Railroad Worker Injuries: FELA FAQ

Q: If I work for a railroad company but spend most of my time in an office, will I still be able to pursue a FELA claim?

A: In most cases, yes. The protection under FELA covers almost all of the employees of a railroad company, even including those whose main duties involve work that are not in and around trains.

Q: I have recently filed a FELA claim because I am a railroad worker who has been hurt while on the job. Will a court trial happen?

A: It depends. A trial by jury will only happen if you, together with your attorney, and other parties involved have not come to an agreement and settlement.

Q: Is FELA for the workers’ compensation of railroad workers?

A: No, not really. Workers’ compensation laws would usually not require proof of fault by the employer in order to support the injured employee’s claim. Under FELA, however, the worker will need to prove that the railroad company or employer has been somehow negligent or played a role in the cause of the worker’s injury.

Q: What does “featherweight fault” mean?

A: This means that when an employee brings a FELA claim, this person only needs to show that the employer has been somehow negligent, even if it’s just in a very small way, as long as it contributed in a way to the injuries suffered by the employee.

Q: How will comparative negligence affect my FELA claim?

A: Comparative negligence is a defense that railroad companies or employers may use in order to prove that the injured employee has also contributed to their injuries through the employee’s own fault. In a trial where comparative negligence is being considered, the jury will decide who should be held legally responsible for the injuries suffered by the employee. There may be a certain percentage of fault assigned to the parties involved where this percentage of fault will affect the damages that may be awarded.

Q: How will my FELA claim be affected by the result of an OSHA investigation showing that the railroad company violated some OSHA regulations prior to my injury?

A: It will most likely affect your claim favorably in such a way that the result of the investigation would be able to support your claim. Because of this, you and your lawyer will find it easier to prove your case, as long as you provide the exact regulations and laws that have been violated and that you were injured.

Q: Are there other people who can bring a FELA claim besides a railroad worker?

A: Yes. If the railroad employee suffered an injury which eventually led to their death, the surviving spouse and children of the railroad worker may be entitled to receive compensation. If there is no spouse and children, the parents or other close relatives may be able to receive the compensation.

Q: What does “alternative dispute resolution” mean?

A: Before a trial for a FELA claim lawsuit, the judge may order the parties to go through arbitration, mediation or at least mandatory settlement conferences to try to resolve the issues first. These are the alternative dispute resolution, or those that may lead to a settlement of the claim even if the trial has not been held.

Q: What kind of damages can be awarded to me from my FELA claim?

A: Some of the FELA claim damage awards may include compensation for lost wages and future wages as a result of the injury; as well as past and future pain, suffering and mental distress.

Q: I broke my leg while repairing a train track. Do I still need to talk to a lawyer even if I am very aware of my rights under FELA?

A: Yes. Even if you know your rights, it is highly recommended to speak with an attorney as soon as possible following the injury. Your attorney will be able to endure that your rights will be protected, most especially during the crucial early stages of the claim process, until the settlement of your claim.

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