What is the FELA Claims Process?

Railroad work is important, but it is also extremely dangerous. Based on your specific job and the responsibilities that come with it, you could face potentially severe injuries, from serious lacerations to broken bones, every day you work. 

How do I file a FELA claim?

It is essential to understand that if you are injured during the course and scope of your employment, you are not going to file a claim through workers’ compensation as you would with most other jobs. Rather, your claim will be filed under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.

The experienced Virginia railway injury lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & have been successfully handling FELA cases since 1985. If your work-related injuries were caused by employer negligence, reach out to us today so we can determine the best course of action for your situation. 

The Process of Filing a FELA Claim

The statute of limitations for a FELA claim is three years from the day your injury occurred. Once this deadline expires, you will be barred from receiving any recovery so it is important to act quickly.   

Unfortunately, your employer is going to put a lot of effort into minimizing their responsibility for your injuries and try to compensate you as little as they possibly can. However, with a strong FELA lawyer on your side, you can feel confident in the outcome of your claim. 

Generally speaking, the FELA claims process goes as follows:  

Accident Report

You must file an official accident report with the rail company as soon as your injury occurs. Fill out the form completely and correctly and ensure your answers align with your union agreement. Be as detailed as possible. Include information on any faulty tools and hazardous conditions that caused or contributed to your injuries. If anyone witnessed your accident, be sure to include their names and contact information. If possible, take pictures or videos of the scene, the hazardous conditions, and the defective equipment.  

Contact With a Claims Agent

Once your report is filed, a railroad claims agent will get in touch with you. It is vital to keep in mind that the claims agent does not have your best interests in mind and will probably go so far as to discourage you from hiring a lawyer. After all, their job is to make sure you get the smallest amount of compensation possible. 


Your employer will conduct an investigation into your accident to determine how and why it happened. At this point, they might ask you to give them a written or recorded statement which you should not do without first consulting an experienced FELA attorney.  Be aware that most rail companies will hire a private detective to gather evidence and conduct recorded surveillance on you. For this reason, it is essential that you strictly adhere to your doctor’s treatment plan and do not participate in any activity without their approval.

Settlement Negotiations

Once evidence has been collected and the severity of your injuries has been determined, your lawyer will issue a demand letter to your employer. This paves the way for settlement negotiations. Your FELA attorney will negotiate on your behalf until the two parties reach a settlement amount that fairly compensates you for your injuries. If a settlement is agreed upon, this is the end of the process. 

Filing a Claim

A skilled attorney will work hard to settle your claim without going to trial. Litigation is lengthy and expensive for both sides. If your employer simply refuses to negotiate in good faith, the next step is to file a claim against them. At this point, your lawyer will have to decide where your claim should be filed; in state or federal court.    


Once your claim is filed, the discovery phase begins. This is when the rail company and your attorney trade documents, records, and other information. Negotiations may continue through this part of the process. In fact, the looming threat of a trial might even motivate the rail company to agree to a fair settlement offer. This can be resolved through mediation or another type of alternative dispute resolution


If an agreement still cannot be reached during the pretrial stage and neither party has closed the claim through a motion, it will proceed to trial. During this phase, counsel for both sides will call witnesses and present their evidence. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can last anywhere from a single day to several weeks. Once both parties have argued their side of the case, the judge will render a decision.  

Speak With an Experienced Lawyer

The experienced Virginia FELA attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp have more than 50 years of combined experience handling FELA cases. 

If you were injured on the job as a railway employee, schedule a free consultation by calling our Virginia law offices at (833) 997-1774 or through the contact form on our website. 

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