As a railroad worker, you likely already know that the Federal Employers Liability Act, commonly referred to as FELA, coves you in the event you sustain an on-the-job injury. What you may not know, however, is that you can file a FELA claim even if your primary duties do not include working in or around trains.
FindLaw explains that you can file your claim directly with the company or railroad for which you work or use a lawsuit brought in a state or federal court.
Duty of care
The theory underlying FELA is that your company or railroad owes you a duty of care that includes the following:
- A reasonably safe work environment, tools, equipment and safety devices
- Adequate training in and supervision of your job functions
- Inspection of your work environment to make sure it remains free of hazards
- Freedom from the harmful intentional acts of others
- Enforcement of safety rules and regulations
Unlike the no-fault workers’ compensation laws of most states, when you file a FELA claim, you must prove that someone’s negligence caused your injuries. That someone could be your employer, one or more of its workers, or an equipment manufacturer.
Your burden of proof, however, is substantially less than that required of plaintiffs in normal negligence cases. Sometimes called the “featherweight” burden of proof, all you need to prove is that the defendant committed an act of negligence, no matter how small, that caused your injuries. Technically, you must also prove that your employer engaged in interstate commerce, but almost by definition, virtually all railroads engage in such commerce.
If you win your FELA claim, you can expect to receive past, present and future medical costs, lost wages, physical pain and suffering. and mental distress.
All in all, FELA serves as your greatest protection against the enormous costs an on-the-job injury can entail.