FELA claims are made by railroad employees who are injured in the course of their work, and by the family members of railroad workers who are killed on the job. A FELA claim must be filed by either of these parties in order to obtain compensation for the losses incurred, such as:
- medical treatment
- wage loss, including future wage losses due to a disabling injury
- survivors’ costs
- emotional suffering
State or Federal Court
A FELA claim can be filed by an attorney in either federal or state court. The compensation that is obtained by a FELA claim will depend on a number of factors, most importantly:
- whether and to what degree the railroad is responsible for the injury or fatality, and
- whether and to what degree the employee is responsible for the injury or fatality
The compensation allotted in a FELA claim will be reduced by the worker’s degree of responsibility. For example, if it is found that the railroad was 60 percent at fault and the worker was 40 percent at fault, an injury or fatality awarded $1,000,000 will be reduced to $600,000.
Or Settled Out of Court
However, in most cases, FELA claims are settled out of court, by mediation. Here, an independent mediator hears the cases of both the worker (or survivors) and the railroad, working as a go-between to help bring about a settlement that is acceptable to both parties. The factors that affect the amount of a settlement for a FELA claim are the two mentioned above and (usually) factors such as:
- the nature and severity of the employee’s injury
- whether and how long the employee will be disabled
- the employee’s age, education, job history, and prior health/injury record
- whether the employee’s credibility is questionable (e.g., the existence of a relevant criminal record)
A FELA Claim to Protect Your Rights
It’s not possible to predict an exact dollar amount that a particular FELA claim will bring. Railroad company employers will try to minimize their losses by arguing against a FELA claim, advocating for minimal compensation or none at all. An employer will sometimes contend that the railroad worker acted recklessly or without permission and that the worker is thus 100 percent responsible for the railroad injury or fatality.
What to Do If You Have Been Injured
There are several steps that a railroad worker should take when he or she is hurt on the job. The first step is to immediately make out the accident report supplied by the employer, with every possible detail of the injury and where and how it took place, plus the condition of the work environment. Statements from other people at the accident scene should be taken when possible.
The injured worker should get immediate medical attention. If possible, the worker – not the employer ‘should select the medical care provider.
A very important step is finding and consulting an experienced FELA law firm or attorney. Many lawyers do not handle FELA claims; this is a rather specialized area of law. Discuss your potential FELA claim with a knowledgeable FELA attorney today.