The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) is a federal law that provides injured railroad employees a mechanism to seek compensation from their employers. The FELA enforces a stringent liability law on railroads for their employees’ injuries.
Workers’ Compensation Claim and FELA
Compensation under FELA covers diseases and repetitive stress damage, apart from personal injuries in work-related accidents. As with workers’ compensation, FELA also provides for damages to the employees for worsening of their pre-existing ailments.
Someone seeking damages under a workers’ compensation claim does not need to establish negligence on part of their employer. Under FELA regulations, a railroad employee must prove their employer’s negligence and the fact that the injuries or conditions suffered by them are a result of that negligence.
However, the contributory negligence clause under FELA reduces the recovery of compensation in proportion to the negligence on the part of the employee.
Where Can You Bring Your FELA Claim?
A railroad employee has the right to file a FELA claim in any court; state or federal. However, there are certain restrictions related to the location where you can bring your claim.
Earlier, it was the norm for complainants to choose a venue favorable to them as the railroad companies have their operations and employees in many states. The United States Supreme Court, in the BNSF Railway Company vs. Tyrrell, 2017; set limitations on the authority in FELA claims.
Section 56 of FELA states that a plaintiff can bring FELA claims in the districts where:
- the action arose, i.e., the accident happened
- the defendant railroad resides, i.e., has its headquarters
- the defendant railroad conducts business, i.e., is incorporated
You can still exercise your options as to where you choose to file the FELA claim. First, you must decide between a federal and a state court. If you decide on a state court, you must select the venue most suited to file your claim out of those available to you.
Your FELA attorney can assess your case and analyze all available legal alternatives to decide on the best approach to recover the maximum damages for your injuries.
Does the Location of Your Attorney Matter for a FELA Claim?
FELA is a specially designed federal law with unique and distinct rules about types of damages you can recover, and how you can recover them. The attorney location which is a crucial element in many other areas of the law does not make much of a difference in a FELA claim.
Your FELA attorney’s experience and proficiency in FELA claims are what matter, much more than their location, in trying to recover compensation for your injuries.
The FELA Claim Process
Filing an Accident Report and Gathering the Evidence
If you are a railroad employee injured in a work-related accident, you must file an accident report as soon as possible after your injury. Contact an attorney familiar with the FELA law who will gather all the evidence including photographs, witness statements, and medical records.
Seeking a Pre-Lawsuit Settlement
Your attorney, based on these facts, may submit a settlement demand to your employer’s claim department seeking a pre-lawsuit settlement. Upon receiving a settlement offer from the railroad, your attorney may decide whether the offer is reasonably fair for you to accept or to file a lawsuit.
Filing a Lawsuit
If your attorney advises you to file the FELA lawsuit, both sides must continue with the discovery process. This process comprises of written discovery where you need to answer written questions, and depositions where you must answer in-person and under oath, to the opposing attorney’s questions.
Your attorney might call witnesses and medical experts to testify about the accident, the extent of your injuries, and their long-term effect on your personal and work life. If you and your employer do not reach a settlement until this point in time, the case moves on to a jury trial.
Will I Be Fired by the Railroad for Filling Out an Accident Report?
Under the railroad rules, employees have a duty to promptly file any injury reports. The federal law prohibits the railroad from harassing, intimidating, or firing you, for reporting an injury. You have the right to report anyone for such conduct, as per the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations.
The same regulations also stipulate that the railroad must support guidelines that make the railroad workers aware of the law. The regulations clearly state that harassment of an individual to discourage them from receiving medical treatment, or reporting an accident or injury, are prohibited in any form; and will result in stringent action against anyone committing such harassment.
An Experienced Attorney with Proficiency in FELA Claims is Crucial for Your Case
A FELA attorney familiar with the essence of a railroad employee’s work and the nature of work-related injuries they sustain is essential if you are an injured railroad worker. If you have a feasible claim under FELA, our railroad accident attorneys can arrange a free and confidential consultation to assess your claim. Our lawyers can negotiate aggressively for a pre-lawsuit settlement and if the need arises, can file a FELA lawsuit on your behalf in federal or a suitable state court.
At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, we have a team of highly qualified lawyers ready to help victims of railroad accidents get their rightful claims. If you or someone you know is a victim of a railroad work-related accident, call us today at 800-752-0042 or contact us online to find out if you have a case against your employer and whether you are eligible to recover damages.