Railroad workers in Connecticut and around the country are not covered by workers’ compensation programs. They instead file claims under the provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act when they are injured on the job. Unlike workers who file workers’ compensation claims, injured railroad employees only receive compensation when they can prove that their employer acted negligently. Compensation in FELA cases is also awarded differently. Workers’ compensation benefits are determined by a fixed schedule, but compensation in FELA cases is awarded based on the employer’s degree of negligence.
This is why railroad companies often mount vigorous defenses to FELA claims. When a railroad worker reports that they were injured in an accident, a process begins that can take months or even years to complete. The process starts with an investigation into the accident conducted by the railroad company, and the injured worker’s attorney may also initiate an investigation. Once the facts have been established, the two parties will seek to settle the matter amicably. If these talks are unsuccessful, the injured worker may file a civil lawsuit against their employer.
Before going to court, the two sides will exchange documents and information and depose relevant parties during the discovery process. Judges may order the plaintiff and defendants to discuss a settlement or attend arbitration or mediation proceedings. When they do go to court, FELA claims are sometimes decided by a judge. However, both parties can request a jury if they wish.
Injured railroad workers who wish to pursue a FELA claim may wish to consult a personal injury attorney with experience in this area as these cases are often complex and contentious. Attorneys who have handled FELA claims in the past may be familiar with the way railroads operate and be able to anticipate the arguments railroad companies will make both at the negotiating table and in court.