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What Is FELA? Navigating the Complexities of Railroad Injuries

The Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA, was enacted to provide additional compensation and benefits for those working in one of the most dangerous industries—railroads. If you are injured while working in the railroad industry, our Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers legal team is here to help. We are staunch advocates for injured railroad workers and are dedicated to helping you recover the compensation you deserve.

There is no question the railroad industry is an integral part of the growth and development of the United States. It is what first carried food, goods, and people from coast to coast. While essential to shipping and travel, railroads pose unique dangers and risks to workers. Trains are massive and move at high speeds. In addition, workers commonly deal with high-voltage electricity and hazardous chemicals. 

If you are injured as a railroad industry worker, knowing your rights, particularly those provided by the Federal Employers Liability Act, is important. FELA was specifically enacted to protect those working in the railroad industry. 

At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we understand the impact an accident and injury can have on railroad workers, their families, and their lives. We provide legal representation for injured railroad workers and will fight to get you the money you deserve. 

What Is the Federal Employers Liability Act?

The Federal Employers Liability Act was designed to protect and compensate railroad workers injured while performing their duties. Unlike workers’ compensation, which applies to most other industries and offers a no-fault system, FELA operates on a tort-based system. This means that injured employees must sue their employers for negligence directly.

FELA History

FELA was enacted in 1908. Before that, injured railroad workers had few options for recourse, and employers rarely compensated workers for injuries on the job. However, the high number of injuries and fatalities in this industry contributed to the creation of this law. 

At the turn of the 20th century, the railroad industry was considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. The act was a “safety net” to ensure injured workers had access to compensation. 

FELA held employers accountable and pushed them to create safer work environments. It has undergone various amendments to keep pace with the evolving work conditions but remains a cornerstone for the rights of railroad employees.

Who Is Covered by FELA?

FELA covers most railroad workers. Those included under the FELA umbrella include:

  • Train engineers
  • Conductors
  • Yard workers
  • Maintenance crews
  • Signalmen

Other labor laws in existence today have limitations on who is eligible. However, coverage under FELA is broad. It includes all workers involved in the railroad’s maintenance and operation. Our railroad worker lawyers are ready to help you, no matter what position you’ve been working in.

Are Railroad Workers Federal Employees?

While FELA’s name is somewhat misleading, those working in the railroad industry are not federal employees. Instead, they are private sector employees. Nonetheless, these employees have been granted specialized protections thanks to FELA. 

As a railroad worker, it is crucial to understand this. The legal options for recourse offered to federal employees differ greatly from the protections provided by FELA.

What Type of Damages Can Be Recovered in FELA Cases?

Working in the railroad industry presents unique hazards not present in other sectors. Risks include:

  • Injuries from heavy machinery
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Ongoing threat of mechanical failure

The high-risk environment makes it much more likely for workers to experience severe injuries. These can impact their ability to keep working and their quality of life. Due to the dangers of working in this industry, FELA established provisions for the damages injured workers can recover. These damages include the following:

Medical Expenses

Most injuries sustained by railroad workers are not considered minor. Because of this, an immediate concern of many workers and their families is the cost of medical treatment. Under FELA, injured workers can recover all medical expenses. This includes hospital stays, medication, surgeries, and ongoing or future medical care. 

Lost Wages and Future Earnings

Railroad worker injuries come with significant financial impacts. This impact extends much further than the immediate medical costs. Most workers lose income while recovering and sometimes cannot return to work due to injuries. 

These long-term effects can be financially devastating to the worker’s family. Under FELA, workers can file claims for damages for lost wages and future earnings. 

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering are subjective. However, FELA recognizes that the impact is real. It has provided workers with ways to claim compensation for emotional and physical suffering caused by the injuries they sustained on the job. 

Mental Distress

Workplace accidents can also have lasting psychological effects, including post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Unlike workers’ compensation, which only recently started recognizing PTSD as a compensable workplace injury, FELA has recognized the condition and provides compensation for it.

The stakes are high in railroad work. Therefore, FELA claims often result in substantial settlements to compensate for the extensive losses sustained by injured workers. Understanding your rights under FELA law is crucial to ensure you get the full compensation you deserve.

FELA holds railroad employers to a higher standard of responsibility. This makes it much more likely that injured workers will receive compensation that fully addresses their losses and needs—now and in the future.  

Benefits of Hiring a FELA Lawyer

Navigating the challenging legal process related to a FELA claim requires help from an experienced FELA lawyer. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we understand the process and will aggressively fight for your rights. Our legal team will work to establish negligence and do our best to help you secure the biggest settlement possible. 

We have a track record of success with FELA claims, including a $303,000 jury award over a Norfolk Southern rail yard accident. Check out our results page to see more of the cases we have represented and clients we have helped. 

Why Choose Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers?

John Cooper, one of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers’ founding partners, is a leading railroad attorney and a member of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys. He regularly represents rail workers in claims against CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Amtrak. John has assisted injured railroaders in nearly every craft including conductors, engineers, carmen, mechanics, and maintenance of way workers. He has also chaired both the FELA Litigation Group and the Railroad Law Section of the American Association for Justice (AAJ), the largest Plaintiffs’ attorney organization in the US.  His extensive qualifications and track record make him an invaluable asset for anyone seeking to file a FELA claim. 

Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers also provides a free book on railroad injury rights and a comprehensive resource guide for railroad workers. 

Contact a Skilled FELA Attorney Today

Filing and executing a FELA claim is a daunting and challenging process. This is especially true if you are dealing with the impact of a railroad accident injury. It is best to consult with our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys to ensure that you receive the full compensation you deserve. 

Our legal team specializes in FELA cases. We understand the complexities and intricacies of gathering evidence to prove employer negligence. We also know what it takes to secure fair settlements for our injury clients. 

Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers Advocates for Your Rights

We offer free consultations to evaluate the specifics of your case and guide you through the legal process. We believe in our ability to win your case, so we operate on a no-fee-unless-we-win basis. You don’t have to worry about any upfront legal fees. Our compensation is contingent on winning your claim.

Don’t let the fear of legal complications keep you from fighting for your rights. Contact Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation and take the first step toward reclaiming your life.

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