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The Federal Employers Compensation Act, more commonly referred to as the FELA, is a law specifically written to protect railroad workers and their families from harmful injuries or death. The FELA has been in place for over 100 years, and continues to serve as an effective measure to protect railroad workers.

What Is FELA?

By definition, The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. (1908) is a United States federal law that protects and compensates railroaders injured on the job.

The purpose of the FELA is to provide financial relief to injured railroaders and the families of railroaders who were severely injured or victims of wrongful death due to the railroad’s negligence or violation of safety. It imposes liability on railroad companies to provide compensation for workplace injuries sustained by railroad workers.

The FELA also gives major railroads a financial incentive to comply with safety standards and provide railroad workers with a safe working environment. Under the FELA, a railroad company is presumed to be without fault. To make a claim, an injured railroad worker will have to prove that negligence has taken place. Negligence has been defined as the failure to use proper care or caution.

What does FELA cover?

If negligence is proven, the FELA allows railroad workers (or their families) to recover damages for:

  • Permanent Injury
  • Disfigurement or Scarring
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Medical Expenses
  • Monetary Damages for Decreased Earning Power Caused by an Injury
  • Emotional Distress
  • Wage Loss

The FELA also covers illnesses caused by long-term exposure to asbestos and cumulative trauma injuries.

The FELA is similar to workers’ compensation, but is a fault-based system. An injured railroad worker is required to prove that the injury was caused by the negligence of the railroad company, whether that be an employee or piece of machinery. Railroad workers not found to be 100% at fault still have the right to sue for damages in court. This is not an option for those pursuing workers’ compensation claims.

The amount of fault can affect the size of the monetary payment. For example, if a railroad company is found to be 80% negligent and the victim found to be 20% negligent, the railroad company will only have to pay 80% of the amount.

FELA History

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, railroad use in the United States was rapidly expanding. As the industry struggled to quickly build new railroads, the dangers to railroad workers increased. Severe injuries and death became more common, leaving families unable to provide for themselves.

Congress and other politicians soon began to see the extreme hazards and unsafe working conditions that were prevalent in the lives of railroad workers. Railroad companies ignored frequent employee injuries and dangerous working conditions. Politicians realized that they would have to enact legislation to protect railroad workers from negligent railroad companies.

The original FELA, proposed in 1906, was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The legislation was reintroduced in 1908 and passed by Congress. In the years following the FELA, 26 bills were introduced to replace the FELA with traditional workers’ compensation. These attempts were all rejected by Congress. The FELA continues to protect railroad workers over 100 years later.

What are the remedies if you have been affected under FELA?

If you suffer an injury, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself after receiving proper medical care. Compile a list of all potential witnesses to the accident (or witnesses to the cause of the accident), as their testimony may be necessary in court.

Be sure not to give any statements until speaking with a union representative or lawyer. If asked by the railroad company for a statement, simply tell them you are waiting to provide one until you consult a lawyer. As an injured worker, the railroad company will now view you as a financial liability. The railroad company will perform their own investigation and dispense their own lawyers, which can turn this process into a lengthy one.

Provide as much documentation and information as possible to your lawyer representing you in your lawsuit. From there, your lawyer should be able to guide you through your legal case. Because railroad companies have large sums of money at their disposal and a good legal team behind them, a FELA lawsuit can be a time consuming and expensive process for victims.

How we van help with your FELA case?

If you require legal funding or a pre-settlement loan to hire a lawyer, fund legal experts, pay medical expenses, or pay for living expenses, please apply now. One  our reputable legal funding experts for more information regarding funding for your FELA case.

Do you have additional questions about the Federal Employers’ Liability Act? Are you considering making a claim? Discuss your options with your legal representatives and contact us for more FELA lawsuit funding information.



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