In the early 1900s, there were reportedly high numbers of railroad accidents. If you currently work on a Connecticut railroad, you might say things are quite a bit different now than they were then, or at least were before a particular program was implemented to protect railroad workers who are injured on the job. As a modern-day railroad employee, you’ve likely heard of FELA; however, many workers know of the program without really understanding what it is, how it came to be and why it exists.
FELA is also known as the Federal Employers Liability Act. Many people mistake it as a synonymous program to workers’ compensation, but the two are not the same. The purpose of this post is to provide the basic information regarding FELA and to explain how it differs from workers’ compensation. One thing is certain: If you suffer injury while working on the railroad, you will want to make sure you clearly understand FELA and how it can help you recover your losses.
When and why it began
Congress enacted FELA in 1908. At the time, the railroad accident rate was sky high, and most agreed the industry needed reform to help better protect workers, especially those who were injured on the job. The following list includes basic facts about the FELA program:
- One of the reasons lawmakers enacted FELA was to standardize equipment and safety procedures on railroads throughout the nation.
- Congress passed FELA as a means of protection for injured railroad workers, allowing them to file personal injury claims against employers deemed negligent for their injuries.
- In other jobs, employers purchase workers’ compensation insurance to provide benefits to injured workers that help cover medical expenses and replace lost wages; however, workers’ comp does not allow employees to file lawsuits against their employers for personal injury.
- You can file a FELA claim in either a state or federal court, depending on the circumstances.
- As a FELA claimant, you carry the burden of proof to show evidence that the railroad’s negligence was a causal factor in your injury.
- The law obligates the railroad, as your employer, to keep you as safe as possible on the job, and if failure to do so is evident, it may be legal grounds for negligence.
- The court may deem a railroad negligent either for something it has done or something it has failed to do.
Under FELA, a railroad employer cannot delegate its responsibility to keep workers safe to another entity. Not every accident occurs because of employer negligence, however, which is why you must be able to show evidence of the fact in order to collect restitution against the railroad for your injuries.
Factors that impact compensation in a FELA claim
The severity of your injuries, as well as any temporary or permanent disability that results, may influence the court’s decision regarding the amount of compensation you are able to receive in a successfully litigated claim. Past or future medical expenses, loss of ability to enjoy life and emotional distress are also special damages that a court may factor into a FELA claim.
Because the system is complex and many obstacles can arise during proceedings, many injured Connecticut railroad workers ask attorneys well-versed in FELA regulations to represent them in court.