Is FELA the same as worker’s compensation?
No. Railroad workers have unique rights that are not the same as workers’ compensation.
With Workers’ Comp, there is no necessity for someone to be at fault in order for you to recover, but there’s a limited recovery that you can have under Workers’ Comp. The benefits are usually a fixed amount and normally undercompensate an injured worker, as workers’ compensation provides no compensation for pain and suffering and only partial wages.
However, railroad workers injured on the job are entitled to damages such as past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, past and future benefits, and loss of enjoyment of life. So the injury law with FELA protects you more and is able to give you more than Workers’ Comp, but the trade-off for that is that you have to prove the railroad did something wrong or negligent.
It’s important that when you are injured, you talk to an attorney that specializes in railroad law in order to help protect you because the railroad will be doing the same thing in order to protect itself with its own lawyers. Do not believe the railroad claims agent when he/she tells you that you are just a “workers’ comp case” and the only compensation the railroad owes you is your wages.
The Nature of Your Injury Affects How Long the Case Takes
It’s important to remember, though, that the length of time that it takes for your injury claim may also be affected by the nature and type of your injury. I like to tell clients, “Remember that the legal part of your case always follows the medical.” What that means is it’s hard to evaluate your case without making sure that we understand the severity and/or permanency of your injuries, which will be determined by your doctors. You would never want to have an attorney evaluate your claim while you’re still treating for your injuries.
Does the railroad have to pay my wages when I get hurt?
No, because the FELA is a negligence-based statute, you would need to prove the company failed in their responsibilities before you received any lost wages. The railroad has a non-delegable duty to provide its employees with a safe place to work. In order to recover your wages and the other elements of damages in a FELA claim, it must be proven that the railroad failed to provide you with a safe place to work and that failure caused your damages, even in the slightest.