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Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) vs. Workers’ Compensation

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was passed in 1908 as a system for railroad workers to recover compensation following an on-the-job injury. The majority of people who work in the railroad industry are covered by FELA, rather than the typical workers’ compensation model which is the standard in most other industries. Although these two types of worker protection programs are similar, they do differ in significant ways.

FELA Requires a Proof of Fault

The main difference between the Federal Employers Liability Act and workers’ compensation is the role of liability in a victim’s pursuit of benefits.

Injured employees who work in an industry in which workers’ compensation is the standard do not have to prove the fault of any person in relation to an on-the-job accident. Whether their injuries were caused by their employer, a third party, or the worker themselves (except in cases of misconduct), a hurt employee can still recover workers’ compensation benefits.

Rail workers, under FELA, are required to prove the fault of their employer, coworker, an equipment manufacturer, or another third party to recover compensation. An employee can be partially at fault for their injuries, but must provide evidence of another party’s contributions to receive benefits. Compensation is reduced according to the employee’s own role in the accident.

Filing Additional Lawsuits

The no-fault nature of workers’ compensation leaves employees unable to sue their employer in addition to their benefits. Lawsuits against third parties are allowed, but employers are exempt under the workers’ compensation system.

FELA allows for additional legal action following the recovery of benefits. If an employer is responsible for a worker’s injuries, that employee has the right to sue their employer for more compensation.

Differences in Benefits

Benefits for workers’ compensation and FELA are also calculated differently. Workers’ compensation payments are determined based on the severity of the victim’s injuries, their pre-injury wages, the average wages throughout the state, and other factors. FELA benefits are determined based on a comparative negligence system, in which compensation is reduced based on the involved parties’ levels of negligence.

Scarzafava, Basdekis & Dadey, PLLC represents the rights of railroad workers who were injured on the job, as well as construction workers who suffered from a scaffold-related accident. Contact our attorneys through our message form or via phone at (607) 432-9341 to schedule a no-cost case evaluation.