Cahill & Perry, P.C. outline important facts about New Jersey FELA laws and how injured railroad workers can pursue claims and receive awards under the FELA system.
What is the FELA?
FELA stands for the Federal Employers' Liability Act which was enacted in 1908 by Congress to provide safety standards for those working in the railroad industry, and to provide benefits for railroad workers who suffer on the job injuries due to their employer's negligence.
How does the FELA differ from workers' compensation?
The main difference between FELA and workers compensation is that under FELA, a railroad worker must prove negligence on the part of the employer in order to receive compensation, whereas workers' compensation benefits are based on a no fault system. Another important difference is that benefits in workers' compensation claims are generally paid out according to a preset schedule, whereas FELA benefits are awarded according to a jury's decision. The defendant or railroad employer's main defense is usually comparative negligence, meaning that they will attempt to prove the railroad worker had some degree of fault in the injury and therefore his award must be diminished by the percentage of his degree of responsibility for the injury. Lastly, when pursing medical treatment in a FELA claim, the worker is free to choose their own doctors and place of treatment, while in workers' compensation claims an injured employee is limited to the pre-approved treatment choices of his or her employer.
Who is eligible under the FELA?
Any injured railroad employee is eligible even if their job does not involve working around trains. As long as there was negligence on the part of the railroad employer, then the railroad employee can seek recovery for the physical and emotional harms suffered.
What types of damages are available through the FELA?
Injured railroad workers in New Jersey can recover past and future medical treatment, past and future lost wages that result from their injury or illness, and damages for past and future pain, suffering, and mental anguish. Also families may recover losses associated with the death of a loved one.
How do I recover FELA damages?
Because each case is different and the claims process can be complicated it is wise to consult an experienced New Jersey FELA attorney to help you with your railroad injury claim.
Process for FELA recovery
- As soon as possible after an injury occurs or is discovered an employee must file a report with the employer.
- After the railroad company and your railroad injury attorney investigate your claim to establish the reasons for the injury and who was at fault, the attorneys discuss a settlement of your FELA claim.
- If a settlement is not reached, then your New Jersey railroad accident lawyer will file your claim with the court, thereby initiating a New Jersey FELA lawsuit. A railroad injury lawsuit that goes to court may be heard by either a judge or jury.
- The injured employee (plaintiff) must only prove that there is some degree of negligence on the part of the railroad employer (defendant) in order to recover damages but the defendant may claim that the plaintiff was partially to blame for his or her injuries. If the defendant is successful in proving comparative negligence on the part of the plaintiff, the plaintiff's railroad FELA award can be lessened by their degree of responsibility.
If you are a railroad employee in New Jersey, you are covered under the FELA law and may be entitled to compensation if you are injured on the job.