In recognition of the frequent dangers faced by railroad employees, Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). Under FELA, employees of railroad companies have the right to sue their employers in the event that the employee sustains an injury in the course of his or her work related duties. In its purpose, FELA is similar to state workers’ compensation programs. However there are many differences, and the claims process for FELA claims is not the same as that for workers’ compensation.
FELA claims requirements
In order to be able to file a claim under FELA, the individual must be an employee of a railroad. The employee does not have to work on or around trains, but he or she must be employed by a railroad company. Additionally the injury must have been caused in the course of the individual’s work related duties. This does not mean that the injury must be related to trains though, as injuries caused by workplace accidents will be covered even if they are not related to trains at all.
In order to have a valid claim under FELA, the injured person’s employer must have been negligent and that negligence must have caused the person’s injury. This is a big difference between FELA and workers’ compensation laws, since workers’ compensation laws do not require that the employer was at fault in any way for an employee’s injury.
Railroad employees do benefit from FELA’s lower requirement for negligence. Unlike standard personal injury cases involving negligence, FELA only requires a very slight amount of negligence, thereby giving an advantage to FELA claimants.
First steps in a FELA Claim
Following a railroad accident, the injured employee should report the injury to his or her employer. While FELA does not require this in order to file a claim, reporting the incident is important because it will document what happened while your memory is fresh, saving you from having to struggle to remember details at a later time, and because it will lead to an investigation of the conditions that caused the incident, possibly finding some source of your employer’s negligence.
If you are asked to fill out a form, do not hesitate to state which conditions caused your accident, including information that points to the fault of your employer in the accident. If you are afraid of accusing your employer, your report might be pointed to later as a way of claiming that the railroad did not do something wrong.
You should be sure to seek medical attention as well. Go see your doctor as soon as possible. Waiting to see a doctor will be used by your employer or the insurer to claim that your injury could not have been severe since you did not feel that seeking medical attention was urgent.
How to file a FELA claim
Unlike workers’ compensation claims that cannot be filed in a court of law, A FELA claim may be filed in either state or federal court. Additionally, a FELA claimant might wish to file the claim directly with his or her employer, which is permitted under FELA as well.
How to decide what type of claim to file
Given FELA’s use of the court system, it would be wise for injured railroad employees to speak with an attorney to determine where to file their FELA claims. There are specific facts and scenarios that may make a state or federal claim more or less advantageous. Speaking to an attorney will let an individual understand the best way to proceed based the facts specific to his or her case, as well as the relevant laws in his or her state.
While FELA does allow claims to be made directly to an employer, an injured worker should carefully evaluate his or her options, and the possible ramifications of trying to handle the claim in this manner. Oftentimes, employers and their insurance companies will review claims and potentially offer injured persons settlements that are lower than the claim is worth, knowing that an unrepresented and injured employee might be willing to accept the settlement to save the time and effort of filing a lawsuit. Before deciding to do this, you should take advantage of a free consultation with an attorney to understand what your other options are and how they could benefit you.
Contact Stern Law, PLLC for A Free Consultation
At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you in order to find the best strategy for seeking compensation for your railroad employment related injuries. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.