Railroad Injuries FAQ

What Is The FELA?

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) covers rail workers who are injured or killed on the job. It is not a workers' compensation law. It was enacted by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908 to protect rail workers who are negligently injured on the job.

The FELA requires all railroads to provide their employees with a reasonably safe place to work. If an employee is injured due to a railroad's negligent failure to provide a safe workplace, then the employee can recover damages that far exceed any workers' compensation law. But because it applies only to railroads, only a small number of attorneys are familiar with how the FELA works.

Do I Need A Lawyer?

Yes, if you want to be on a level playing field with the railroad's professional claim agents trained to minimize how much the railroad pays. Most attorneys are not familiar with the railroad industry and the different standards applicable to rail worker FELA cases, so it is critical that you protect your rights by consulting an experienced FELA lawyer.

What Must I Prove?

You must prove that the railroad caused your injury, either in whole or in part. If you cannot prove the railroad was negligent, you lose your case. That is why railroads will always try to deny any responsibility for your injury. And that is why you need an experienced FELA attorney on your side to prove the fault of the railroad.

Even if you prove the railroad caused your injury, the railroad will always argue that you contributed to your injury. That is because any contributory negligence on your part will reduce the amount the railroad must pay you. For example: If a jury awards you $100,000, but finds you were 50 percent contributorily negligent, your judgment is reduced by 50 percent and you get $50,000. That is why you do not want to give a statement to a claim agent before talking with a FELA attorney.

You also must prove medical causation, namely that your injury was caused by the railroad's negligence. This requires expert medical testimony from your treating doctors.

Finally, you must prove the elements of your damages: past lost wages, future lost wages and benefits, medical expenses, disfigurement, physical pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

What Is My Case Worth?

The ultimate value of your railroad injury claim depends on several factors. How strong is the railroad's negligence? Can the railroad prove you contributed to your injury incident? How strong is the medical causation between the injury incident and your diagnosed medical condition? What are your economic and wage damages? Is your injury permanent? Does it affect your everyday life? Does it prevent you from returning to work on the railroad or elsewhere? All of these factors and more must be taken into account to determine a fair value for your injury.

What Should I Do If I Am Injured?

  • Immediately report the injury to your supervisor, or as soon as you realize you are injured.
  • Fill out the injury report, without stating it "was just an accident" or was your fault.
  • Note the names and phone numbers of everyone who saw the injury incident or has knowledge of it.
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible, making sure to clearly explain how the injury occurred at your railroad job.
  • Do not give any written or taped statements to a claims agent without first talking with an experienced FELA attorney.
  • Do not settle with a claims agent without first talking with an experienced FELA attorney.