Federal Employers Liability Act - FELA Law


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The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) is a U.S. federal law that was enacted in 1908 to protect and compensate railroad workers injured on the job, if the worker can prove that the railroad was at least partly legally negligent in causing the injury. It is based upon the federal government’s power over interstate commerce, granted by the commerce clause in the Constitution. Prior to its inception there was no remedy for injured railroad workers.

Although the protection FELA offers for railroad workers is similar to the workers’ compensation insurance provided in other industries, unlike workers’ compensation, FELA is a fault based system. To receive benefits under FELA, the injured railroad worker must prove that the injury was caused in whole or in part by the negligence of a railroad employee, its agent or contractor, or from a faulty piece of equipment. However, if the worker is not found to be 100% at fault, he has the right to sue for damages in either a state or federal court, which is not an option for workers’ compensation claimants.

In addition, FELA awards are generally much higher than those of workers’ compensation claims. FELA uses the legal doctrine of “comparative negligence”. This means that the jury determines the percentage of negligence for which each party is liable and this establishes the percentage of the award to be allocated to the worker.

FELA has been extremely controversial since its enactment, and has been interpreted many thousands of times by both federal and state appellate courts. Originally, railroad employers fought the adoption of a workers’ compensation system for railroad employee injuries, whereas the railroad unions favored this system. Their positions have since reversed. Employers now would prefer to replace FELA with workers’ compensation, but labor unions argue to maintain FELA.

FELA covers more than just bodily injuries sustained from working for the railroad. It also covers injuries due to asbestos exposure, as well as repetitive stress and cumulative trauma injuries. In addition, FELA cases have played a significant role in establishing precedent for many tort law issues, such as emotional distress damages availability, damages allocation and standards for working conditions and employee safety.


Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA)

  • DOT - Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

    The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (49 U.S.C. 103, Section 3(e)(1)). The purpose of FRA is to: promulgate and enforce rail safety regulations; administer railroad assistance programs; conduct research and development in support of improved railroad safety and national rail transportation policy; provide for the rehabilitation of Northeast Corridor rail passenger service; and consolidate government support of rail transportation activities.

  • Federal Employers Liability Act - Definition

    The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. (1908) is a United States federal law that protects and compensates railroaders injured on the job.

  • Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) - Overview

    The Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) imposes broad liability on railroads to provide compensation for on-the-job harm sustained by their employees, but its application is limited to railroads that function as common carriers. FELA provides that every common carrier by railroad shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier for such harm or fatality resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier.

  • Federal Employment Liability Act (FELA)

    The Federal Employment Liability Act (FELA), while not a workers' compensation statute, provides that railroads engaged in interstate commerce are liable for injuries to their employees if they have been negligent.

  • FELA Insurance

    Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) insurance provides monetary benefits to railroad workers who are severely injured while working and who: * can prove that the negligence of a railroad company, co-worker or equipment manufacturer contributed to the injuries * file their claim within three years of sustaining the injury Families of railroad employees killed on-the-job will also be entitled to seek compensation via FELA insurance.

Organizations Related to FELA

  • Railroad Workers United

    For decades, the carriers have played one craft off against the other to our mutual detriment. This lack of unity has contributed greatly to our lack of power, which has in turn hampered our ability to negotiate and enforce good contracts. We are unable to effectively confront the carriers on issues of vital concern to our membership-attendance, crew fatigue, discipline, safety, etc.-because we are divided. The carriers are degrading and deskilling our crafts, implementing new technologies that threaten our jobs, our safety and livelihoods, propose the dismantling of FELA, demand drastic health care concessions, and more.

  • US Transportation Trade Department

    TTD, founded in April 1990, is an umbrella organization of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). TTD represents the interests of several million aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway and longshore workers before Congress, the Executive Branch and independent government agencies. Through TTD, the working men and women who are represented by the Department's 32 member unions have a strong, united voice in Washington, D.C.

Articles on HG.org Related to FELA, Railroad Injuries

  • Legal Considerations in Train and Railroad Accidents
    According to the Federal Railroad Administration, approximately 3,000 train accidents occur each year in the United States, and nearly 1,000 people die each year as a result. Railroad accidents may be in the form of a collision with another train, a car or bus, or even a derailment or fire.
  • Five FAQ's about FELA Railroad Accident Claims
    Frequently Asked Questions about the Federal Employers Liability Act.
  • Choosing a Doctor After a Workplace Injury
    The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system is set up to provide payment of medical expenses and lost wages related to an on-the-job injury. In-order to start off the process, a worker must simply report the injury to his or her employer. The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system is set up to provide payment of medical expenses and lost wages related to an on-the-job injury.
  • Philadelphia Injury Attorney Discusses SEPTA Crashes Resulting in Serious Injury to Philadelphia Residents
    SEPTA Drivers Cheating Red Lights and Stop Signs One Reason for Injuries says Attorney Weitzman - During a recent segment on FOX 29, personal injury attorney Dean Weitzman of MyPhillyLawyer discussed how reckless bus drivers put countless lives in danger by ignoring traffic signals throughout Philadelphia. “Drivers need to understand and really appreciate that they have 50 souls in their hands every trip they take,” commented Weitzman.
  • Alabama Work Place Accidents: The Applicability of Federal Law
    Many Alabama work place accidents are resolved through the workers' compensation claim process. However, certain industrial accidents are governed by federal legislation. This article provides a general overview of the application of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) and the Jones Act to Alabama work place accidents.
  • Blood on the Tracks: Train Accident Basics
    In 2000, a train owned and operated by Union Pacific Railroad struck and killed Charles Conway, a member of a paving crew working on a roadway near Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. Conway was operating an asphalt roller and did not hear the train.
  • When Is a Railroad Worker “Employed” Under FELA?
    The Nebraska Supreme Court will soon decide a case styled: Holsapple vs. Union Pacific. The issue in this FELA case is whether the employee [Holsapple] was "on the job" at the time of injury since he injured himself in the morning walking to the actual location where he was to commence work. This case is of extreme importance to FELA and especially maintenance of way workers that are constantly moving from area to area while working in gangs.
  • 6 Secrets to a Successful RailRoad Employee Accident Case
    Long Island RailRoad Accident Lawyer shares his knowledge with railroad workers who have been injured on the job.
  • Cumulative FELA Injury Claims
    Gordon & Elias, L.L.P. is pleased to announce that, after years of contemplation, we have now decided to accept cumulative or repetitive trauma FELA injury claims. Like everything else we try to do, we wanted to wait to do it right. That time has come.
  • Amputation Types and Causes
    Every year in the United States there are thousands of amputations performed. Amputations can be performed on various parts of the human body.
  • All Tort and Personal Injury Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Tort and Personal Injury including: animal bites, asbestos mesothelioma, back and neck injury, bicycle accident, birth injury, brain injury, burn injuries, catastrophic injuries, construction accidents, construction injuries, defamation, libel and slander, defective products, industrial injuries, mass tort, negligence, nursing home abuse, pedestrian accident, personal injury, premises liability, product liability, sexual abuse, slip and fall, spinal cord injury, torts, toxic mold, toxic torts, workplace injuries and wrongful death.


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