The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) is a federal statute enacted because Congress acknowledged the fact that railroad workers are faced with many unique dangers during the course of their daily work. The law provides for a railroad worker’s ability to file a claim against his or her employer in the event of a work related injury, and the ability to collect damages to cover the loss suffered by the employee and the employee’s family.
FELA is different from workers’ compensation in several ways, including the fact that FELA claims require that the employer was in some way negligent, while workers’ compensation is not fault based, and even accidents caused by the employee’s own carelessness will qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. The trade-off is that the damages available in a FELA claim are typically significantly higher than those in a workers’ compensation claim.
Under FELA, injured railroad employees have the ability to sue in either state or federal court, or to file a claim directly with their employer.
If you are a railroad worker who was injured in the course of your employment, you might be wondering if you need to hire an attorney, and what to look for in an attorney who you want to represent you in your FELA claim. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making these extremely important decisions.
Should you hire an attorney or go it alone?
Railroad workers sometimes see that they have the option to file a direct claim with their employer, and avoid the inconvenience of filing a lawsuit and the cost of hiring a lawyer. Before you decide to take this route, consider what you must prove in a FELA claim, and how FELA claims are handled by employers.
First off, as previously mentioned, unlike workers’ compensation claims, a FELA claim requires you to show negligence on the part of your employer. Just showing that you suffered a workplace injury is not enough. You will need to provide evidence that your employer acted negligently, and that the negligence caused your injury. While the standard for proving negligence is lower for FELA cases than in standard negligence claims, it still is an integral part of your claim. Additionally, your employer can defend against your accusation of negligence by claiming that you were also negligent, and that the real cause of your injury was your own negligence.
Because of the nature of a FELA claim, an attorney can help you by putting together a strong case and arguing on your behalf if your employer tries to shift the blame to you. Your attorney will also be able to help determine the best place to file your suit, and to put together the evidence that you will need to back up your claim.
Additionally, your employer and your employer’s insurance company are not likely to be enthusiastic about paying you compensation for your injury. They will have employees experienced in processing FELA claims scrutinizing the accident report, the evidence of your injury, and your statements in an effort to find any way to avoid liability for your injury or to lower the amount of compensation that they have to pay you. They might also offer a settlement that is far lower than what your claim is worth. Your attorney can step in and handle interactions with the insurance company and your employer in order to ensure that your rights are being protected. An attorney can also help you determine what your claim is really worth so you know when you should or should not be willing to settle.
How should I select a FELA attorney?
If you are looking to hire an attorney to handle your FELA claim, you should look for one who has plenty of experience handling FELA claims and working with injured employees in your field. The laws related to injured railroad workers are unique, and you will benefit from someone who is very comfortable with the process of a FELA claim.
You should meet with the attorney and give him or her as much information on your case as possible and see what their assessment is. The attorney should demonstrate a familiarity with your field of work and the equipment that you use, as well as an interest in your case.
There is a lot riding on your FELA claim. A seasoned FELA attorney will be able to help ensure the protection of your rights and that you pursue the compensation that you are entitled to and that you need in order to recover from your injury, and support yourself.
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 and for protecting injured railroaders’ rights. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consolation with an experienced attorney.