FELA is not a workers' compensation law that automatically covers employees who suffer injuries on the job. Rather, FELA is a negligence-based law, which means the employee must prove some type of negligence on the part of the railroad contributed in any way, "even in the slightest", to the injury suffered by the employee.
Although FELA does not provide automatic coverage to employees injured while working for the railroad, the U.S. Supreme Court has directed courts handling FELA cases to keep in mind the congressional intent of the stature, protection of railroad employees and to apply the protection of the laws liberally. With this direction in mind, courts have interpreted FELA to require a railroad to provide employees with a reasonably safe place to work, reasonably safe and suitable tools, and adequate assistance. These general protections for railroad workers are in addition to safety regulations such as the Locomotive Inspection Act and Safety Appliance Act.
- A Virginia FELA Attorney Discusses What Not to Do After Being Injured While Working on the Railroad
- FELA: Overview of the Duty to Provide Reasonable Assistance
- Why Railroad Workers Must Know and Comply With Rule G