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Don't confuse FELA with workers' compensation

If you were to take a quick survey on the street in Connecticut, asking passers-by what they think the most dangerous jobs in the nation are, many would mention work in construction and farming. Some, however, may also include railroad work high on their lists, for statistics prove train workers are always at high risk for injuries. If your family history in the United States stretches back several decades or more, you likely have a relative who used to work (or currently works) on the railroad.

Perhaps, you followed in your grandparent's or great-grandparent's footsteps by making your living on the railroad as well. As is part of most high-risk jobs, there's always a chance an accident may occur while you're working on the railroad. Other workers throughout the nation are typically eligible for workers' compensation benefits when they suffer injury on the job. Railroad workers, however, function under an entirely different set of rules.

What is FELA and how does it differ from workers' comp?

Due to the exorbitant risk for danger on the railroad, the government took steps in 1908 to provide special protection to injured railroad workers. The Federal Employers Liability Act gives railroad employees certain rights and benefits that do not apply to workers in other industries. Following is a list of basic facts regarding FELA:

  • Under FELA, railroad employers face several obligations and requirements, including enforcement of all safety regulations, appropriate employee training and supervision, and restraint from placing unreasonable demands upon railroad workers.
  • Railroad workers who suffer injury because of an employer's negligence in one or more of these areas are able to file negligent claims against their employers. (This is different from workers' compensation, which typically protects employers from personal liability lawsuits.)
  • FELA was enacted during the industrial revolution when high numbers of railroad workers were suffering serious injuries and deaths on the job.
  • To prove a FELA claim, an injured railroad worker must convince the court that an employer's negligence caused his or her injury.

Some studies show railroad workers face double the risk of workers in other industries when it comes to on-the-job accidents and potential hazards in the workplace. The most common injuries among railroad workers include electrocution, falling from moving trains and suffering broken bones and other catastrophic injuries when struck by moving vehicles. Injured railroad workers often need assistance when navigating the FELA process.

Unlike FELA, workers' compensation does not require proof of negligence in order for an injured worker to collect benefits. However, claims filed under FELA often include pain and suffering damages, which cannot be listed in a workers' compensation claim. If you have questions regarding the difference between workers' comp and FELA, or are currently facing problems related to a recent on-the-job railroad injury, you may seek answers by reaching out for support from an experienced railroad injury attorney.

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