How FELA Works

What the FELA Covers for Railroad Workers

During the decades of the explosive growth of the railroad industry across the U.S., Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to protect injured workers. Approved in 1908, the FELA allows employees to sue their employer if negligence on the company’s behalf contributed in any way to their injuries. Prior to this law, uninsured railroad workers had no recourse against companies that showed disregard for their safety. According to the Association of American Railroads, Texas is home to the most miles of rail in the country, with the second highest number of workers. These employees are protected against unsafe practices and hazardous cost-cutting measures through the FELA.

The amount awarded to the injured workers is largely determined by how much of the fault lies with each party. For instance, if the Court decided that the incident was 40% the fault of the railroad company, the company would be liable for 40% of the resulting costs. Some situations, such as a violation of federal regulations such as the Federal Boiler Inspection Act would automatically render the employer fully responsible for all damages.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, over 1200 workers were killed in incidents related to railroad workplaces from 1993 to 2002. These are largely caused by accidents at the workplace, but many more workers face injuries inflicted through years of exposure to a hazardous environment

Railroad workers face a range of potential injuries as part of the job, including:

  • Back pain
  • Cancers
    • Lymphoma/Hodgkin’s Disease
    • Mesothelioma
    • Bladder cancer
    • Lung cancer
    • Melanoma
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Hearing loss
  • Joint injuries
  • Tendonitis
  • Toxic chemicals
    • Solvents
    • Asbestos
    • Benzene
    • Welding fumes
    • Vibration white finger

Among the risks that railroad workers face, one of the most common injuries includes toxic exposure to chemical solvents. These solvents are used for degreasing and cleaning locomotives, and their use has been linked to varying degrees of brain damage. Thousands of workers have already been awarded amounts for solvent damages under the FELA, with CSX having already paid up to $35 million to these workers.

Another common affliction suffered by railroad workers involves hearing damage. A train’s whistle registers at 90 decibels from 500 feet, while any noise over 85 is considered to be hazardous. Many workers develop hearing damage or total loss after a number of years of labor. If the employer does not take proper precautions, such as earplugs, to combat this issue, they may be held liable for damages.

While providing the necessary role of maintaining railroads across the country, many workers put their short and long-term health at risk. The FELA allows these workers, who could face an inability to work after an accident, the ability to hold railroad companies responsible for failing to protect their hard-working employees. For the nearly 18,000 employees of freight trains through Texas and New Mexico, that means less stress on the job and more financial certainty.

Lubbock Railroad Accident Attorney

Have you been injured at work? Get help from an experienced Lubbock railroad accident attorney at Liggett Law Group today. We offer free, no-obligation consultations. Call us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.