FELA Basics For Injured Railway Workers

After being declared unconstitutional in 1906, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act was passed again in 1908. Since then, the FELA Act has persevered in the face of constitutionality tests while providing a federal system of economic recovery for railway workers who are killed or injured on the job.

What kind of injuries qualify me for a FELA claim?

Railway work is extremely dangerous. FELA was enacted to ensure that injured workers have a way to collect financial compensation for their injuries. Unfortunately, depending on the type of injury sustained, FELA claims are often very complex.

The Virginia railway accident lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp have been attaining successful outcomes in their railroad injury cases for nearly four decades. Contact our Virginia Beach law offices today for a free consultation on your FELA claim. 

Common Types of Train Injuries

Railway workers are routinely exposed to a wide variety of potential injuries while on the job. Not every injury presents immediate and obvious symptoms. As an injured railroad worker, it is vital that you seek both medical and legal help right away.   

Some of the most common railroad worker injuries include:  

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome and other RSIs
  • Burn injuries
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Head injuries/Traumatic brain injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Respiratory problems
  • Back injuries
  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung cancer
  • Paralysis
  • Soft tissue Injuries
  • Internal bleeding/Internal organ damage
  • Contusions/Lacerations
  • Broken bones/Fractured bones
  • Wrongful deaths

Common Causes of Train Injuries

Railway workers can be injured in many different types of accidents. It is important to keep in mind that an injured worker does not need to prove that the railroad company was wholly at fault for the accident, only that its negligence was a contributing factor.

Some common causes of railroad accidents include:

  • Workers being improperly or inadequately trained
  • Faulty equipment
  • Failure to properly maintain equipment
  • Speeding
  • Exposure to toxic substances and chemicals
  • Hazardous working conditions
  • Inadequate or broken lighting
  • Inappropriate procedures
  • Operator error

If you are hurt on the job as a railway worker, you should always seek prompt medical attention. Even if you think you have managed to escape unharmed, you should always be examined by a medical professional. 

You also need to notify your employer of your accident and injury right away. Following that, reach out to a FELA attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp before you talk to a claims adjuster or anyone from the insurance company. 

Statute of Limitations

Generally speaking, victims have three years from the cause of action to file a suit. However, not every injury is immediately obvious. For example, injuries caused by prolonged exposure to toxic conditions or materials, or to chemical substances can fester for years before physical symptoms manifest. In these cases, the statute of limitations begins tolling on the day that the worker first became aware, or reasonably should have become aware, of symptoms indicating illness or injury.  

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a legal defense in which a claimant’s damages are decreased by their own percentage of negligence. This defense is frequently used by railroads in FELA claims since a victim who is primarily responsible for their own accident and injuries will have their award considerably reduced. For instance, let’s say that an injured worker was awarded $200,000 for their FELA claim but it was determined that they were 25% liable for their injuries. This would reduce their financial compensation by $50,000, leaving them with $150,000.


Some railway companies offer injured workers light-duty positions as a means of earning an income after being injured. The nature of light-duty work varies, but you need to get a doctor’s permission before you agree to it. Without medical clearance, even something as innocuous as accepting light-duty work increases your chances of aggravating or even worsening your injury. Even worse, if you take on light duty against your physician’s orders, it could adversely impact the amount of financial compensation you receive for your FELA claim.

Do You Need A Virginia FELA Attorney?

If you were catastrophically injured or your family member was killed while working on a Virginia railroad, you do not have to deal with a FELA claim on your own. An experienced Virginia FELA attorney can walk you through the legal process and recover full and fair financial compensation for your damages.

At Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, we work closely with our clients and make sure they receive regular updates about their cases. We will get to work exploring all of your legal options during your free consultation. Schedule yours today by calling (833) 997-1774 or contacting us online. 

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