What is FELA And What Types of Workplace Injuries Are Covered | Signal Funding

What is FELA And What Types of Workplace Injuries Are Covered?

What is FELA And What Types of Workplace Injuries Are Covered | Signal Funding

While many employees are protected by worker’s compensation if they are injured on the job, certain workers are covered by FELA when at-work accidents occur. FELA stands for Federal Employers Liability Act, and the laws were established specifically for railroad employees and the personal injuries that they obtain while on the clock.


FELA Overview


FELA was originally passed in 1908 by the United States Congress in response to the high accident rate that was occurring in the railroad industry. At the time, railroads had not developed the proper safety measures for employee protection and, as a result, injuries and death occurred regularly. Even in current times, the Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that railroad workers experience double the fatal injury rate compared to other industry workers.


FELA set out to protect injured workers in the railroad industry and allows for a state or federal case to be brought against the employer. Railroad companies that are covered by FELA have a general duty to provide a safe work environment, and FELA works as a guideline for these standards. The Safety Appliance Act, OSHA, and the Boiler Inspection Act are all federal workplace safety standards that FELA makes sure railroads follow or else pay the consequences.


While FELA was set up to provide protection and compensation for on-the-job injuries, it differs from workers’ compensation laws. In work comp claims, the injured party does not need to prove that the employer was at fault. This is not the case with FELA claims.


Demonstrate Liability


An employee who opens a FELA claim against his or her employer or equipment manufacturer must be able to prove that negligence on the part of the defendant was the cause of the accident.  In order to show negligence, an employee must be able to prove that the railroad:


  • failed to do what a reasonable party would have done under the same circumstances,
  • is guilty of a lack of care, or
  • did what someone under the same situation would not have done

While it is the employee’s responsibility to show a burden of proof, the FELA requires less to prove fault than in other personal injury claims, such as in car accidents. This makes it easier for a railroad worker to prove the claim.



FELA and Railroad Employees


Employees of the nation’s railroad companies put themselves in front of danger on a regular basis. All workers are at risk, but switch, signal, and brake operators experience the greatest number of accidents. Workplace fatalities that were caused by railroads are not limited to railroading workers specifically. In fact, more than half of fatalities occur to non-railroading workers, such as drivers of other highway vehicles or pedestrian employees.


Common Types of Injuries


A FELA claim may be made for a myriad of reasons, but there are a number of typical accidents that cause personal injuries on the job:

  • Coupling– These accidents are less common thanks to coupling safety devices, but they still occur, and it may be easier to prove negligence if these safety devices were not used.
  • Street Crossing Collision- If the collision is due to negligence of the railroad, injured employees can file a FELA claim.
  • Pedestrian Worker Impact- If a pedestrian employee is hit by a moving railcar, most circumstances will result in compensation to the worker.
  • Cumulative Trauma- Working for a railroad can result in excessive wear and tear due to less-than-ideal conditions, and injuries such as back and knee pain may be eligible for compensation under FELA. 




Railroad workers who win their FELA claim will often be eligible for compensation for a variety of situations including:

  • Previous, current, and future medical treatment and care
  • Past and future loss of wages
  • Ongoing suffering, pain, and mental distress

In cases of death, the surviving children and spouse are eligible to receive the determined compensation. Close family members may be the recipients if there is no spouse or child.


Even if an employee wins their case, he or she may be subject to comparative negligence. This occurs when it is determined that the employee, in some way, contributed to the injuries, which means that the defendant is not 100 percent responsible. Compensation is then given out on a percentage basis. For example, if the employee is found to be 25 percent at fault, he would only be able to receive 75 percent of the awarded compensation amount.


Reporting the Accident


Any worker who is injured on a railroad job should immediately report the incident and injury. Accident reports should be accurately filled out, and the defective equipment or party negligence should be identified. Any medical attention should be obtained as soon as possible, and the injured worker should contact the local union chairman or attorney to start the claims process.