Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) in 1908 to provide compensation for railroad employees injured on the job. FELA gives you the right to recover damages for any past lost wages, future lost wages, pain, suffering, scarring, and mental anguish you suffer as a result of your on-the-job injuries.
Railroad work is inherently dangerous. Recognizing the hazardous nature of railroad work, Congress passed FELA in order to shift the economic burden of employee injuries from individual employees over to the railroads. Congress decided that making railroads economically responsible for their employees’ injuries would give them incentive to maintain the safest possible working conditions.
It is essential that you exercise your FELA rights to the fullest in order to obtain fair compensation for your injuries and to pressure the railroad into providing you and your fellow workers with a safe workplace.
You are entitled to recover under FELA if you work on a railroad engaged in interstate commerce and if your injury is caused by the negligence or carelessness of any railroad officer, manager, or employee or by any defect in the railroad’s equipment, tracks, shops, offices, property, procedures, training, instruction, or supervision.
Under FELA, railroads have a duty to provide a safe place to work for all of their employees. This means they must supply reasonably safe working conditions. The railroad’s failure to use reasonable care to provide you with a safe place to work is negligence and the reason why it is liable to you for money damages.
If the railroad is not negligent, you are not entitled to any compensation. This is why it is so essential to establish that the negligence of the railroad caused your injury. Before you give any statement to the claims department, it is important to consult with an experienced FELA attorney, because a statement concerning your injury may affect both your FELA claim and your job.
By establishing that the railroad is at fault for your injury, you are entitled to full compensation for all your lost wages, physical pain, mental anguish, and disfigurement. If your injury is of a permanent nature, you also are entitled to be compensated for any reduction in your future earning ability and for any loss of your ability to enjoy life’s pleasures in the future.
Even though you may establish that the railroad is at fault for your injury, the railroad can still reduce your compensation by showing contributory negligence on your part. For example, if the railroad is negligent for failing to eliminate a tripping hazard, but you failed to use reasonable care in looking where you were walking, then the railroad might establish that your compensation should be reduced by the percentage of negligence on your part that contributed to your injury.
Protect your FELA claim and your job by working with an experienced FELA attorney to establish that the cause of your injury is the fault of the railroad, and not your fault.
Taking the following steps will help you to get the fullest benefit from your FELA rights when you are injured on the job:
It is essential that you have someone to protect your rights as soon as possible. Even though the FELA statute of limitations is three years, the first 30 days after the accident are critical. Evidence and information sometimes become unavailable with the passage of time. Unless you protect your interests immediately, your claim may be rendered worthless.
Railroads have claim departments staffed by professional claim agents and investigators who are experts in dealing with personal injury claims. They have access to the information concerning your railroad accident, and they can be expected to try to place the blame for the accident on you to reduce the railroad’s liability.
You will always be at a disadvantage in dealing with a professional claim agent whose job is to protect the company by settling your claim for the least amount possible. Do not be fooled by the company claim agent who pretends to be more concerned about you and your family than he is about the company and his job.
Railroading operations are unique and complex. Your FELA claim may be mishandled unless attorneys who are experts in FELA investigation and trial work represent you. Your union representative can give you the names of attorneys who are known to be competent specialists in the handling of FELA cases and related railroad matters, and you also can learn of FELA specialists through their reputation on the property.
Your union representative and attorney will help you obtain proper medical help and sickness benefits. It is essential that you insist on your right to be taken to the nearest hospital emergency room; otherwise, you may be forced into being treated by the railroad’s doctor or medical department.
Do not let any claim agent tell you that an attorney will do nothing for you but take one-third of your recovery. An attorney works to ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your claim. The gross recovery received by an injured employee who is represented by an experienced FELA attorney is always much larger than what a claim agent will pay to that employee directly. This is why the claim department does not want you to retain an attorney. Remember, their job is to save the railroad as much money as possible. No competent attorney will permit the claim department to discount the value of your case.
You will not jeopardize your job by reporting an on-the-job injury. A powerful new law protects you from being disciplined for reporting an on-duty injury. The Federal Railroad Safety Act prohibits a railroad from disciplining you or discriminating against you in any way because you reported an injury. You now receive protection for reporting your own injury or for giving information regarding the injury of a co-worker.
So, railroad workers do not have to be afraid to talk to any witnesses concerning their own accident or to talk to an injured co-employee concerning his accident. To ensure that railroad employees will exercise their FELA rights without fear, Congress also has made it a federal crime for a railroad to discourage, discharge, or otherwise discipline employees for volunteering information concerning a co-employee’s FELA injury.
If you feel a railroad is trying in any way to discipline you for being injured or to prevent or discourage you from volunteering information to an injured co-employee, immediately call us at 800-654-7245 so we can enforce your federal right to be protected from such retaliation. Click here for protection from retaliation for reporting an injury. Click here for witness protection information.
The amount of money you ultimately are entitled to recover for your FELA claim depends on a combination of many factors:
Every case is different. Do not try to compare your case with someone else’s case. Only a FELA attorney who has extensive experience with railroad accidents and railroad injuries can give you a meaningful assessment of the value of your FELA case.
We are FELA attorneys who have been handling FELA claims for over three decades. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can begin applying our experience as FELA attorneys to protect your rights and maximize the value of your claim. There is no charge for a telephone or in person consultation with an experienced FELA attorney and railroad accident lawyer. Call us at 800-654-7245 for a free consultation with an FELA attorney or click here to send us your information and question via email.
45 USCS § 60 (2001)
§ 60. Penalty for suppression of voluntary information incident to accidents; separability of provisions
Any contract, rule, regulation, or device whatsoever, the purpose, intent, or effect of which shall be to prevent employees of any common carrier from furnishing voluntarily information to a person in interest as to the facts incident to the injury or death of any employee, shall be void, and whoever, by threat, intimidation, order, rule, contract, regulation, or device whatsoever, shall attempt to prevent any person from furnishing voluntarily such information to a person in interest, or whoever discharges or otherwise disciplines or attempts to discipline any employee for furnishing voluntarily such information to a person in interest, shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than $ 1,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment, for each offense: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to void any contract, rule, or regulation with respect to any information contained in the files of the carrier, or other privileged or confidential reports.
Judge Daly’s Opinion: March 28, 1991
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTDISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT___________________________________X
VS. Civ. No. N-90-83 (TFGD)
METRO-NORTH COMMUTER RAILROAD,
After careful review of the papers filed in this matter, and on the present record, the Plaintiff’s Motion for Order Protecting Witnesses Pursuant to Section 60 of FELA is GRANTED.
Accordingly, the Court hereby ORDERS that the defendant Metro North Commuter Railroad — its agents, attorneys, officers, and claim agents, including but not limited to Claim Agent John J. McGovern — shall cease and desist from any and all further threats, intimidation, coercion, or any other devices whatsoever the purpose, intent, or effect of which is to prevent or attempt to prevent employees with information regarding the plaintiff William Cusack’s alleged FELA injury — included but not limited to Gerard J. Corrigan — from voluntarily furnishing information to the plaintiff or to the plaintiff’s attorney regarding the facts incident to the plaintiff’s alleged FELA injury.
It is hereby further ORDERED that the defendant Metro North Commuter Railroad — its agents, attorneys, officers, and claim agents, including but not limited to Claim Agent John J. McGovern — are hereby prohibited from retaliating against, discharging, or disciplining in any way such employees including but not limited to employee Gerald J. Corrigan – in connection with their furnishing of information to plaintiff Cusack and to his attorney or in connection with their testimony at the upcoming trial before this Court of William Cusack’s FELA case.
This Order may be enforced by any person who is affected by its violation at any point before, during, or after the trial the plaintiff’s FELA case.
Dated at Bridgeport, Connecticut this 28th day of March, 1991.
T. F. Gilroy Daly, U.S.D.J.
United Transportation Union et. al v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company, 862 F. Supp. 55 (SDNY 1994), 1995 WL 634906 (SDNY 1995)
Norfolk Southern Ry. v. Thompson, 430 S.E. 2d 371 (Ga. App. 1993)
Harper v. Missouri Pacific R.R. Co., 636 N.E. 2d 1192 (June 30, 1994)
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