Railroad Worker Injury:

FELA Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the Federal Employers Liability Act?

A: The the Federal Employers Liability Act was created by Congress in 1908. At the time, the railroad industry was largely unregulated and the numbers of injuries and deaths experienced by railroad workers were extrememly high. FELA regulations are aimed at creating a safe working environment for railroad workers and ensuring that railroad workers and their families would receive compensation in the event of workplace injury or death.

Q: Who can make a FELA claim?

A: Generally speaking, any employee of a common carrier railroad company who suffers an injury on the job can make a FELA claim. If a railroad accident results in the death of a railroad worker, the victim's family may be able to make a FELA claim. In addition, non-railroad employees who are under contract to the railroad company or who work for companies under contract to the railroad company are eligible to file FELA claims in some cases.

Q: I am employed by a railroad and was recently injured at work. Can I file for workers' compensation benefits?

A: Individuals employed in the railroad industry are not usually covered by workers' compensation. Instead, almost all work-related injuries involving railroad workers are covered by the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA).

Q: What is the difference between a FELA claim and a workers' compensation claim?

A: The main difference between FELA claims and workers' compensation claims involves the issue of fault. In order to recover under FELA it must be determined that the railroad is at fault for your injury, while under workers' compensation laws the fault of the worker or the employer is not an issue.

Q: I’m a railroad employee and I have a serious illness that I believe was caused by exposure to chemicals on the job. Can I file a FELA claim?

A: Yes. Tank cars transport hazardous chemicals by rail throughout the country. When these hazardous materials leak or spill, workers can be exposed to dangerous substances and subsequently develop illnesses or other medical problems. You should speak to an experienced attorney about your FELA claim as soon as possible.

Q: What kind of damages can a railroad employee recover in a FELA case?

A: If a FELA claim is successful, the injured railroad employee can usually recover damages for past and future medical bills and costs of treatment, past and future wage loss, pain and suffering, and mental distress.

Q: If my employer had me sign an agreement limiting my right to recover compensation for on the job injuries, can I still file a FELA claim?

A. Yes. Under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, contracts or agreements that attempt to exempt an employer from liability for a work injury to an employee are invalid.