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FELA Law Basics

Federal Employer's Liability Act Lawyers

Protecting Your Rights Under FELA

If you have been injured while working for a railroad company, your right to recovery for your losses is governed by the Federal Employers' Liability Act, also known as FELA. Your employer will be well versed in the provisions of FELA and will employ a team of investigators, private detectives and law firms in an effort to minimize your recovery. You will need experienced FELA attorneys to protect your interests.

At the offices of Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P., in Houston, our attorneys have over 51 years of combined experience representing railroad workers in personal injury claims. Contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.

FELA Basics

Before FELA was enacted in 1908, thousands of railroad workers died every year on the job. Unlike most other workers, railroad employees are generally exempt from coverage under state workers' compensation statutes. FELA allows injured railroad workers to recover compensation based on the negligence of the railroad company, in lieu of workers' compensation. FELA defines negligence as the railroad company's failure to use reasonable care.

The railroad companies have been opposed to FELA since its enactment and have tried unsuccessfully for almost a century to limit its reach or have it repealed. Instead, they have adopted a strategy of simply not paying damages due. Many injured railroad employees have gone years without compensation, even though liability has been clearly established.

"Comparative Negligence" Under FELA

FELA applies the concept of "comparative negligence" to all personal injury claims filed under the statute. Under a "comparative negligence" approach, the jury hears testimony about the negligent conduct of both parties--the railroad company and the railroad worker. Based on the evidence, the jury will determine what the injured party's damages are and how much should be allocated to each party. Sometimes accidents happen not just from the railroad's negligence but also from the worker’s too. The good thing about "comparative negligence" is, even though the jury may find a percentage of negligence on the worker, the injured worker still recovers the percentage of the jury's monetary award that is equal to the Railroad's percentage of negligence. By way of example only, if the worker is found 25% negligent and the railroad is found 75% negligent and the jury awards $875,000.00, then the Judgment would be that the worker recovers $656,250.00 plus costs. This is quite different than in almost all states where, if the injured person is found 51% or more negligent by the jury, the injured person would recover zero no matter how much the jury awarded for money damages. FELA is good for you!

Damages for Pain and Suffering

State or federal workers' compensation statutes generally provide damages based on a specific schedule but DO NOT allow for money damages for pain and suffering or mental anguish. This is not true under FELA. Under FELA, the jury hears evidence of your pain and suffering and not just your earning loss or how much medical expenses there were. Often times, this can be the largest monetary aspect of a jury award and rightly so. Why shouldn't a jury consider this aspect of your loss? When someone is hurt working for the railroad, they are afraid to make a claim or even to report it! Do not be stupid! Document your injury immediately and make sure you say what was wrong that caused your injury. Examples include a loose ballast, too large of ballast causing a fall, vegetation too high that caused you to fall, bad equipment, poorly maintained equipment, oil or grease on the ladder or stairs, no flashlight batteries, poorly lit areas at night, having to use the incorrect tool to perform a job, having one man do something it should take two to complete, ice, and so on.

There are time limitations that govern people injured under FELA. Generally speaking it is 3 years from date of Injury. However, it is much smarter to get an attorney involved early to preserve evidence.

Contact Us Immediately

The process for recovery under FELA for a non-lawyer is complicated and can be very intimidating. The railroad will immediately use their claims people to try to build a case against you to make the process even more difficult for you. You need Gordon, Elias & Seely on your side sooner rather than later to protect your interests. Contact Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P., for a free initial consultation.

51 years of Combined Experience Representing Injured Railroad Workers

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