FELA Case Lawyer
Railroad worker claims are governed by the Federal Employees Liability Act of 1908. A FELA case lawyer represents an injured railroad worker filing a claim under FELA legislation. Matthews & Associates is investigating FELA railyard worker claims. Talk to a FELA Case Lawyer today. Call or email us for a free legal consultation.
Federal Employers’ Liability Act
Railroad workers injured on the job are covered by certain rights granted by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. FELA became law in 1908 as a result of public outrage over devastating injuries and the deaths of men working the rails.
The United States Supreme Court once noted these appalling statistics: “In 1888 the odds against a railroad brakeman dying a natural death were almost four to one; the average life expectancy of a switchman in 1893 was seven years.”
Railroad Workers SOL before FELA
Before FELA was made law, railroad workers and/or their families rarely received compensation for injuries or deaths. Prior to FELA, when an injured worker tried to recover damages for railroad negligence, the law protected the railroad at the expense of the worker. Any injured worker ruled to be contributorily negligent was denied all recovery, even if the railroad was 99 percent at fault, and the worker only one percent.
The laws were cruelly stacked against all workers. If one worker caused an accident that hurt another, the injured could not recover compensation due to a defense known as “The Fellow Servant Doctrine.” Sadly, even if a railroad company were grossly negligent, it could routinely escape liability by arguing the injured party “assumed the risk” of employment.
FELA Brings Fairness to Injured Railway Workers
FELA abolished defenses like The Fellow Servant Doctrine and “assumed risk.” Congress established FELA so that railway workers could sue for damages suffered as a result of their employer’s negligence, in either state or Federal court. FELA eliminated harsh contributory negligence rules, replacing them with a comparative fault system.
Today, if a railroad coworker is partly to blame for an accident, damages are reduced by that worker’s negligence. Now, if a worker loses wages as well as pain and suffering of, say, $400,000 and is ruled to be 25% responsible, his recovery would be $300,000, with the railroad paying 75% of the total. If the railroad caused an accident by violating a Federal railroad safety statute such as The Federal Safety Appliance Act or Federal Boiler Inspection Act, it would become strictly liable for all resulting injuries. This is a sea change from pre-1908 days.
Congress, Courts improve FELA – 1939
Congress improved FELA in 1939 by eliminating assumption of risk as an available defense in any situation. Congress also made it a crime for a railroad to intimidate workers from furnishing information about an accident to an injured worker or his attorney. Several U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1950s further strengthened FELA, liberalizing definitions of “cause” in the worker’s favor. Today, if railroad negligence has played even a minor role in a worker’s injury, the railroad is held liable.
Compensation for negligence under FELA
A FELA claim lawyer needs to first establish some form of negligence on the railroad’s part in order to make a credible claim. In state workers’ compensation laws, no such proof is needed.
The amount or level of negligence that a FELA claim lawyer must demonstrate, however, is slight. To prove up a case, a FELA lawyer must show the railroad failed to provide a reasonably safe workplace. When railroads can be shown to have acted with negligence, recoveries under FELA will typically be far greater than they would be under state workers’ compensation systems.
FELA vs. Worker’s Compensation
Permanent, total disability injuries that fall under state workers’ compensation programs can result in a life of poverty for injured workers and their families. In six states, in fact, the maximum permanent total disability benefits allowed under workers’ compensation fall woefully below the poverty level for a family of four. Workers’ compensation benefits are often fixed, arbitrary, and grossly shy of fully compensating workers for their injuries. FELA, by contrast, was intended to provide fair and livable compensation for injured workers and their families.
FELA Claim Lawyer
FELA cases don’t all go to trial, but if a FELA case does go to trial, FELA grants every railroad worker rights to sue in state or federal court. The injured worker controls the major decision-making in each case handled by a FELA claim lawyer. An injured worker can decide to accept a railroad settlement offer, make a different proposal, or proceed to a trial.
Free Legal Consultation
Call or email Matthews & Associates for a free legal consultation if you or someone you love was injured on a railroad job.
- FELA Case Lawyer
- FELA Claim Attorney