From railroad conductors to station operators, all railroad workers face the risk of injury while at work. Working in one of—if not the—most dangerous industry in the United States, what happens when serious or fatal injuries occur on the job? What legal protection do they have to ensure safety and security within their field? If you suffer from a railroad-related injury, you can receive compensation under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).

Protecting Railroad Worker Rights

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Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA): Explained

Enacted by Congress in 1908, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was passed in response to the increasing dangers, injuries, and deaths that fell upon railroad workers between the 19th and 20th centuries. Recognizing the growing hazards presented to railroad workers across the country, Congress sought to pass a law to ensure better protection and compensation for injured individuals, thereby promoting better safety regulations for railroad workers. Under FELA, railroad workers who sustain an injury, illness, or are killed during their employment due to their employer’s negligence can sue for damages and receive monetary compensation. The amount received from the lawsuit is determined by the degree of injury sustained, long-term consequences of the injury, inability to work, and missed days of work due to the injury. Furthermore, family members of a railroad worker killed due to employer negligence can file a lawsuit, attributing monetary compensation to surviving relatives. According to FELA, the main responsibility of the railroad worker or surviving family members of the victim is to prove the resulting injuries, illness, or fatality is a result of the employer’s negligence, thus making the company liable for their damages.

roadroad injury
FELA protection allows you the right to compensation from your railroad carrier for any injuries suffered from the railroad’s negligence

How Does FELA Protect Railroad Workers? 

By passing the Federal Employers Liability Act, Congress ensured the safety and protection of railroad workers for years, as well as holding railroad companies responsible for safety gaps. In turn, FELA works as a form of worker’s compensation for railroad workers, with the primary difference being that benefits occur on a fault-based system. In an at-fault-based system, in other words, the railroad employee has a duty to prove that the railroad was negligent or careless, and thereby caused the injuries.  

Aside from physical injuries, FELA also offers protection to railroad workers if they sustain long-term issues from their employment. For example, if exposed to a hazardous chemical or disease, a railroad worker could file a lawsuit due to personal injuries, medical bills, suffering, mental trauma, as well as past and future wage loss resulting from their ailments.  

However, FELA observes a statute of limitations to file a negligence lawsuit due to work-related injury. Such lawsuits must generally be filed within three years of the date of incident causing injury, however, suits against a governmental entity or political subdivision such as the South Shore Railroad (NICTD), are subject to a 180-day tort claims notice requirement under Indiana law. This notice requirement must contain certain specific information, so legal counsel should be contacted as soon as possible after a claim arises. 

Railroad Workers Need Quality Legal Support

The Federal Liability Employers Act (FELA) exists to protect the rights and safety of railroad workers, who provide an invaluable service to our country while risking their lives in the process. At Foley & Murphy, our attorneys represent railroad workers who are injured to ensure they get the justice and medical care they deserve. Ensure you and your loved ones have reliable legal support by contacting Foley & Murphy today.

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