The Federal Employers Liability Act or FELA was passed by the United States Congress in 1908. FELA covers most workers employed by railroad companies if they are injured on the job, even if the workers job doesn’t require them to work on or around trains.
Under FELA a railroad company is obligated to provide a safe work environment which includes: hiring adequate number of workers, providing safe and effective tools, regular maintenance of tools and equipment and safety inspections of off-premise work areas. Railroad companies are also required to develop safety rules and protocols and enforce them. A railroad will be considered negligent if a railroad employee suffers an injury because the railroad failed to comply with any of these requirements.
A successful claim under FELA must satisfy three requirements:
- The worker must have been injured in the course and scope of his/her employment with the railroad.
- It must be proven that the railroad’s negligence played some part in causing the employee’s injuries.
- The railroad must be engaged in interstate commerce (commerce between two or more states). Under FELA injured railroad workers may be entitled to compensation for past and future wages, past and future pain and mental suffering, disability and medical and expenses. Additional compensation is also required if the injured railroad worker lost a limb or organ. In the event of death, past and future economic losses are also paid to the employee’s dependents.
Railroads may also be held strictly liable for violating federal standards pertaining to workplace safety, e.g. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation, the Boiler Inspection Act, the Safety Appliance Act, etc. The worker only has to show that the law in question was violated and that he was injured as a result to be successful in his claim.
In addition, under certain circumstances, an employee can recover damages from the railroad even though the injury occurs away from company property. Common examples can include: trainmen switching at an industrial plant; a train crew injured while deadheading either by rail, land or air; injuries on the premises of carrier-provided lodging; and employees injured while en route to perform repair service at an outlying point.
Regardless of the particular circumstances causing an injury covered by FELA, an injured worker should seek counsel immediately to ensure he or she is adequately represented, is appropriately compensated, and enjoys full protection of his or her legal rights.
Our Advice: FELA Related Injuries
Ten steps action guide for FELA injuries
- First, remain calm and if possible move away from the hazard or instrumentality which caused or contributed to your injury.
- If practical, warn others of the condition which caused or contributed to your injury to prevent others from being injured.
- Notify a supervisor as well as other persons responsible for the investigation and documentation of on the job injuries.
- Do not make statements implying that your actions contributed to the event.
- Note the identity of any person claiming to have witnessed the event or claiming to have previously complained about the hazard or the defect which caused your injury.
- Ensure that an incident report is prepared or that the event is properly documented by persons responsible for the investigation of on the job injuries.
- Make notes of the time of occurrence, a detailed description of the hazard or defect which caused the injury.
- If you have a camera available, photograph the hazard or defect which caused the injury.
- Ensure that your account or any witness(es) account are included in any incident report or police report.
- Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries. Often insurance companies will disclaim responsibility for injuries when they are not properly reported, documented or treated.