More than 100 years ago, the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) was passed to protect railroad workers who got injured on the job. Still going strong today, the statute supersedes all state laws affecting railroad workers in Connecticut, New York and the rest of the country. In order for injured workers to receive compensation, they must first prove that their employer was negligent. Monetary awards are then distributed in proportion to the employer's failure to comply with workplace safety standards.
FELA was originally created in the latter half of the 19th century to circumvent state laws that largely favored the rights of railroad employers, leaving workers to suffer. Today the issue is still highly decisive. Railroad companies would like to see the elimination of FELA while labor unions and some politicians feel that the law is still very important. Unlike many no-fault statutes in the states, FELA allows for unlimited monetary damages.
A large majority of injured workers are awarded settlements under FELA with little dispute, but some are subject to years of squabbling in the judicial system. This costs victims, the federal government and the railroad companies a lot of money. One proposed solution to this problem is to roll railroad injury claims into the no-fault workers' compensation programs already available in all 50 states.
Injured railroad workers who may be eligible for FELA claims have the right to get support and advice from an attorney. Injuries from railroad accidents can be serious and even fatal, so it's important to hold employers who fall short of safety standards accountable. A vast majority of claims are settled without a court battle, but there are some cases where the railroad company will fight. Even if a lawsuit is filed in state court, federal guidelines established in FELA still must be followed.