If you are a railroad worker, you may know about the possible risks you face on a daily basis because of your job. If an injury occurs while you are on the job, you should know that you are protected. For railroad workers who have been injured while on the job, you may be protected under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Just like with standard workers’ compensation, you should always report your injury or illness as soon as you possibly can in order to receive the rightful compensation.
Below is a list of common questions anyone may have when it comes to railroad worker injuries or FELA. Of course, if you do have more questions or if you have a case of your own, you can always reach out to Workers’ Compensation Attorney Law Firm. Serving the Los Angeles area, we can help workers with any workers’ compensation issue.
What is FELA and What Can It Do?
FELA, or the Federal Employers Liability Act, is a unique form of workers’ compensation for railroad workers. Enacted in 1908 by Congress, this is a federal law that is meant to provide protection and compensation to railroad workers who have been injured on the job. Under this act, railroad workers are able to seek damages for their injuries in court for any railroad-related injury. This type of compensation program is under the federal government since any form of interstate commerce (such as railroads) is under the power of the government.
Even though FELA may seem similar to standard workers’ compensation, it does differ in significant ways. First of all, you may only receive benefits under FELA if it can be shown that the injury occurred in part due to the railroad and legal negligence. In order words, this type of compensation is limited to railroad-related incidents and to railroad workers.
Secondly, FELA is a fault-based system—unlike standard workers’ compensation. This means that you must show that your injury or injuries were partly or totally a result of any railroad employee, agent or contractor, or from any faulty and hazardous equipment. If your injury was not due to one of these instances, you may be ineligible to receive benefits under FELA. Also, you do have the option to sue in either state or federal court if it is found that you are not responsible for your injuries. Under workers’ compensation, you give up this ability.
- While working on replacing certain systems for the railroad, Kevin was working with heavy-duty machinery. As he was doing his job, the machinery malfunctioned and crushed his arm. This left Kevin with broken bones and other severe injuries.
- Jerry works in a railroad yard. One day while doing his job, a piece of heavy equipment falls upon him. It turns out it was not properly strapped down and secured. In the end, Jerry is left with severe shoulder and arm injuries.
With railroad injuries, there may be a variety that may occur. Under FELA, most of these will be covered depending on the situation. Of course, there are some important points to know about when you want to file a claim. With claims under FELA, the legal doctrine of ‘comparative negligence’ will be used in order to determine the number of rewards you may receive. With this, it will decide what percentage of each party in the case will be liable for the injury. This information will be used to determine who much compensation may be allocated to the railroad worker.
Who Can Receive Benefits Under FELA?
Most railroad employees are covered under FELA. This can include a variety of positions such as clerical workers, trainmen, signalmen, and more. Again, if you work for the railroads anywhere across the nation, you may be able to receive benefits under FELA.
Also, if a railroad employee dies due to a railway incident, then their spouses and/or dependents may be able to receive compensation under FELA. If the worker does not have a spouse or any dependents, the compensation may be sent to the parents or any other close relatives.
How is FELA Different from Regular Workers’ Compensation?
FELA is similar to most workers’ compensation claims because both types of systems are meant to provide compensation to employees who have suffered an injury while working. Usually, workers may confuse the two. However, there is some important differentiation to know about when it comes to compensation claims under FELA.
First of all, the major difference between claims under FELA and workers’ compensation claims is that FELA is only for railroad workers who have become injured. It is a specific program meant to help these employees who also operate under the federal government.
If you have sustained a work-related injury and you file a standard workers’ compensation claim, you do not have to prove or show any negligence or fault on the part of the employer. Once again, this is a ‘no fault’ system. With this system, an employee would only need to prove or show that their injury occurred while on the job. Under FELA, the employee must prove or show that their employer was negligent and that the injury was a result of the negligence in the workplace.
Also, another significant difference between the compensation systems is what benefits are available. With standard workers’ compensation claims, you will usually receive medical cost coverage, compensation for lost wages, and disability benefits. Under FELA, the benefits are more extensive and can include coverage for past and future medical expenses, compensation for past and future lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and more depending on the details of your situation.
What Injuries May Be Covered Under FELA?
Under FELA, injuries that have resulted from employer negligence or any railroad-related issues may be covered. Any type of injury that has caused you to lose out on any wages and more is worth filing for a claim under FELA. Possible covered injuries include but are limited to:
- Any traumatic types of injuries (broken bones, pulled muscles, joint sprains, etc.)
- Any repetitive movement and motions injuries (tendonitis, carpal tunnel, etc.)
- Occupational-related diseases (hearing loss, asbestosis, lung cancer, etc.), and
- Aggravations of any pre-existing conditions (the injury accelerates or worsens a condition you already had).
Of course, there are many types of injuries that may be covered under FELA. When incidents do occur on the railroad, the injuries tend to be quite severe. Other common injuries that may occur in serious incidents include amputations, head and brain injuries, burns, paralysis, damage to internal organs, and more. These are the types of injuries that could potentially have a significant effect on the rest of your life. If you are unsure, you can speak with your employer or with a compensation attorney to see if you may be eligible to receive benefits.
How Do I Know My Injury was the Result of Negligence?
It is also important to note that the injuries need to have been a result of the negligence of some kind in order to be considered under FELA. Negligence is defined as committing an action that is unreasonable, or not doing something that another individual would have done. In order to determine whether or not your injury was the result of negligence, you should think about the safety conditions of your workplace and whether or not your employer follows proper protocols. Common incidents of negligent conditions may include:
- Failing to follow and create proper workplace safety protocols,
- Not properly training railroad employees,
- Not providing the proper and necessary tools and equipment, and
- Not providing the proper amount of manpower for the job.
Each case is unique and there may be different details and circumstances that can contribute to negligence on the railway. Once you have sustained an injury, it is important to take note of how it occurred and the contributing factors may be. If you are unsure if your injury was the result of negligence on the railway, then you can speak with a compensation attorney.
What Happens When the Injury Was Partly Due to Personal Negligence?
When it comes to sustaining an injury on the railway, there are many factors at play. If you have sustained an injury and it was partially the result of your own negligence, you may still be able to receive compensation under FELA. If the injury was your fault, the court will look at the circumstances of your situation and determine what percentage was actually your fault. With this, they will determine how much compensation and amount of damages you may be able to receive. When it comes to railroad injuries, they will look at how much was your fault as well as your employer or the railroad.
- The court has determined that the damages you should receive for your injury amount to $50,000 in damages. However, while going through the case, it is also determined that the injury was 25% your own fault. With this, your damages will amount to $37,000.
Usually, the court will use the doctrine of ‘comparative negligence’ to determine who is at fault for the injury. After hearing all side and all parties, they will assign each party a certain percentage. This percentage will reflect how much of the negligence each party is responsible for creating. In some case, the employer may be fully responsible, and in others, the employee him/herself may be partially responsible. Again, these final percentages will also affect the number of damages you may be able to receive under FELA. Simply put, the larger the role your own negligence played in causing your injury, the less you may be able to receive in damages.
Are There Any Deadlines Associated with Claims Under FELA?
Since FELA is a federal act, the statute of limitation is determined by federal law. When it comes to bringing a FELA suit to court and any injury claims, you will have three (3) years from the date of your injury. If you fail to act during this time frame, the court may find you ineligible to receive any type of compensation and damages for your injuries. This is why it is vital to report your injury and file a FELA suit as quickly as you are able to.
When it comes to certain types of injuries and conditions in which you may not know exactly when they occurred, there is some leeway. For example, if you have developed hearing loss or, even, cancer due to your job on the railroad, you may not know the exact date it started. With these types of situations, the three-year deadline will start when you know or learn that you have developed a condition or injury due to your job on the railway. Usually, if you visit your physician and they have determined you have a certain condition, you should use that date in which you found out as the beginning of the FELA time frame.
What Damages May I Be Able to Receive Under FELA?
When you file a FELA suit after sustaining an injury while on the job, you may be able to receive certain damages and compensation. In this case, damages mean any kind of losses suffered by the injured railroad worker due to their work-related injury. Usually, what types of benefits and how much you receive will be determined by the court after hearing all parties involved. So, the damages you may receive will vary on a case to case basis. Under FELA, common types of damages may include:
- Past and future wage losses
- Any out-of-pocket expenses
- Future fringe benefits
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Past and future medical expenses
- The value of any lost limb or organ
- Any type of shame or humiliation associated with a physical disability, scar, or disfigurement
- Economic loss to your dependent in the case of death
When it comes to lost wages, FELA will usually cover for the total amount of an employee’s lost wages and this will include past and future wages as well. This differs from standard workers’ compensation benefit which will usually only cover for a certain percentage of lost wages.
‘Pain and suffering’ damages are often thought of as any type of non-economic losses you have sustained due to your injury. These are the types of issues that may be difficult to give a monetary value unlike medical expenses and lost wages. This may also be thought of any form of psychological losses that may have resulted from your injury. The damages in this area may vary.
Also, if a railroad employee has died due to a work incident or from their injury, his or her dependent may receive compensation under FELA. This may include your spouse and any other dependent such as children.
What Should I Do When an Injury Has Occurred on the Job?
If you work as a railroad employee and you have sustained an injury while on the job, there is a certain process you should keep in mind and follow in order ensure you receive the proper compensation and benefits.
When the injury has occurred, you notify your employer or your supervisor right away. They should write out a report regarding your injury. You should make sure the report is accurate and provides all necessary and important information. Next, you should speak with a union representative in order to receive any assistance or advice regarding FELA. Also, you should always seek medical attention as quickly as you possibly can. If it is an emergency, then you should always begin here. The railroad may recommend a doctor to you, but it is not required that you visit that doctor. From your doctor, they may make you stop working depending on your condition, and they will help you find the right treatments for your condition.
If you have sustained a disability, make sure to fill out all necessary forms in order to receive disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board and any other types of disability benefits you may be eligible to receive. This could potentially help you even more during a tough situation.
When preparing to file a FELA suit, you should make sure to get the addresses, names, and phone numbers of any workers and witnesses at the scene of the accident. Also, you should try and make sure to get images of the location at which you have sustained the injury and images of any machinery that may have caused the injury. Images of your injuries will also help in your case. Lastly, keep a record of any lost wages, medical expenses, and out-of-pocket expenses that have stemmed from your injury. After these steps, you should find and speak with an attorney who understands FELA. From here, you should file a FELA suit in order to receive the proper damages for your case.
When it comes to the actually FELA claim itself, the time frame may vary depending on the case. In some cases, the claim may be taken up in a court right away. They claim may also be taken up in a local court for a quicker process. When it comes to processing the actual FELA claim itself, the time it takes may vary depending on your injury. The longer it takes to understand the permanency of your injuries, the longer it will take to process your claim. The claim itself may not be taken up in court or settled until the parties involved are present to evaluate the seriousness and permanence of the injuries sustained while on the job.
Should I Fill Out Any Forms to Receive Benefits Under FELA?
In short, yes. Similar to any other type of workers’ compensation program, you must fill out the necessary forms in order to begin the process of being properly compensated for your injury. First and foremost, you should always fill out an accident report with your employer and with the federal government. It is crucial to do so right away so as to not delay any benefits. When you do fill out this type of form, you should try to remember any details from the incident that may be crucial to your case. This can include information pertaining to the location, who else was present, what your actions were, how the injury occurred, and more depending on your specific situation. When it comes to the accident report, it is crucial to ensure that the information you put down is accurate. You should be in a stable condition to fill these out. Any improper information may be used against you during the actual legal case.
Besides this, there will be numerous other types of forms that you may need to fill out when you submit a claim under FELA. The process can feel tedious, complex, and redundant; however, you can always get assistance with these forms. A compensation lawyer with FELA experience can help to make sure these forms are accurate and properly filled out. Getting proper assistance with these matters can help to ensure that you receive the proper compensation for the damages you have sustained from your injury.
What Can I Do If I Need Help or Have More Questions?
If you are a railroad employee who has sustained an injury while on the job, you may be eligible to receive benefits under FELA. You could potentially receive compensation for any damages that might have resulted from your injury. Of course, understanding FELA and what the process entails for you can seem complex and a bit confusing. With a qualified compensation attorney, you can get assistance with your case.
Contact a Workers Compensation Attorney Near Me
At Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm, we can help railroad workers in the Los Angeles area. If you have recently sustained an injury and you want to file a claim, or even if you just have a question, you can reach out to us. Please do not hesitate to contact our Los Angeles work injury attorney at 310-956-4277.You deserve to receive any and all of the proper compensation for your work-related injury.