What’s the Difference Between FELA and Workers’ Compensation?

February 6, 2018

When an employee is hurt at work, most people immediately assume that they will file for workers’ compensation benefits. But for railroaders, this is not true. The Federal Employees Liability Act (FELA) provides special protection to railroad employees. RR

 What’s FELA?

Under FELA, railroads are liable for injuries to employees that arise from the negligence of the railroad. However, in order for the injured employee to recover damages for lost earnings, medical expenses, and pain and suffering, negligence must be proven.

Almost any injury sustained by a railroad employee will be protected under FELA as long as the injury is suffered on the job, including those of workers whose main duties are not completed in or around trains. FELA claims can be made directly to the railroad company and may also be initiated by filing a lawsuit in federal or state court.

If the employee’s injury was not due to the employer’s negligence, they will not be eligible to recover damages under FELA, although in the rare situation that the railroad worker does not fall under FELA, they might be able to obtain workers compensation benefits.

What About Workers’ Compensation?

The workers’ compensation system was designed to provide benefits to injured employees, but certain types of workers are not covered: 

  • Business owners
  • Volunteers
  • Independent contractors
  • Longshoremen
  • Railroad employees

Workers’ compensation allows injured workers to collect damages without proving that the employer was negligent, but the program might limit the amount that employees can recover for their injuries. Although FELA puts virtually no financial caps on damage awards, the law alone does not hold railroads responsible for injuries to workers. Employer negligence must be proven in either state or federal court.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

In 1984 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that injuries developing over time are compensable through the state’s workers’ compensation plan, although some people question such claims since no distinct accident or event exists that the injury can be tied directly to. Repetitive stress injuries are compensable under FELA, but railroad workers are required to prove that the railroad was negligent in causing the workplace condition that led to the injury.

If you are an injured railroad worker and need help obtaining compensation for your injuries under FELA, contact Murray & Murray online or call 419-624-3000 to schedule your free consultation.

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