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FELA Claim Process

Freight cars, train engines, heavy machinery, dangerous obstacles, and grueling conditions create significant hazards for those who make their living on railroads. Fortunately, railroad workers are protected by an important piece of federal legislation. If you have been hurt on the job, you need an attorney who can help you pursue the compensation you are entitled to under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, also known as FELA. 

At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, our FELA attorneys have decades of experience representing injured railroad workers in Virginia, as well as their families when their injuries lead to death. Prominent opponents in cases we have handled include CSX, Norfolk Southern, and other big rail companies. Our Virginia railroad accident lawyers also handle cases involving work-related illnesses from exposure to dangerous chemicals and substances commonly found near railroads.

We help railroad workers defend their rights and, to the best of our ability, get them back to where they were before their accident. If you have been injured on the job as a railroad worker or are suffering from medical problems related to working on a railroad in Virginia, we can help. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

Why Work with Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers?

As a leading FELA claim law firm in Virginia, we have helped numerous victims and their families recover full and fair compensation. For example, in one case, we secured a $303,000 verdict for a railroad worker who suffered an arm injury at a Norfolk Southern railyard. You can explore our other case results here

Our founding partner, John M. Cooper, has practiced personal injury law for over 30 years. John has 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. He also co-authored the FELA litigation packet which the AAJ provides to lawyers nationwide as the forms for FELA lawsuits. Mr. Cooper is union-designated counsel for the BRC/TCU (Brotherhood of Railway Carmen and the Transportation Communications Union), and a member of ARLA (Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys). A Supreme Court of Virginia committee recently sought Mr. Cooper’s input on revisions to the railroad-related Virginia Model Jury Instructions– the law that courts give the jury to apply in FELA and railroad crossing cases. Under his leadership, we have secured millions of dollars for our clients.

What Is a FELA Claim?

Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, also known as FELA, in 1908 to address the alarmingly high rate of accidents in the railroad industry. This law gives railroad workers special rights when injured on the job. 

Under the workers’ compensation laws in many states, employees are normally barred from filing lawsuits against their employers for work-related injuries, even if the employer is at fault. Usually, they must rely on workers’ compensation insurance provided by their employers. 

However, FELA exempts railroad workers from this restriction. If you suffered an injury while performing railroad work and your injury was caused by your employer’s negligence, you may be entitled to file a claim for compensation under FELA. A FELA claim aims to recover compensation for your injuries and losses resulting from the injury. You may be compensated for things like medical expenses, lost earnings, pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Steps for Filing a FELA Claim

If you believe you may have grounds for a FELA claim, you must act quickly. The statute of limitations for most legal actions under FELA is three years from the date of the accident. The following is a general overview of the steps involved in filing a FELA claim. Our railroad accident lawyers can address any questions or concerns you have in your free consultation

  1. Get Medical Attention

The first and most crucial step is to seek immediate medical attention if you are injured while working for a railroad company. Even if you do not think you are seriously injured, it’s best to get a medical evaluation as soon as possible. The sooner you get medical attention, the easier it will be to show a direct link between the incident and your injuries. Keep copies of all your medical records from the initial visit and any follow-up care. 

  1. File a Report

Report your injury to your employer or supervisor soon after the incident. Be sure to provide them with a clear and detailed account of the incident, including when, where, and how it occurred. Document this notification in writing and keep a copy for your records. 

  1. Consult with a FELA Claims Attorney

Next, contact an attorney who is well-versed in FELA claims. While you are not legally required to have an attorney, working with an experienced legal professional can significantly improve your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve. When you consult with a FELA claims attorney at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we will help you determine if you have a valid claim, guide you through your legal options, and outline your next steps. 

  1. Investigate the Accident

After your free consultation, we will investigate the incident and gather evidence to support your claim. This investigation normally includes interviewing witnesses, obtaining relevant documents, collaborating with experts to assess your employer’s negligence, and calculating full and fair compensation for your injuries and losses.

  1. File Your Claim

After we build your case with strong supporting evidence, we will file a FELA claim on your behalf. We will then attempt to negotiate a settlement with the railroad company. If the company refuses to offer a fair settlement, we can proceed with filing a formal lawsuit in court.


Being injured in a railroad accident can be extremely stressful and disorienting. Our clients injured in these kinds of accidents normally come through our doors with lots of questions. We answer some of the most common ones we receive below. 

  1. Does FELA Cover Deaths Caused by Virginia Railroad Accidents?

Yes, a FELA claim can cover a death resulting from a Virginia railroad accident. FELA compensates surviving family members of railroad workers when they are fatally injured on the job. If you’re filing a FELA claim on behalf of a deceased family member, your compensation may cover things like:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of support and services
  • Loss of training, nurturing, education, and guidance to surviving children
  • Pain and suffering of the decedent before death
  1. How Long Does the FELA Claim Process Take?

The duration of a FELA claim can vary significantly based on many factors, including the railroad company’s willingness to negotiate, the severity of your injuries, and court calendars. Some FELA claims can be resolved within a few months through negotiation, while others may take well over a year if they go to trial. 

  1. Can Virginia Railroad Workers Be Disciplined for Reporting Unsafe Conditions?

Under FELA, railroad industry employers have a duty to provide a reasonably safe work environment. Virginia railroad workers should report safety hazards without fear of retaliation. If you believe you are facing discipline or retaliation for reporting unsafe conditions, you should contact a FELA claims attorney right away. 

  1. How Much Is My Case Worth?

The value of your FELA claim depends on many factors, including the severity of your injuries, the extent of your employer’s negligence, and the impact your injuries have on your life. The best way to determine how much your FELA case is worth is to consult with an experienced FELA attorney. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we can evaluate the specific circumstances in your case and give you an informed estimate of what your claim may be worth.

Consult with Our Experienced FELA Lawyers Today

Railroad companies are backed by powerful insurers who will do everything they can to minimize your compensation. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, we level the playing field between railroad insurers and injured workers. We are here to build the strongest claim possible on your behalf. If the at-fault parties in your case refuse to compensate you fairly, we have what it takes to argue your case in court. 

If you or a loved one were injured in a railroad accident, do not wait to consult with an attorney. Check out our free railroad injury book, review our resources guide for railroad workers, and contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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