When Hoey & Farina is investigating injury cases, attending union meetings, or just talking to railroaders at informal settings, we too often assume everyone knows what we’re talking about when we refer to the "FELA." For many railroader workers and their family members, that's not the case. So, we would like to explain...
WHY FELA IS IMPORTANT TO THE INJURED RAILROAD WORKER
The FELA, the law governing injured railroaders - is never heard on "The Practice," "Judge Judy," "Court TV," or any of the other popular legal programs. It is rarely, if ever, mentioned in law school and never appears on a bar examination. So, for most people and many attorneys, the FELA remains "undefined."
If injured while on the job, however, the FELA could become the most important thing in a railroader's life!
Understanding the FELA law often makes the difference between winning and losing, and could determine whether you and your family receive adequate compensation for an on-the-job injury.
ABOUT THE FELA
The FELA is an acronym for the Federal Employers' Liability Act. The FELA is a law that was enacted by the United States Congress in 1908. The law was enacted at the urging of the railroad Brotherhoods, especially for railroaders, and after the extreme dangers of working in the railroad industry become widely recognized. The main purpose of the FELA is to provide monetary relief to injured railroaders, or to the families of railroaders killed on the job if the injury or wrongful death can be proven to stem from the railroad’s negligence or from a violation of a safety statute. Another policy behind the FELA was to give the railroads a monetary incentive to provide their workers with a safe place to work and to comply with safety standards.
While workers in most other industries are covered by state workers' compensation systems that limit recovery to economic losses only, the FELA allows railroad employees to recover the following types of damage awards, typically paid in a lump sum:
- Past lost wages and future lost wages.
- Monetary damages for past, and future, pain and suffering.
- Medical bills and expenses, if not paid by railroad or by insurance provided at railroad’s expense.
- Monetary damages for decreased earning power resulting from an injury creating the necessity of taking a lower paying job.
The railroad can also be held liable for lost wages from jobs held outside the railroad during the period of disability produced by the railroad work injury.
THE LITIGATION PROCESS - THE RAILROAD AS ADVERSARY
Railroaders and their families must know that under the FELA the railroad becomes their legal adversary the instant an injury or wrongful death occurs. Under the FELA, a railroad is presumed to be without fault. All of us who have ever dealt with a railroad know that as soon as an injury or death occurs, a railroad will pour all its resources into an investigation of an incident in order to protect its legal rights. If railroaders or their families are to realize the monetary damages that Congress intended for them to receive under the FELA, it is essential that the injured railroader or his family contact Designated Legal Counsel to investigate the railroad accident, advise them of their rights, and represent them against the railroad.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I GET INJURED ON THE JOB?
When a railroad worker suffers an on-the-job injury, he is placed in a very unfamiliar situation. The former friendly employee-employer relationship will change into an adversarial, and sometimes confrontational, relationship. The railroads use all means necessary to avoid paying an injured employee, including rolling out their own lawyers and claim agents to investigate the case.
RAILROADERS, EMPOWERED UNDER THE FELA, HAVE BEEN GRANTED RIGHTS TO COUNTER THE STRENGTHS OF THE RAILROAD CORPORATION, INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING:
Railroad employees have been granted the right to sue their employer for fair monetary recovery in the event of injury or wrongful death under the FELA. Railroad employees have the right to use legal counsel. Railroad companies are prohibited from intimidating witnesses and fellow employees who give information or testify on the behalf of an injured employee. Railroad companies are prohibited from taking any retaliatory action against employees who use these rights.
UNION APPROVED FELA LAWYERS
To help protect railroaders’ rights under the law and the FELA, as well as to take the guesswork out of selecting an attorney, your railroad union has established a system of selecting union approved lawyers to serve their members. Through a careful screening process, union leadership has chosen the most qualified attorneys to represent their members in the event of an injury. Attorneys selected as designated legal counsel are recognized as specialists in the FELA, and have years of experience in dealing with railroad attorneys and claim agents. The bottom line is that injured railroaders who are represented by union designated legal counsel stand a much better chance of receiving justice for their work injury.
As part of our role as designated legal counsel to many railroad unions, eary personal injury lawyer at Hoey & Farina strongly believes in the importance of providing information to all railroaders so that they are in the best position to assert their rights in the event of a work injury. Hoey & Farina fulfills its “Information Mission” in many ways, including presenting free seminars at union meetings, providing a news and fact-filled Web site for railroaders (www.hoeyfarina.com), and, most importantly, providing free legal advice 24 hours a day / seven days a week for railroaders with questions about a FELA issue or any other legal problem. Visit our web site, attend our seminars, and, most importantly, call Hoey & Farina immediately if you or someone you know suffers a work injury or wrongful death.