FAQ: Does the FELA cover diseases due to working for the railroad as well as injuries?
Answer: Yes, occupational diseases (cancers related to toxic exposures, asbestosis, mesothelioma, etc.) are recognized as injuries under the FELA and damages associated with those diseases are compensable under the FELA. Occupational diseases often appear long after exposure, so whether the statute of limitations has expired is usually a consideration that needs to be done quickly. The FELA has a 3year statute of limitations which means a case under the FELA needs to be settled or filed in a proper court before the 3 year period expires. Courts have held the 3 year period under the FELA statute of limitations begins to run when a worker knows, or should know, he/she suffer from an occupational disease. Courts will review what an employee knew about his/her exposure to potentially toxic substances and when symptoms began to develop to assess when an employee should have realized their disease was probably due to exposure on the railroad, so the time period may begin to run before a doctor tells an employee the disease they have is due to their railroad work. So, if there’s any question regarding a potential occupational disease due to railroad work, it’s a good idea to contact competent counsel to discuss the potential claim to formulate an assessment of when/if the statute of limitations has begun to run on the case.