A History of FELA
Congress created FELA in 1908 when railroads were the primary engine for expansion. The railroad industry saw unprecedented growth as the westward moving U.S. population built new communities and industries. President Roosevelt championed legislation to protect railroad workers who were experiencing high death tolls and tremendous grievous injuries while employed by the largely unregulated industry. FELA created regulations for a safe workplace environment and the guaranteed right of workers and their families to be compensated in the event of workplace injury or death. The law states that these railroad employees can seek out compensation if they can prove that the railroad was somehow to blame for their injuries due to some kind of legal negligence.
Railroad workers do not automatically get awarded benefits under FELA, and negligence must still be proved, but workers have been considerably helped by the regulations set forth in this law. In the following years after FELA was passed, numerous attempts were made to replace it with regular workers' compensation, none of which worked. If you are a railroad worker, it is important that you are familiar with the rights that are entitled to you.
FELA is described in 45 U.S.C. 51. Click here to read the law in its entirety.
Are You a Railroad Employee Hurt on the Job?
When railroad employees are injured on the job, they are ineligible to file a typical worker’s compensation claim. All claims are subject to FELA, while long-term disability and retirement benefits are administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Compensation can be provided for the following:
- Emotional distress
- Asbestos exposure
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Trauma injuries
In a worker’s compensation claim, the worker is only required to prove he or she was injured on the job. No claim of liability by the employer is necessary. Compensation is then set and distributed by the appropriate state government agency. For injured railway workers to receive financial help, they must show their injuries were a direct result of something that occurred on the job. Cases under FELA are fault-based.
- Faulty railroad equipment or tools;
- Reckless or negligent behavior by a fellow employee; or
- Railroad agent or contractor negligence.
The injured must prove the defendant, whether a railroad company, another employee, or a manufacturer, acted in a negligent manner resulting in an unsafe work environment. Awards from successful FELA claims are usually larger than those from worker’s compensation claims; however, railroad employees making a FELA claim must prove the injury was caused by the owner or operator of the railroad company. This means that, through some action or inaction, the railroad company is, at least in part, liable for the accident. The phrase “at least in part” places a FELA claim into the “featherweight” category, meaning the burden of proof for liability is small. If it can be proven that the railroad company is responsible, even in a minor way, they will be found liable for the injury.
Time Limitations on Filing a Claim
Don’t wait to file a claim because there are time limitations for filing all types of injury claims. The federal statute of limitations for FELA claims is three years from date of injury. Accident investigations and witness depositions are another pressing reason to seek the assistance of an experienced railroad injury attorney right away. As time passes, evidence can be lost and memories can fade, thereby jeopardizing the success of a claim.
Employers' Duties Under FELA
FELA provides railroad companies and employers with uniform liability standards. In short, FELA compels railway companies to provide employees with safe working environments in every situation and at all times.
- Properly inspecting the work environment for avoidable hazards
- Ensuring the workplace is reasonably clear of unsafe conditions and safety hazards
- Providing and maintaining appropriate equipment and tools, including safety devices
- Warning employees of any unsafe conditions or hazards, even if they are clearly apparent
- Enforce all safety regulations and standards
- Provide necessary training to every worker so they can perform the tasks they are assigned
- Supervise all job related activities appropriately to avoid injuries to subordinate employees
- Prevent the implementation of unreasonable work quotas
- Take reasonable measures to keep employees safe from intentional crimes by other employees
- Provide assistance to employees who have been assigned tasks that exceed their physical limitations
Our FELA Attorneys Are Here for All Railroad Workers
Every railroad worker has rights, including the right to seek compensation for injuries sustained in in railroad accidents caused by negligence or wrongdoing. This is true whether they work for a small railroad or one of the biggest in the country. As FELA attorneys, our goal is to ensure that our clients' rights are protected to the fullest extent, no matter who they work for. All railroad workers deserve safe work environments.
As of 2020, the biggest railroads in America are:
- BNSF (revenue: $29 billion, employees: 35,000, rail network: 32,500 miles)
- Union Pacific (revenue: $19.53 billion, employees: 31,000, rail network 32,200 miles)
- Canadian National (revenue: $10.9 billion, employees: 24,000, rail network: 19,500 miles)
- CSX Transportation (revenue: $10.6 billion, employees: 25,000, rail network: 20,000 miles)
- Norfolk Southern Railway (revenue: $9.79 billion, employees: 20,200, rail network: 19,300 miles)
Some of the other 700 railroad companies in the U.S. include:
- Metro-North Railroad (MNRR)
- Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
- Texas & New Mexico Railroad
- Texas & Oklahoma Railroad
- Delaware and Hudson Railroad
- Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad
- Long Island Railroad (LIRR)
- Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co.
- New Jersey Transit (NJT)
- Illinois Central Railroad Co.
- Kansas City Southern Railway
- Springfield Terminal
- Providence & Worcester Railroad
- Rail Link
- Pan Am Railways
Billions of Dollars Awarded to Our Clients. Call (888) 493-1629 Today.
The Federal Employers Liability Act is only as good as it is enforced.
This means that the laws set in place to govern and hold liable those parties responsible for railroad injuries and train accidents will only be effective if a FELA lawyer represents those in need of legal help. A legal professional can investigate the working conditions of any railroad workplace to determine whether or not toxic hazards and/or illegal operations were involved with the accident that left you injured.
Time and again, Arnold & Itkin has fought relentlessly for our clients. Your best interests are our top priority. We have obtained numerous successful verdicts for individuals throughout the U.S., recovering billions of dollars in compensation. When you retain us, you can rest easier knowing that there is no case too complex for our team to handle. You have nothing to lose by discussing your case with our compassionate team.
Contact our top-rated FELA lawyers for a free initial case evaluation by calling (888) 493-1629.