Federal Employers Liability Act

As the United States railroad industry grew at the turn of the 20th century, worker accidents followed closely behind. As a result of injuries and incidents illustrating obvious employer negligence, Congress drafted legislation that would govern workers’ compensation regarding injuries in this specific field of work. Known as the Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA, this legislation has protected railroad employees under a different set of legal guidelines compared to the remainder of the American workforce.

This alternative to regular state compensation laws, which are optional for railroad workers in particular, provides a significantly different system. While standard compensation law may grant benefits without necessary litigation, FELA compensation does not. Under this law, a railway laborer must prove the negligence of their employer. Although this can make the process of receiving compensation more difficult, it also means that compensatory funds are much more abundant for these workers.

FELA compensation also works differently in pay-out relative to state compensation law. While state laws have standard schedules, or pay-out plans, that determine how much a particular injury should be rewarded for lost wages or treatment, FELA works more similarly to an average civil suit. Awarded funds are generally decided within the course of litigation, and these payments can include not only wages and treatments, but compensation for pain and suffering as well.

As a result of FELA’s pay-out system, some have argued that this type of compensatory law more appropriately covers suffering employees in case of negligent employers. However, the necessity of proof of negligence also makes this system significantly more demanding and complex than standard compensation claims. To better understand how FELA works, what options a railroad worker has regarding compensation plays, and how to file a claim under FELA, contact a workers’ compensation attorney to learn more.