How FELA Works

How FELA Works for Railroad Workers

Many people don’t realize that, whereas most workers in the United States are covered by the workers’ compensation system, railroad workers actually have a different type of protection on the job. Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) in 1908 as a way to protect railroad workers while they were on the job, as well as to compensate them sufficiently for any injury they receive on the job. For injured employees, it’s important to understand how FELA works for railroad workers.

Key Differences in Coverage Under FELA & Workers’ Comp

The key difference between coverage for railroad workers under FELA and the workers’ compensation insurance system is that FELA is a fault-based system, whereas workers’ compensation is not. In order to receive FELA benefits, an injured railroad worker is required to prove that their injury was the result of negligence on the part of a railroad employee or any agent or contractor. They can also recover if they were injured by a faulty piece of equipment.

Another very important difference between FELA and workers’ compensation insurance comes with the fact that a worker has the right to sue their employer for damages in state or federal court, an option that is not available in the workers’ compensation system. Also, unlike workers’ comp, FELA uses the legal doctrine of “comparative negligence,” which means a judge or jury can determine the level of negligence for which each party is liable.

What that means is, in that rare case in which a worker has absolutely 100 percent responsibility for their accident, workers’ compensation can provide a better deal for the worker because it pays no matter what. However, in most situations the employer and/or some other party or parties have some level of responsibility, which means railroad workers under FELA generally have more options. Also, due in part to this flexibility, FELA awards tend to be much higher than workers’ comp claims.

A Different Type of Protection for Railroad Workers

FELA coverage is very wide-ranging, more like a personal injury lawsuit than a workers’ compensation claim, in that covers a lot more than just devastating physical injuries, like broken bones, brain trauma, burns and the like; it will also cover chronic illnesses and injuries due to issues like chemical or asbestos exposure, as well as cumulative injuries like repetitive stress. In fact, it’s also possible to recover for such losses as those for pain and suffering and emotional distress.

Over the years, railroad employers have grown to dislike the FELA system and would love to fold railroad workers into the workers’ comp system, but the unions have so far been able to stave that off. A lot of employees misunderstand how FELA workers for railroad workers because of what the railroad tells them, and they have come to believe that workers’ comp is better, in part because they believe it pays faster and also pays more, both of which are usually untrue. In fact, it’s safe to say that 90 percent of the time, FELA offers better coverage.

Liggett Law Group Handles Railroad Accidents

If you are a railroad worker and have been injured on the job, the railroad injury attorneys at the Liggett Law Group understand how FELA works for railroad workers and can help you get the maximum recovery for your injuries. Contact us today and find out your options.