Workplace injuries can happen in any industry. However, the laws governing compensation are different depending on where you work. While workers’ compensation is a common protection for many employees, it does not apply to federal railroad workers.
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) protects railroad workers instead, and it has different requirements than workers’ compensation.
Different rules for federal railroad employees
compensation claims are generally paid by private insurers or state-run funds. While a private insurer for your employer will likely pay damages for your FELA claim, the process does not work the same as workers’ compensation.
Unlike the FELA, workers’ compensation offers “no-fault” protection. Employees who are injured at work have protections regardless of how they sustain their injury. Given this, employees filing workers’ compensation do not need to prove liability. This is not the case under the FELA.
FELA requires proving liability
When filing a FELA claim, you must prove that your employer was negligent or responsible for your injuries. The goal is to prove that your employer did not provide a safe work environment, and includes factors such as:
•Properly functioning equipment
•An environment free of hazards
•Enforcement of safety rules
•Unreasonable workload or tasks
While the burden of proof is lower than a personal injury court case, the requirement of proving liability makes these cases difficult. Railroad companies fight aggressively to disprove your claim. The damages awarded depend the level of fault, meaning if you are found to be partially or fully at fault, you may be awarded lesser or no damages.
The FELA is in place to protect you from future wage loss, physical suffering and mental distress, but it also puts heavy burden of proof on employees.