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6 Important Things Injured Railroad Workers Should Know About FELA Benefits

Railroad work is one of the most dangerous jobs out there. In recognition of this fact, Congress enacted the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to give those railway workers as much protection as possible.

If you work on a railroad, here are some of the most important things you should know about your FELA benefits:

1. Does FELA operate like workers' compensation?

Not exactly. Under FELA, almost all injuries related to railroad work are covered -- but only if you can prove that your employer was negligent. That's different than workers' comp benefits, which operate like a "no-fault" system that doesn't concern itself with who was negligent.

2. What are some of the examples of employer negligence that entitle workers to FELA benefits?

Employer negligence can include things like failing to enforce safety rules, not making sure that employees have the right training or supervision, failing to make sure that there are enough workers for any given task, and not providing a safe work environment (including safety equipment).

3. How hard is it to prove that an employer was negligent in a FELA case?

Not very. An injured worker only has to show the slightest amount of negligence on the part of an employer to qualify for FELA benefits. Many attorneys refer to it as "featherweight" proof, meaning that the evidence need only be very slight. In fact, if an employer violates any federal regulations mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), that's enough to prove an employer's negligence.

4. Who else, besides a railroad worker, can file a FELA claim?

If a railway injury causes the death of an employee, the worker's surviving spouse and his or her children are entitled to FELA compensation. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the worker's parents or other family members may be entitled to file.

5. What type of damages can an injured employee get from a FELA claim?

The type of benefits available include compensation for your lost wages, your estimated loss of future wages, your medical expenses and predicted medical expenses, your pain and suffering, and fair payment for your emotional distress.

6. Does it matter if an injured worker was also at fault for an accident and injury?

Yes. Under FELA, the rule of "comparative negligence" applies. That means that a certain percentage of fault can be assigned to you, as the injured worker, to represent the percentage of fault and liability you have to bear for the accident. Whatever benefits you receive, would be reduced by that percentage.

That comparative negligence rule is perhaps the biggest reason that injured railway workers seek the assistance of a FELA attorney like those at Bob Fain Law. It often takes professional help to assert the injured worker's right to greater compensation.