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What Are FELA Claims & Who Is Covered?

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)

FELA predates workers' compensation laws and was an act designed to protect injured railway workers specifically. Similar to today's workers' compensation laws, under the Federal Employers Liability Act, injured railway workers have the right to seek compensation for injuries suffered on the job through the court system. FELA covers several categories of injuries, including traumatic injuries, repetitive motion injuries, occupational diseases, and the aggravation of a pre-existing condition.

Key Differences Between FELA Claims & Workers' Compensation

When an injured worker files a workers' compensation claim, they are not required to prove that their employer was at fault for their on-the-job injuries (such as those due to negligence or recklessness). However, when an injured worker files a FELA claim, they are required to demonstrate that their employer was both negligent and that the negligence was the cause of their injury.

Another important distinction between workers' compensation claims and FELA claims is that compensation under FELA is generally more expansive than workers' compensation. For example, workers' compensation typically only covers damages directly related to medical care, lost income, and disabilities resulting from the injury.

Under FELA, injured employees have the potential to receive compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional suffering
  • Permanent, partial, and full disability

Lastly, after filing a FELA claim and recovering benefits, the injured worker still retains the right to file additional lawsuits against their employer for more compensation. With a worker's compensation claim, the employee loses the right to file an additional lawsuit against their employer and can only file against a third-party.

Do I Need an Attorney to File a FELA Claim?

If you file a FELA claim, you must prove that the railroad was negligent in some way and that this negligence caused or played a part in the cause of your injury. This may seem like a daunting task, especially given how large and complicated railway companies tend to be. However, working with a skilled attorney who is experienced in handling FELA claims, you can get the support and guidance you need during this complicated process.

Common examples of negligence include:

  • Failure to provide and/or maintain workplace safety
  • Failure to enforce workplace safety rules
  • Failure to inspect the workplace for hazards
  • Failure to provide proper or adequate training
  • Failure to provide proper or adequate tools and equipment
  • Failure to provide appropriate supervision or staffing
  • Failure to prevent unreasonable workplace demands and quotas

What Happens when a Workplace Injury Results in Death?

If you have lost a loved one due to a workplace injury that qualifies for a FELA claim, you and/or their children may be entitled to receive compensation. Under FELA guidelines, compensation can be paid to the surviving spouse or children of the worker. If the employee has no spouse or children, their surviving parents or other close family members may receive compensation.

No matter your case's circumstances, if you are filing a FELA claim, you should seek counsel from a knowledgeable lawyer. Filing a FELA claim can be complicated, and a skilled lawyer can guide you throughout the process.

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