The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) provides compensation for railroad employees — or their dependents — who are injured as a result of employer negligence. Statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis show that, across the United States, a total of 3,885 accidents occurred to railroad employees on duty during 2012, of which 16 were fatal. Although the statistics reveal the causes of injury, such as exposure to fumes or collision with vehicles, they do not disclose the proportion that stem from employer negligence.

Many people mistakenly confuse FELA for a workers’ compensation system for railroad workers. In fact, FELA and workers’ compensation are different in several ways.

There are two key differences between FELA and workers’ compensation:

  • Fault-based liability. One of workers’ compensation’s cornerstones is the fact that anyone injured in the course of their employment can claim benefits for lost income and medical bills. The injured worker does not need to prove employer negligence. In order to receive compensation under FELA, you must show that the employer’s negligence was the cause of your injury. Injuries caused by your employer’s include injuries sustained as a result of the actions of another employee and those sustained through a defect in the railroad cars, track or other equipment. Since FELAcompensation is dependent upon proving their negligence, you cannot collect any compensation until your claim is settled.
  • Compensation. Under workers’ compensation, the amount of benefits available is subject to a statutory cap. This varies from state to state but does not usually allow an injured worker to be compensated in full for their actual loss. In addition, they do not receive compensation for any pain or suffering. Under FELA, you receive full compensation, including damages for noneconomic losses like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. In some cases, you may also receive substantial punitive damages.

Due to the complexities of filing a compensation claim under FELA, you should contact a nationwide FELA attorney for advice on your case.