The legal system is a bit different for railroad workers injured on the job. People who work on all types of railroads — including short line tracks, as long as they eventually connect to an interstate line — may be eligible for compensation through the Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA. This is not a simple workers' compensation claim, nor is it your typical personal injury case.
Congress passed the current form of the FELA in 1908 to protect railroad workers, who had experienced far too many uncompensated occupational injuries in the lead-up to the 20th century. This law only applies to employees who work on railroads, and it operates very differently than other fields of personal injury law.
It's critical for railroad workers to respond to a workplace injury in a way that supports their case right from the beginning. This includes a prompt phone call to attorneys who are deeply experienced in FELA laws, but in addition to that crucial step, here's what you should do if you sustain an injury on a railroad workplace task:
If your injury is serious or life-threatening, — seek immediate medical attention from a doctor or hospital of your choice! Under the FELA, you get to choose where you go for medical treatment. Do not let the railroad send you to their doctors or dictate where you go.
Report the injury and fill out an injury report. Make sure you fill out an official injury report with unsafe equipment and conditions noted on the report. Do NOT place any blame on yourself.Pay special attention to preventable causes such as unsafe equipment, cluttered aisles, lapses in protocol, or other conditions that an attentive employer could have eliminated.
Call an attorney who specializes in FELA law. As soon as the railroad becomes aware of your injury, they will assign a team of attorneys and claim agents to investigate your injury. It is critical that you contact an experienced FELA attorney as soon as possible to preserve evidence, talk to witnesses, and begin working on your side of the case.
Keep records of every penny you spend on medical expenses, both now and in the future. Any payment you owe to physicians for issues related to your injury may be eligible for coverage under FELA.
Most importantly, remember step 4: Reach out to an experienced FELA attorney as soon as you possibly can. Railroad claims teams know all the tricks to make injuries seem less severe than they may have been; but your own legal team can protect your claim from the start. For railroad workers injured on the job, there's no better way to ensure fair compensation than to bring in attorneys as early in the process as possible.