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FELA Overview

The Federal Employers Liability Act, known as FELA, is a federal statute that governs recovery for railroad workers who suffer on-the-job injury. FELA is not the same as worker's compensation. It has unique features that an injured worker must understand if he or she withstands a work-related injury.

What Injured Workers Must Do

Unlike worker's compensation statutes, FELA requires the injured worker to prove that the injury was caused, in whole or in part, by the fault or negligence of the railroad or one of its employees. If the railroad is not at fault, then the injured worker cannot recover money damages.

As such, it is important for any employee who is involved in an accident to evaluate the railroad's conduct, report the accident immediately on the accident report, and identify any negligence and/or defective equipment involved.

Yet there are exceptions to the requirement that the worker prove negligence. If the railroad violates the Federal Safety Appliance Act or the Locomotive Inspection Act, which require the provision of certain safety equipment on cars and engines, then the employer is automatically at fault, and it does not matter if the employee was negligent at the time of the injury. Whether there is a statutory violation is a fact-specific question and may require consultation with a lawyer who is knowledgeable about both the facts surrounding the injury and the law under the FELA.

The Railroad's Obligations

Under FELA, the railroad is always liable for providing its workers safe workplaces, even when the job requires the worker to work at an industry, stay at a hotel, or ride in a van to or from a work site. Moreover, if injured at one of these locations, the worker might also be able to file a claim against the industry, hotel, or van company in addition to filing a FELA claim against the railroad.

Statutes Of Limitations

It is important to remember that the statute of limitations under the FELA is three years. This means that a claimant has three years from the date of injury to file suit in court.

Any state-law claim against a third party, however, will be covered by the state statute of limitations — which is usually less than three years, but varies from state to state.

How Financial Compensation Is Decided

Damages in a FELA case are reduced if both the railroad and the worker are found to be at fault or negligent. For example, if a claim is worth $500,000, but the worker is 70 percent at fault, then he or she can recover 30% of the value of the claim — $150,000 in this example. It is, therefore, very important when filling out an injury report or giving a statement to the railroad that you do not get tricked or persuaded into admitting that the incident was your fault.

We Offer Knowledgeable Guidance

If you would like to speak to an attorney about your injury, reach out to our firm. Based in Atlanta, we have assisted rail workers throughout the country. You can call us at 866-551-7480 or contact us online. Initial consultations are free.