The History Behind The FELA Railroad Law
The FELA railroad law, also known as the Federal Employers Liability Act, was enacted by Congress in 1908 because they recognized the serious dangers that railroad workers faced in their job. As the road tracks were being built, Congress noticed that the country’s progress in transportation was being built on the backs of these railroad workers who were being seriously maimed and injured without complete compensation for themselves or their families. Congress decided that this type of work was both particularly hazardous and unique and that there needed to be special laws to protect these workers. The fact that the work was being done in-between states allowed too much variance from state to state and often left the workers without any recourse were they injured.
So, Congress decided to enact one Act that protected these railroad workers. By enacting this federal law, railroad workers were able to recover for their injuries and be exempt from being covered under a state Workers’ Compensation law. This is important for you as a railroad worker because it allows you to receive different compensation for your injuries. However, in order to receive this type of compensation, you have to prove that the railroad caused your injury in whole or in part.
The cornerstone of this law is that railroads have a “non-delegable duty to provide a safe place to work.” What that means is that your employer must provide you with a safe place to work. They can not delegate that responsibility to another company. They cannot put that on the shoulders of the workers. This is a continuing duty of the railroads to provide its employees with a reasonably safe place to work at all times and at all places of employment.
When these responsibilities are not met, this law allows railroad workers to bring a lawsuit against their employer. In railroad cases, a railroad worker must show through evidence that the railroad had done something wrong and has not provided them with a safe place to work.
Congress recognized that by allowing an employee to sue their railroad employer that would essentially put the worker and the employer at odds with one another and would create an unbalance for the railroad worker. To address this, Congress reduced the burden on the worker to prove complete fault. If the railroad contributed even in the slightest to the injury, the railroad would be held negligent and the worker would be able to recover damages.
Are All Railroad Workers Covered Under FELA?
Yes, almost all railroad workers are covered under the FELA. Some examples of workers that are covered would be:
- A locomotive engineer hits a tree on the tracks from a bad weather storm after dispatch failed to warn him.
- A conductor dealing with a defective coupler that caused injury to his shoulder.
- An onboard service employee (such Amtrak employees) slips and falls when the train runs over known bad track.
- A railroad switchman is required to use improper tools and equipment for track maintenance while working as part of a track gang.
These are just a few examples of the types of workers who might be covered under FELA.
At Poolson Oden, our railroad and serious injury attorneys put the needs of their clients first. Our trial attorneys focus on helping workers and individuals who have been seriously injured or hurt. Our approach of investigating all the facts, learning and understanding all the medicine, and mastering the law, allows us to give our clients the best possible result for their individual case.
We are licensed in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and have helped injured individuals throughout the Gulf South and across the United States. In representing our clients, we have learned that the Railroad does not necessarily want its Railroaders to know and understand your rights. The phrase “knowledge is power” applies to our railroaders. One of our main goals as Railroad Attorneys is to inform and educate Railroaders. We have written books, published articles, and created pamphlets to help share the knowledge about the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”) and Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”).
We are excited about the opportunity to serve you if you have been injured as a result of someone else’s fault or negligence. We hope our materials shed some light on your rights, and help you with your questions.