Federal Employees Liability Act
Jobs in the railroad industry were once considered among the most dangerous in the country. While safety standards have decreased the risk of injuries to a certain degree, any damages suffered on the job are often quite serious. To protect workers, Congress enacted the Federal Employees Liability Act (FELA) to hold railroads accountable for the safety of their workers and the security of their families. This statute created a federally standardized legal recovery system for railroad workers injured in the course of their employment, whether they work for freight companies, the MTA, the LIRR, or any other transit organization in the state.
Under FELA, an injured railroad employee may be able to recover substantially more than under traditional workers’ compensation plans. However, certain requirements must be met for a claim to succeed, and it must be proven that the railroad failed to uphold a reasonable standard of care in order for someone to recover. For that reason, it is often advisable for injured railroad employees to consult with an attorney experienced in the Federal Employees Liability Act as soon as possible. Read on to learn more about how a skilled injury attorney could offer you their assistance today.
Provisions of the Federal Employees Liability Act
Section 51 of title 45 of the U.S. Code provides that railroad companies engaged in interstate commerce will be liable and obligated to pay damages to employees injured due to any negligence on the part of railroad employees, or any defects or deficiencies in equipment due to negligence. If the negligence results in the death of the railroad employee, the personal representative of that worker may file a claim on behalf of the
surviving spouse, children, or other next of kin. Under the Federal Employees Liability Act, an employee may file a claim directly with the railroad company or in state or federal court. The relevant injuries suffered need not directly relate to trains in order for the employee to receive compensation under the statute.
It should be noted that the provisions outlined in FELA apply to workers in passenger rail services like the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), in addition to commercial freight companies.
FELA Claims vs. Workers’ Compensation Claims
The Federal Employees Liability Act serves as an alternative to the workers’ compensation system for railroad employees in New York. While this can provide some advantages, it also requires additional effort on the part of the injured worker to obtain compensation. Generally, workers’ compensation benefits are paid on a no-fault basis. In other words, the employee must show that their injury occurred on the job but does not have to prove negligence on their employer’s part in order to recover.
By contrast, railroad employees filing claims under FELA must show that their employer’s negligence contributed at least in part to the injury they suffered during employment. While those filing workers’ compensation claims do not need to prove fault, they are also limited in the number of damages they can recover. By comparison, damage awards to claimants under FELA are often much higher.
Compensation Available Under FELA
In many cases, injured railroad employees filing successful claims under the Federal Employees Liability Act are entitled to recover compensation for economic losses as well as for intangible consequences of their injury. Damages are often recovered for:
- Medical expenses in the past and those expected in the future
- Lost wages in the past and projected future lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity in the future
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Professional legal assistance from a dedicated injury attorney familiar with FELA claims may be especially helpful in proving the required degree of negligence so that an employee could receive all of the compensation they are eligible for.
Know Your Rights Under FELA
Overall, while the Federal Employees Liability Act provides a way for MTA, LIRR, and commercial freight employees to seek fair compensation for injuries suffered on the job, the system is complex and can be difficult to manage alone. Often, railroad employees find it to their advantage to obtain legal counsel to help ensure procedures are followed correctly, advocate on their behalf during any negotiations, and work to obtain them the full compensation to which they are entitled. Reach out to a skilled injury attorney today to learn more.