Federal Employers Liability Act: An Explanation of Your Rights
Workers’ compensation is the general coverage most workers have throughout the country. However, this insurance is only for public and private employers. It does not usually extend to government workers because the government is exempt from coverage under state laws. Federal workers in each industry have their own type of coverage for work-related injuries and illnesses. The Federal Employers Liability Act specifically provides protection for railroad workers.
The railroad, since its earliest times, has always been a hazardous industry in which to work. Many people lost their lives building tracks across the country in the early years. Even today, despite safety measures, it is still quite dangerous to work the rails.
If you are a railroad worker and have suffered an on-the-job injury, then it is essential that you understand your rights under FELA. Working with an attorney familiar with this law also is beneficial if you wish to seek the maximum possible compensation.
A Clear Explanation of the FELA
FELA is very confusing. Even those who are most familiar with it sometimes may run up against something they don’t understand. There have been many clarifications made to the act throughout its history.
The act went into effect in 1908. At its foundation, the act provides protection for railroad workers who suffer an injury while at work. It sets the standards for how you can recoup compensation for your injury and related expenses.
While it may seem like a type of workers’ compensation, it is different in that, to make a claim, you must prove your employer was negligent and that negligence led to your injury. This is an important point as it can limit when you may get compensation under the act. However, if you can prove negligence, then that is all you must do to get a favorable ruling.
Negligence can occur in many ways:
- Safety regulation violation
- Unsafe working conditions
- Defective equipment
- Improper maintenance
You only need to show some negligence on the part of your employer. You do not have to show it was completely your employer’s fault.
Since it is a fault-based system, there is a possibility that you could lose your case and not receive any compensation. The good news is that FELA benefits are usually much higher than those people receive from workers’ compensation.
When awarding damages, the court will use comparative negligence. This involves assigning a percentage of fault to you and your employer. You will then receive the damages for your employer’s percentage of fault.
For example, if the court finds your employer is 80% at fault and awards your $100,000 in damages, then you will receive $80,000 in damages.
Like workers’ compensation, FELA covers physical injuries and occupational illnesses. It covers those injuries that happen immediately and those that may take time to show up. It also pays for lost wages and other expenses you’ve had as a result of your injury or illness. FELA pays death benefits, along with payments for physical disability, limb loss or disfigurement.
Who It Covers
It is a common misunderstanding that FELA only covers workers who work directly on the railroad and for the railroad company. The reality is FELA covers all railroad workers.
You do not have to work directly on the rails to qualify for coverage. If you work for a railroad company, then you have FELA rights. This includes contractors and third-party companies. Do note that FELA only covers rail companies that operate in multiple states.
Issues With FELA
Once you suffer an injury and make your employer aware, it will send out a railroad claim agent. This agent’s job is to save the company money. The agent, along with a team of other specialists and professionals, will work hard to find evidence that will disprove your claim the employer is negligent.
If they can’t prove total innocence on the part of the railroad, they will do their best to prove you hold a high percentage of fault. The idea is to lower the potential amount of compensation you will get from your case.
The agent may try to convince you that you don’t need an attorney and that he or she is there to help you. However, you cannot lose sight that the agent works for the railroad and is on its side, not yours.
You really need a lawyer working on your side to help you through the process and ensure the agent doesn’t take advantage of you. This is only one reason, though, that you need legal representation.
An Attorney Can Fight for You
To put together a winning case, you will have to gather evidence to prove your case, which may be difficult to do, especially if you are suffering a serious injury or illness. Taking the time to fully prepare your case can be a huge strain. It can become impossible to get the information you need in a timely manner to prepare for court.
Your attorney can assist you with gathering information, protect you from potential issues with your employer and the railroad claim agent and work with you to get your life back to the way it was before the accident. Your lawyer can help reduce the stress of the situation and allow you to focus on recovery.
Awards in FELA cases have the potential to be very large, depending on your situation. Remember there are no limits as with workers’ compensation. This means that you really need a lawyer who understands how FELA works and how to get you the maximum compensation.
With the right knowledge and experience in FELA cases, a lawyer can put forth the best case possible for you, enabling you to receive fair compensation, while also holding your employer liable for its negligence.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
If you are a railroad worker who has suffered an injury, don’t hesitate to contact a local lawyer. You need someone by your side to help you navigate the oftentimes confusing Federal Employers Liability Act process so that you end up with the proper compensation. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!