How FELA Works


Many railroad workers have been led to believe that when a person is hurt on the job he/she is entitled only to "compensation." Most railroad Claim Department agents usually tell injured workers that "compensation" is a percentage of the time or wages lost. This is not true. The idea that an injured railroad worker is entitled only to wages lost is not only false, but generally such a notion proves costly to the worker and family. The fact of the matter is that railroad employees injured through the fault of the carriers are usually entitled under the law to receive much more than their lost time or wages.

When an employee of an interstate railroad is injured (or killed) at work, he/she or the survivors come under the protection of a law of Congress known as the Federal Employers' Liability Act. Under this Act an injured railroad worker is entitled to recover not only the time or wages lost. He/she is, in addition, entitled to be paid all of the expenses for medical treatment, for pain and suffering undergone, and for any permanent injury, whether partial or total. If killed on the job, survivors are entitled to recover all damages, without any limit upon the amount, which they have suffered as a result.

How FELA works

    A railroader is entitled to recover damages from his company under the U.S. Federal Employers' Liability Act, if the following facts exist:

  • (1)When the road he/she works for is engaged, even in small part, in interstate commerce; that is, it either runs across state lines or handles interstate freight.
  • (2)When injury to the worker is the result, even in part, of the negligence (carelessness) of any officer, agent or employee of the railroad, or the injury is caused by any defect in the cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, road bed, or any other equipment of the road.

The railroads, under the law, have a duty to provide safe places of work for their employees. They must also provide safe equipment, tools and proper working conditions for them. If any railroad fails to take these safety measures, or if the employee is injured through the carelessness of any other employee, the railroad is held responsible. It is liable to the worker for any injuries or damages he/she may suffer as a result.

The amount of money an injured railroad worker is entitled to recover is decided by two factors: (1) how serious the injuries and losses are and (2) whether the injured person can show that his or her injury was in some way, or in some part, due to the fault of the railroad, the negligence of any of its employees, or some defect in equipment, tools, or any unsafe working condition.

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Published by Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division of TCU
Heartland Lodge 6760, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA, August 16, 1996
Revised August 29, 2012