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What Is The Federal Employers Liability Act? Understanding FELA

Railroad workers are vital to the economic health of the United States. However, they also operate in one of the most dangerous industries in the country. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, railroad conductors, yardmasters, and other related employees have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses compared to all other occupations.

The federal government recognized this long before modern workers’ compensation laws were devised in the past. Hence, railroad workers were and are protected by FELA: the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. This act outlines certain rights and potential benefits that injured railroad workers may receive if they are injured on the job.

If you or a loved one have been injured while working for the railroads, you should contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers right away at 1-516-342-2200. We offer a free consultation with no commitment required. Act now and protect your financial future starting today!

What Is the Federal Employers’ Liability Act?

In a nutshell, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act is a special law previously implemented by Congress to compensate railroad workers for the inherent dangers of their job duties. Railroad workers face a higher than average number of potential hazards, exposing them to the risk of broken bones, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), severe lacerations, and many other potentially debilitating and/or disabling injuries.

FELA exempts all railroad employees from having to abide by standard workers’ compensation statutes. In exchange, employees always have the choice to sue their employer (such as a railroad organization) if they are injured on the job. FELA then provides guidelines for compensation and damages similar to the guidelines for workers’ compensation claims.

Who Does FELA Protect?

FELA protects any and all railroad workers employed by the federal government. More specifically, it protects workers who are injured under any circumstances, provided that those injuries are caused at least in part due to employer negligence.

So, for example, if a railroad worker falls from a railroad platform due to a lack of safety rails or some other safety issue, FELA protects them and enables them to recover damages for their medical bills and more.

FELA does not, however, protect other federal government employees, like police officers. It applies to railroad employees exclusively.

Injuries Covered Under FELA

FELA claims can help injured workers recover compensation for a wide range of both common and rare workplace injuries. These injuries include but are not limited to:

  • Any traumatic injuries that a railroad worker may receive. These include broken bones, pulled muscles, joint sprains, lacerations, and more.
  • Repetitive motion injuries, which can include tendinitis, carpal tunnel, and other conditions.
  • Occupational diseases like lung cancer, asbestosis, hearing loss, and more.
  • Any aggravations of pre-existing conditions. In these circumstances, a worker’s duties or actions exacerbate or accelerate existing health problems within the body.

How To Leverage YOUR FELA Rights

FELA rights are automatically applied to every railroad worker employed by the federal government. However, it’s up to you to take advantage of these rights and file a claim if you are injured on the job.

In general, the best course of action to take is:

  • See a medical professional or visit a hospital to get medical attention ASAP. The sooner your injuries are looked at and treated, the less severe they may be.
  • Only after you have been medically stabilized should you contact an attorney. An experienced FELA attorney can help you understand how your claims process will work, what grounds you may have for a lawsuit, and what you can expect over the coming months.
  • Your attorney or law firm will then begin an investigation, as will the railroad. Your attorney will also file an accident report, FELA claim, and deliver the documents to the right individuals or organizations.
  • If your employer chooses not to settle to pay for your injuries, your attorney can negotiate on your behalf or even file a civil action, such as a complaint.
  • Many FELA claim cases then go to mediation or arbitration to see if a settlement can be reached. If this is not possible, your lawyer will prepare your case for court. 

Statute of Limitations for FELA Claims

When taking action on a FELA claim, it’s especially important to keep the statute of limitations in mind. According to FELA, injured railroad workers must commence their lawsuit within three years from the date of the injury. If a worker tries to file a lawsuit after this window, the case will most likely be dismissed and recovery may no longer be possible.

Accordingly, if you or a loved one have been injured while working on the job, you should contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers right away at 1-516-342-2200. The faster you contact us, the faster we can get your FELA claim moving, as well as prepare for a potential lawsuit.

Potential Damages: FELA Lawsuits & Settlements

Should a FELA claim be successful, the injured worker may receive damages for:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Any past and future lost wages, if the injured worker had to take time off work
  • Lost earning capacity, if the injuries in question were debilitating or limiting in some way
  • Disability damages
  • Physical and/or mental and emotional suffering under certain circumstances

In most cases, FELA claims do not allow you to receive punitive damages. In cases where a railroad worker dies, their family may file a FELA claim and recover damages to cover funeral expenses, lost income, lost financial stability, and other factors. In this way, FELA also protects the families of railroad workers should they be killed on the job.

Proving Negligence in a FELA Claim

FELA claims, like traditional personal injury claims, do rely on proving negligence on the part of one’s employer or any other at-fault party. However, unlike other personal injury claims, injured railroad workers do not have to prove majority or complete fault on behalf of their employers.

Instead, FELA claims have a lower burden of proof compared to personal injury claims. All an injured employee has to prove is that they sustained injuries at least in part due to negligence. In other words, if a railroad worker’s employer is even partially responsible for injuries, the injured worker will be eligible to receive some compensation.

On top of that, FELA states that any railroad organization that violates a safety regulation or statute is automatically liable without having to prove negligence. These elements are evidence that FELA claims are an injured railroad worker’s best chance of seeing damages for their injuries.

Note: Pure comparative negligence laws still apply. For example, if an investigation during a FELA claim finds that an injured worker was 50% responsible for their injuries, they could see their damages reduced by 50% depending on what a judge or jury decides.

Knowledgeable FELA claim attorneys can help injured workers recover as much money as possible. To learn more, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at no charge. Simply call 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online now!

How FELA Lawyers Can Help

The right FELA attorneys can help you maximize your damages and provide other forms of assistance throughout the claims process. For example, knowledgeable attorneys can:

  • Gather evidence on your behalf, including notes from doctors or nurses
  • Fight for you in court if your FELA claim goes to trial
  • Negotiate on your behalf during mediation, arbitration, or any other part of the FELA claims process
  • Carry out all necessary legal legwork so you can focus on recovering and spending time with your loved ones
  • Ensure your FELA claim is filed on time and without errors that could jeopardize its admissibility or legal outcome

Thus, it’s rarely a good idea to embark on the FELA claims process without a skilled lawyer on your side. As experienced workers’ compensation and expert FELA claim attorneys, Schwartzapfel Lawyers is ready to help with your case as soon as you give us a call at 1-516-342-2200.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

FELA is an important law that all railroad workers should understand and take advantage of if they are injured on the job. Nevertheless, for all their benefits, FELA claims can be tough to file alone. But you don’t have to.

Instead, you can and should contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers. As award-winning New York workers’ compensation attorneys, we know everything there is to know about FELA, including how to file a successful claim and how to fight for you in court should your employer not wish to settle and pay you the damages you deserve.

Over the past 35 years we’ve helped countless New Yorkers recover damages for their work-related injuries and get back on their feet financially. There’s no reason for your finances to fall into disarray because you’ve been injured due to the fault of another.

So, why wait? Act now and contact us online or at 1-516-342-2200 for a free case evaluation and no monetary commitment. That’s right, you won’t have to provide any money up front and there are no hidden fees. We work on a contingency fee basis, so we don’t win – and won’t charge you a dime – unless you do first!


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

Railroad Workers: Occupational Outlook Handbook | Bureau of Labor Statistics

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

Railroad Worker Injuries and FELA Claims | Nolo

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