Federal Employers Liability Act

Federal Employers Liability ActIn 1908, the United States Congress enacted the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) in order to protect and provide financial compensation to railroad employees who sustain injuries on the job when those injuries are a result of some form of negligence on the part of the railroad company. If you are a railroad worker who has been injured or suffering from an illness as a result of your railroad employment, contact our office to speak to a FELA attorney.

What Is the Federal Employer’s Liability Act?

Many people think that FELA is workers’ compensation for railroad workers, however, that is not the case. Workers’ compensation laws cover injured employees whether their employer was negligent or not. However, FELA is fault-based, which means that an injured or sick railroad worker must prove that their condition was either partially or completely caused by an unsafe work practice, an unsafe work condition, negligence of another worker, an agent or contractor of the railroad, or defective equipment.

If the railroad worker can prove liability, then they can recover damages for their medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and more.

It is important to note that the Federal Employer’s Liability Act also covers former railroad workers who develop health conditions that are connected to their railroad career.

Under FELA, a current or former railroad employee can pursue damages for injuries, health conditions and diseases (such as asbestosis), cumulative trauma injuries, and death. If the current or former railroad employee dies because of their injury or medical condition, then their survivors can pursue damages under the law.

Comparative Negligence

Even if the railroad worker themselves is somewhat responsible for their injury, there is a comparative negligence standard under FELA. In these cases, the jury hearing the lawsuit will decide what percentage of negligence of the worker and any other at-fault party. The worker’s percentage of negligence will then be deducted from the jury’s final award amount.

Asbestos Disease Claims

One of the most common – and tragic – FELA claims that have emerged over the past several years are by workers who have developed asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. These conditions have been shown to be caused by workers’ repeated and prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers and dust during their railroad careers.

Some of the more common exposures occurred to workers who installed and repaired insulating materials there used on railroad shop heat sources and railroad cars and equipment. Other workers who handled materials containing asbestos while constructing and repairing locomotives and rail cars are also at high risk.

Unfortunately, the latency period for these asbestos-related diseases is anywhere from two to four decades after exposure. Once a person is diagnosed, there are no treatments for a cure and many victims suffer greatly until they finally succumb to the disease.  

Contact a FELA Law Firm Today

If you are a current or former railroad worker who has suffered an injury or has been diagnosed with a condition related to your employment, you may qualify for financial compensation under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act. Call the Law Group of Iowa to find out what legal recourse you may have.