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The United States Congress enacted the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) in 1908. FELA provides benefits to railroad workers who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses. FELA is not a traditional “workers’ compensation” scheme. FELA gives railroad workers the authority to sue their employers (if the employer was in some way at fault) to obtain compensation for their injuries or illnesses. FELA, however, has some traditional workers’ compensation aspects, as it requires employers to pay their injured or ill workers’ “maintenance and cure” benefits, regardless of fault, pendency or outcome of any lawsuit. Maintenance and cure benefits include medical expenses and a percentage of lost wages. Maintenance and cure benefits do not provide compensation for an employees’ physical pain and suffering and mental anguish.
A railroad employee may be able to recover compensation for their injuries if they can establish three elements:
- The incident that caused the workers’ injury or illness occurred in the course and scope of the workers’ employment with the railroad
- The railroad is engaged in “interstate commerce,” i.e. must operate or service at least two states
- The railroad somehow caused or contributed to the worker’s injury or illness
If the railroad employee successfully establishes the elements of their claim, they may be entitled to compensation for the following:
- Physical pain and suffering (pre and post-lawsuit)
- Disability (pre and post-lawsuit)
- Medical expenses (pre and post-lawsuit)
- Lost earnings (pre and post-lawsuit)
Family members of railroad workers who have been killed on-the-job or died as a result of an occupational illness or disease may also be entitled to compensation under FELA. The estate of the deceased worker may be entitled to the damages listed above, as well as reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses. The family members may be entitled to additional damages, such as loss of consortium and mental anguish.
Under FELA, injured or ill workers have only three (3) years from the date of the injury or the date they discovered the illness to file suit. A railroad worker may still file suit even if the railroad worker was in some way at fault for their own injuries or illness. Any damages awarded may be reduced based on the percentage of fault.
The Federal Employer’s Liability Act is a federal law that provides benefits to workers who are injured. Because of the potential for a large settlement under the FELA, workers should consult with a lawyer if their injuries occurred on or around a train or train track. Contact Barnes Law Firm for a free case evaluation if you are a railroad worker who has suffered job-related injuries or illness.
Barnes Law Firm works strictly on a contingent fee basis and advances all upfront costs of a case including the investigation, case development, litigation, expert witnesses and court costs. Those expenses, in addition to our fee, are deducted from the ultimate recovery. And if we are not successful in a recovery in your case, we absorb all costs and charge no fee.