Implications of federal employers liability act

Labor workers earn wages through undeterred hard work. Many of these laborious tasks put them at risk, even concerning their life. One such job is that of railroad workers. To protect the railroad workers from succumbing to the dangers of their careers, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was introduced, which has provided great aid to them. 

What is FELA?

Congress adopted the FELA in response to the inherent dangers involved with railroad work. It offers a legal basis for injured employees to obtain monetary damages for injuries incurred due to a railroad carrier’s, its agents, servants, or employees’ negligence.

The FELA expressly exempts railroad employees from state workers’ compensation statutes, which would typically preclude an injured railroad employee from suing his railroad employer. The FELA allows an injured employee to file a lawsuit in either federal or state court.

The FELA further decreases the injured employee’s burden of evidence by requiring only that the employee prove that he received injuries because of the railroad’s conduct, in whole or in part. Furthermore, if the railroad violates a safety statute or rule, Congress has imposed unlimited liability without the need to demonstrate carelessness.

As a result of both the FELA’s pressure on the railroad sector and technical advancements, the railroad business has become a safer place to work. However, work in the railroad business is still full of dangers. FELA is the only safety net for a railroad employee who might get injured or killed on the job.

History of the Act

The 1906 FELA Act was deemed illegal by the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court. The 1908 Act, however, passed muster. Fatal vehicle accident in Spencerport, New York, October 20, 1917, Congress created FELA in response to many railroad deaths in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Railroad workers who are not covered by standard workers’ compensation rules can file a lawsuit under FELA for their injuries. FELA allows jurors to assess monetary compensation for pain and suffering based on comparative negligence rather than following a predefined benefits schedule, as in workers’ compensation.

FELA was not designed to be given automatically. Unlike state workers’ compensation laws, FELA requires the injured railroader to prove that the railroad was “legally negligent,” at least partly, in causing the injury. This type of compensation is typically many times more than that granted by state workers’ compensation for non-railroaders.

In the 44 years since the FELA’s enactment, 26 measures have been submitted to replace the FELA with workers’ compensation. In each case, Congress refused to make this adjustment.

Railroad firms have spent tens of millions of dollars to resolve FELA-related litigation. Railroad employees have said that toxic solvent exposure from the 1960s through the 1990s inflicted many with varying intensity of brain hemorrhage.

CSX has admitted to settling 466 solvent exposure lawsuits and paying up to $35 million, the largest railroad in the eastern United States, yet continuing to reject a relationship between solvent exposure and brain injury. According to medical experts, thousands of workers may be suffering from toxic encephalopathy but have been misdiagnosed due to the difficulty in diagnosing the severe sickness.

Who falls under FELA?

Railroad personnel are expressly exempt from state workers’ compensation regulations, which would normally bar an injured railroad employee from suing his railroad employer, according to the Federal Employers Liability Act. The FELA allows an injured employee to file a lawsuit in either federal or state court.

After completing his term of duty, a signalman slid on ice in a railroad parking lot. The FELA protects injured employees even if they are not doing their customary railroad duties. If a railroad worker is a railroad worker who is injured as a result of any work-related action, a railroad worker may be covered by the FELA.

What injuries are covered by FELA?

Usually, the FELA protects workers from four types of workplace injuries:

  • distressing injuries, such as joint sprains, broken bones, and pulled muscles 
  • recurring injuries like carpal tunnel
  • tendonitis workplace injuries, such as asbestosis, hearing loss, lung cancer, and so on, and 
  • irritations of pre-existing conditions, in which an injury speeds up or worsens an existing health problem within the body

Claiming Requirements

As previously stated, to prevail in a FELA lawsuit, the railway worker must demonstrate that the railroad was negligent, and that the railroad’s carelessness contributed to the damage.

A railroad is often a large and complicated enterprise with personnel serving in various jobs throughout the corporation. As a result, a railroad may be irresponsible in multiple ways, potentially resulting in an employee injury. However, the railway’s reckless conduct is typically classified as one of the following:

  • They were inadequately developing and enforcing workplace safety rules.
  • Employees that are not adequately trained
  • Failure to provide adequate equipment and tools, as well as the inadequate workforce.

Even though a railroad worker was negligent, and the negligence contributed to the accident, this does not preclude a railroad worker from filing a claim or collecting damages under the Federal Employers Liability Act. However, while assessing the number of damages a railroad worker receives for the injury, the court will consider the share of fault.

Federal law establishes the law of limitations for filing a FELA lawsuit. The rule of regulations for filing a lawsuit is three years from the date of the injury. If a railroad worker does not file the complaint within that time frame, the claim may be fully barred, and the court may rule that a railroad worker is not entitled to any compensation at all.

Depending on the nature of the harm, determining the date from which the statute of limitations begins to run becomes increasingly difficult. The typical answer is that the three-year statute of limitations begins to run when a railroad worker knows (1) a railroad worker has incurred an accident and (2) the injury is work-related.


The FELA decreases the injured employee’s burden of evidence by requiring only that the employee prove that he received injuries as a result of the railroad’s conduct, in whole or in part. 

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