How Does FELA Differ From Workers' Comp?

State workers' compensation laws do not apply to the rail industry. When the FELA was created, such laws did not exist. Since the Federal Government acted to protect rail workers with FELA, that law pre-empts state workers' compensation laws from applying to rail workers. Based upon a 1989 study of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the compensation for pain, suffering, disability and disfigurement experienced by an employee who suffers the amputation of an arm ranges from $8,311.00 in Wyoming to a maximum of $209,352.00 in Connecticut under state workers' compensation laws. There are no such limits which apply to FELA. FELA provides to railroad workers and their families extremely valuable protection and compensation. Should an injury occur, take steps to protect you and your family's rights immediately. The railroad will begin taking steps to protect its rights without delay; often while the injured employee is still hospitalized and receiving medical treatment.

This Act enables an employee to recover damages for an injury that is caused by the railroad's negligence. The burden is on the employee to prove that the company was at fault. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that if the railroad's negligence, however slight, contributed to the employee's injury or death, the railroad is liable for the resulting damages.

If the employee is partially at fault for his own injury, the total amount of damages awarded can be reduced. For example, if a jury finds that an injured worker's damages total $100,000.00, but it also determines that he was one-third to blame for his injury, the employee would collect $66,666.00, or 66% of his damages. However, it is important to remember than an employee's contributory negligence cannot totally defeat his claim under the ACT unless it is the "sole" cause of the injuries.