What Is the Federal Employers’ Act (FELA)?

The Federal Employers’ Act (FELA) was enacted by Congress in 1908 to protect and compensate railroad workers injured on the job if the railroad is at least partially negligent in causing the injuries.

FELA is not a workers’ compensation act. It is fault-based and requires a railroad worker to prove their injury was caused either completely or partially by the negligence of a fellow employee, a railroad agent or contractor, a faulty piece of equipment, unsafe working condition, or an unsafe work practice.

FELA also recognizes comparative negligence. This means that if the worker and the railroad are both negligent in causing the worker’s injury, a jury can determine a percentage of the negligence to each side. The amount of compensation awarded to the worker by the jury is reduced by the percentage of negligence the jury assigns to the worker.

There is also no assumption of risk under FELA. This means that a railroad worker is not prevented from recovering injuries resulting from any risks associated with their job. The assumption of risk is not a defense that is available to the railroad to prevent the railroad worker from recovering damages caused in whole or in part by the negligence of the railroad.

Some of the conditions that are covered under FELA include:

  • Personal injuries
  • Conditions/diseases caused by a hazardous work environment, such as asbestosis
  • Cumulative trauma injuries
  • Death

It is important to note that there is a statute of limitations for how long a railroad worker has to file a claim under FELA. Your Virginia FELA attorney can determine what that deadline is in your case.

When a Railroad Worker Is Injured

If a railroad worker is injured and it is determined that the injury resulted as a violation of FELA, the worker is entitled to financial compensation for the following:

  • All past and future medical treatment
  • All past and future wages
  • All past and future pain, suffering, and emotional anguish

Should the injury result in the death of the worker, then their surviving spouse and children are entitled to receive financial compensation under FELA. If the victim was not married and/or had no children, their parents or next of kin would be entitled to the compensation.

It is important to note that FELA also applies to retired railroad workers for any illnesses or conditions that they develop as a direct result of their employment with the railroad, such as mesothelioma.

Contact a Virginia FELA Lawyer

In many cases that involve the tragic death of a railroad employee, the railroad may contact the victim’s family to try to offer a quick settlement. The amounts they offer are usually far below the actual amount the family would recover with the help of a FELA wrongful death attorney. Families should never sign or agree to any settlement without first consulting with a Virginia FELA attorney.

At Shapiro. Appleton & Washburn, we have extensive legal experience advocating for railroad workers and their families. If your loved one has been killed in a railroad accident, call our firm today to find out how we can help your family get the legal and financial justice you deserve.




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