Alabama Work Place Accidents: The Applicability of Federal Law


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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.

Many Alabamians work with heavy machinery on a daily basis. As a result, many individuals suffer serious work place accidents every year. Typically, employees injured at work must proceed through the Alabama workers’ compensation claim process before pursuing legal actions against their employers. However, certain industries are governed by federal legislation that may allow injured employees to forego a typical workers’ compensation claim and pursue a legal cause of action. For instance, railroad injuries are governed by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”), and the Jones Act governs injuries sustained by seaman while working on vessels and ships.

In 1908, Congress enacted FELA in response to the dangers faced by everyday railroad workers. Unlike the “no fault” Alabama workers’ compensation system, FELA usually requires that an injured railroader prove that the railroad company was negligent in some manner. However, unlike a typical personal injury law, FELA generally only requires that an injured railroad employee show that the railroad’s negligence played a slight role in causing his or her injury—a much lower standard than an ordinary negligence claim. Certain situations may even excuse an injured railroader from showing that the railroad company was negligent at all. Furthermore, FELA may even allow an injured railroad employee to recover for his or her medical costs, pain and suffering, lost wages and emotional distress. Most of these damages are usually unavailable in workers’ compensation claims.

Like FELA, the Jones Act usually requires an injured offshore worker to show that his injury was caused by either the negligence of his maritime employer or the unseaworthiness of the vessel. Similar to a FELA claim, a claim brought pursuant to the Jones Act usually allows an injured employee to recover damages that are typically unavailable through a workers’ compensation claim. For example, damages such as pain and suffering and mental anguish are recoverable under the Jones Act but are usually not available in the workers’ compensation process. Furthermore, an injured seaman may be entitled to recover “maintenance and cure,” benefits similar to traditional workers’ compensation benefits, in addition to damages under his Jones Act claim.

If you were hurt in an on-the-job accident, contact a Birmingham work place injury lawyer to identify and protect your legal rights.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Drake Law Firm- Personal Injury Attorneys
Whit Drake is the founding partner of the Drake Law Firm. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, the Drake Law Firm frequently represents individuals in personal injury, wrongful death, and work place accident litigation.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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