What is FELA and what kind of cases does it cover?

The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) is a crucial federal law enacted in 1908 in the United States. FELA serves as a vital legal framework that protects the rights and interests of railroad workers, providing them with compensation and legal recourse in cases of injury or illness resulting from their work. This act was a significant milestone in workers’ rights, particularly for those in the railroad industry, and it plays a pivotal role in ensuring their safety and well-being.

The Purpose of FELA

FELA was established in response to the hazardous conditions and high risks faced by railroad workers in the early 20th century. Before its enactment, railroad employees had limited legal protections, and injuries or fatalities on the job were common due to inadequate safety measures and a lack of accountability by the railroad companies.

The primary purpose of FELA is to provide financial compensation and legal remedies to railroad workers who are injured or fall ill due to their work, especially when such injuries or illnesses are caused by their employers’ or co-workers’ negligence or recklessness. It was created to ensure that railroad companies bear the financial responsibility for injuries and illnesses that occur due to unsafe working conditions or other forms of negligence.

Types of Cases Covered by FELA

FELA covers a wide range of cases involving injuries, illnesses, and fatalities that occur in the context of railroad work. Some of the key types of cases that FELA encompasses include:

Injuries resulting from accidents

FELA provides compensation to railroad workers who sustain injuries in accidents that occur on the job. These accidents can involve train derailments, collisions, falls, equipment malfunctions, and various other incidents. In such cases, the injured worker can pursue a FELA claim against their employer if negligence played a role in causing the accident.

Occupational diseases and illnesses

FELA also covers cases where railroad workers contract occupational diseases or illnesses due to their work. These conditions include respiratory diseases from exposure to hazardous materials, hearing loss due to excessive noise, repetitive stress injuries, and other health issues directly related to the working environment. To succeed in a FELA case for an occupational disease, the worker must demonstrate that the disease is work-related and that employer negligence contributed to its development.

Unsafe working conditions

FELA cases can be brought when unsafe working conditions exist, resulting in injuries or illnesses. This can encompass situations where an employer fails to provide adequate safety equipment, training, or equipment maintenance, leading to preventable accidents or health problems. Workers are entitled to seek compensation when their employer’s negligence creates hazardous conditions.

Negligence of co-workers

FELA claims can also be pursued when the negligence of co-workers contributes to an injury or illness. While the focus is often on employer negligence, cases involving negligent actions by fellow employees can still be addressed under FELA.

Legal Representation

Given the complexity of FELA cases and the significant financial interests at stake, it’s highly advisable for railroad workers to seek legal representation when pursuing a FELA claim. Experienced railroad accident injury /FELA lawyers can help assess the strength of a case, gather evidence, negotiate with the railroad company or its insurers, and, if necessary, represent the worker in court.