Working on a railroad can be a dangerous occupation, resulting in serious injuries that can have long-term implications for your health and your financial well-being. Fortunately, railroad workers who are injured on the job do have powerful protections under a special program called FELA. The key to receiving compensation for injuries lies in working with a FELA lawyer who knows the law and understands how to fully protect your rights.
What is FELA?
FELA stands for the Federal Employers Liability Act, federal legislation designed to protect the rights of railroad workers who have been injured while on the job. Passed by Congress in 1908, FELA helps workers obtain compensation for medical and other costs associated with the injury, including:
- Past and future medical costs
- Past and future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and anguish
In the case of an accident-related death, the program provides compensation to the surviving spouse and children or, if the worker has no spouse or children, to the parents or other close family members.
During the 100+ years since its passage, FELA continues to provide powerful protections for railway workers, although many railroad employees may not be aware of the benefits it offers. Like any federal legislation, FELA can be complicated, and understanding the protections it provides isn't a simple process. If you're a railway worker and you've been injured on the job, working with an experienced FELA attorney is the best way to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
FELA Railroad Worker Compensation: Who's Eligible?
FELA protects the rights of any employee who works for a railroad that's engaged in interstate commerce, including freight and passenger lines. That includes employees whose primary responsibilities are not performed in or around trains. Compensation may be sought for any work-related injury that results from the negligence or carelessness of the company, a supervisor or a fellow employee, and claims can be filed directly against the employer or through a suit filed in state or federal court.
Some of the most common types of instances of negligence involve the following:
- Inadequate or lack of equipment maintenance
- Defective tracks
- Improper or insufficient training, instruction, or supervision of employees
- Lack of safe or effective procedures
- Other issues involving the shops, offices, or property associated with the railroad
How is compensation determined?
In a FELA case, the determination of compensation relies on proving negligence (or carelessness). In the legal world, negligence is often used as a standard to determine if a person or entity (like a railroad company) is responsible for injuries sustained in an accident. Proving negligence is at the core of virtually any personal injury case, with the possible exception of “no-fault” auto accidents or worker's compensation claims.
Under the program, compensation is awarded based on “comparative negligence,” which seeks to determine how much of the injury-related costs are due to the carelessness of the employee compared to the negligence of the employer. That means the railroad company will work hard to show the bulk of the accident was due to the employee's careless acts in order to lessen their own financial burden. At the same time, the accident victim must establish the degree of the employer's negligence, a process that requires considerable skill and knowledge of the law, as well as access to resources necessary for supporting the case.
How is negligence proven?
In addition to providing protection for railroad workers, FELA also establishes certain safety standards for railroad companies. These standards include:
- Provision of a reasonably safe workplace, including safe equipment and tools
- Routine workplace inspections to identify and correct safety issues
- Provision of training, assistance, guidance and supervision to employees to assist them in performing their job functions
- Protection from intentionally harmful acts from coworkers
- Enforcement of safety rules and regulations
- Prevention of unreasonable work quotas and expectations
In order to prove negligence, the employee must show that the railroad company's failure to adhere to those standards caused or contributed to the injury that occurred. In essence, the burden is on the employee to show that the accident was solely or primarily the employer's fault.
FELA Attorneys: Experience in Your Corner
Proving negligence in any injury case is never easy, and having an experienced, top-rated Chicago FELA lawyer looking out for your interests and protecting your rights is essential for helping you get the compensation you deserve. At the Blumenshine Law Group, we are skilled in presenting the most effective cases using every available resource for optimal results. As a top-ranked law firm in the Greater Chicago area, we are skilled in the FELA claims process, relying an in-depth knowledge of the rules and regulations that can have a major bearing on your compensation and on the success of your claim.
FELA claims are subject to a three-year statute of limitations, and that means it's important to begin working with an attorney as soon as possible. If you're a railroad worker who's been injured on the job, we can help. Contact us at (312) 766-1000 email us at [email protected] or use our online contact form and schedule your free consultation today.