FELA: Overview of the Duty to Provide Reasonable Assistance | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

In 1908, the United States Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) as a measure to protect the thousands of railroad workers across the nation from the dangerous work environment filled with potential safety hazards.

FELA also provided railroad companies with a uniform liability standard regarding employee safety and working conditions. All railroad companies are always required to provide workers with a reasonably safe work environment under this law. Railroads are required to:

  • Make sure the workplace is free of any safety hazards and unsafe conditions. This applies to any and all tools and equipment workers may use, as well as being provided the proper safety devices.
  • Warn workers of any hazards or unsafe conditions that do exist. This is required even if the worker should already be aware of the danger.
  • Regularly inspect the workplace, as well as any and all equipment used to make sure it is free of hazards. If a worker is injured due to a safety hazard or defective equipment that could have been discovered in inspection, the railroad will be liable for that injury under FELA.




FELA also requires railroads to provide supervision and training that will enable workers to safely perform their jobs. This includes the following:

  • Provide workers with all of the training they need in order to complete all of the duties of their jobs. In addition to the necessary training, workers must also have the required experience in order to safely complete their assigned work duties.
  • The railroad must also provide appropriate and adequate supervision over all workers in order to ensure the safety of the workers. If a worker is injured, the railroad has a duty to investigate and inspect for any hazards that contributed to the injury.
  • The railroad must have appropriate safety rules and regulations in place. These rules are in addition to any federal or state safety regulations the company is required to follow. Failure to do so is considered a violation of FELA.

Under this law, the railroad is also required to take the appropriate steps to keep workers safe from any intentional acts by other workers or third parties. This includes intentional torts and criminal acts. They are also prohibited from requiring any unreasonable work quotas regarding production or hours worked. They must also provide workers with any assistance needed if a worker has any physical limitations which prohibit their ability to perform a required task.  

Injured Railroad Workers

If a railroad worker is injured and it is determined that the injury resulted as a violation of FELA, the worker is entitled to financial compensation for the following:

  • All past and future medical treatment
  • All past and future wages
  • All past and future pain, suffering, and emotional anguish

Should the injury result in the death of the worker, then their surviving spouse and children are entitled to receive financial compensation under FELA. If the victim was not married and/or had no children, their parents or next of kin would be entitled to the compensation.

It is important to note that FELA also applies to retired railroad workers for any illnesses or conditions that they develop as a direct result of their employment with the railroad, such as mesothelioma.

For more information, contact a North Carolina FELA attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp. Our firm will work diligently to get you the financial compensation you and your family deserve.