover:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Lost income for time away from work
  • Loss of future income, if your injuries were debilitating
  • Loss of ability, if your injuries were debilitating and/or disabling in some way
  • And more

Some of the more common injuries railroad workers can suffer while on the job include:

  • Broken bones
  • Strains, sprains, and/or ligament tears
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • External cuts and/or internal bleeding
  • Electrocution
  • Debilitating or disabling injuries, like spinal injuries

How Do FELA Claims Work?

FELA claims work similarly to standard workers’ compensation claims. This means that if you or a loved one are injured on the job:

  • You can file a FELA claim for damages. Here, it’s recommended you hire a lawyer to  ensure your claim is filed correctly and also to negotiate with your employer on your behalf, if necessary.
  • Both the railroad and your legal firm will perform investigations to uncover the details of your accident and the injuries you sustained.
  • Your lawyer can gather evidence for an upcoming mediation, arbitration, or court hearing.
  • Your employer will likely either settle with you, thereby providing you with a certain amount of damages, or take your claim to court. In the latter case, you could be awarded major damages (i.e., compensation) depending on what your attorney can prove and what evidence there is to supplement your claim.

However, you have to file your FELA claim for compensation within three years of your accident date. And while that should be plenty of time, it is always wiser to file your claim as soon as possible, rather than waiting. This is because the earlier you file your claim, the likelier it is that you’ll have ample evidence to prove that your employer was negligent to some extent.

A good lawyer will be able to help with this. That’s why you should contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers at 1-800-966-4999 ASAP.

Negligence in FELA Claims

Every FELA claim has a lower standard of proof to award damages to injured railroad employees.

With a normal workers’ compensation claim, you have to prove that the accused party was either mostly or entirely at fault for your injuries to recover damages. In contrast, your employer or another agent of the railroad carrier must be responsible in part for your injuries for you to receive compensation.

So, even if your employer is found to have been only 10% responsible for your injuries, you could receive a monetary award as a result. Keep in mind, however, that FELA claims do follow pure comparative negligence rules. As such, if you are held partially responsible for your injuries, that percentage would reduce your damages accordingly.

Moreover, you cannot file a FELA claim if your employer or another railroad carrier/agent was not negligent. With regular workers’ compensation claims, injured workers are entitled to benefits and damages even if no one is found at fault.

What Injuries Does FELA Cover?

In general, FELA claims provide relief to injured employees so as to cover four types of primary injuries, including:

  • Traumatic injuries, which include broken bones, pulled muscles, and similar wounds
  • Occupational diseases like hearing loss or asbestosis
  • Repetitive motion injuries, like carpal tunnel or tendonitis
  • Any aggravations of pre-existing conditions or injuries

If you are injured and wish to file a FELA claim, you should get your injuries examined by a doctor quickly. Note that you do not have to have your injuries examined by a railroad-employed doctor, though your employer may recommend this initially. Your attorney may recommend otherwise, as any railroad-employed doctors will likely have a certain conflict of interest.

To better understand your medical options in relation to your claim, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers and speak with one of our experienced FELA attorneys at no charge. Simply dial 1-800-966-4999 and allow us the honor and privilege of assisting you as best we can.

When to Contact an Attorney for Your FELA Claim

Because FELA claims can be complex, it’s always a good idea to contact knowledgeable workers’ compensation and FELA claim attorneys right away. The right legal team can:

  • Gather evidence on your behalf, like notes from medical professionals proving your injuries and their causes
  • Gather video and other evidence from the scene of the accident
  • Talk to eyewitnesses
  • Negotiate on your behalf
  • Fight for you in court if your claim proceeds that far

Naturally, you will not want to settle for just any law firm. Instead, you’ll want to choose a firm with plenty of experience, an excellent history of successful cases, and the drive to fight for you no matter what.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

FELA is an important part of railroad workers’ financial security. If you or a loved one were injured on the job and believe your employer was partially responsible, there’s no time to waste and no reason to wait. Instead, you should contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers online or at 1-800-966-4999 for a free case evaluation.

As New York City workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys, we can help you file a successful FELA claim and get the damages you need fast. On top of that, we won’t charge you a penny unless we recover damages through a settlement or successful lawsuit. 

For specific examples of how we’ve helped New Yorkers just like you get the compensation they deserve after being injured on the job, please visit our verdicts & settlements and client reviews pages. And if you have questions or concerns about FELA, your claim, or workplace injuries in general, give us a call at 1-800-966-4999 today!

But you shouldn’t wait, as your window to file may soon close forever. Instead, act now and allow Schwartzapfel Lawyers the honor and privilege of fighting – and winning – for you!

Sources:

Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C. | Fighting For You

About the Federal Employers’ Liability Act | Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen

Railroad Worker Injuries and FELA Claims | Nolo

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

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