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Railroad Worker Injuries / FELA – FAQ

What steps should I take if I am injured while at work?

What is the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)?

How is the F.E.L.A. different than Worker's Compensation?

How do I prove that my employer negligence contributed to my injury?

What is OSHA and what are their regulations?

What are the regulations and obligations that my employer must follow under FELA 

What is ‘alternative dispute resolution’?

What is a “featherweight” proof of fault?

How does comparative negligence affect my FELA claim?

What if I am at fault for my own injury?


Railroad workers are exposed to chemicals, heavy machinery, and other equipment that can be life-altering. Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorney understand the dangerous work environment of anyone working on engines and railroads. If you work in the railroad industry you are protected with workers’ insurance like in any other field of work. Railroad workers are insured by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA, 1908) which differs from state workers’ compensation insurance. Unlike the no-fault system of workers’ compensation, filing for a FELA claim requires proof of employer ‘fault’ so that an insurance claim can be accepted.

The Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorneys are ready to help provide all the evidence you need to ensure your benefits claim is processed. To speak with an attorney please contact us at 949-423-3212.

The following section may answer some of your questions regarding the FELA application process and other information pertaining to Railroad worker injuries.


What steps should I take if I am injured while at work?

If you are injured at work, there are steps to follow to assure your benefits claim is honored. If you are injured while at work:

  • You should gather contact information of those who witnessed the accident
  • You should photograph your injury and the place where the injury occurred. If possible have a written document with as much detail of the accident. Include how it happened, where it happened, what equipment you were using, what regulation was violated that led to your accident.
  • You should obtain medical care as soon as possible from your own doctor
  • You should claim your medical coverage benefits after contacting the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). The RRB provides unemployment and sickness benefits to all railroad workers and their family
  • You should contact an attorney who is capable of representing your FELA claim in a court of law or in a negotiation

Railroad workers need to understand the laws that guide their workers’ compensation claims in order to file a successful claim against the railroad company. Contact an Orange County Workers' Compensation Attorney to learn more about the rights and protections that govern the construction industry.


What is the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)?

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) aims to protect and compensate railroad workers who suffer an injury from a work-related accident. FELA became a United States federal law in 1908 following the expansion of the railroad industry to ensure that railroad companies are held responsible for any negligence that may have caused a work-related injury or death.

Under FELA, you are entitled to medical coverage, lost wages, future wages, and other compensations that differ greatly from the state workers’ compensation benefits package. FELA ensures that you receive the most out of your claim, allowing the employee to find and establish fault to different factors that may have caused your injury. In doing so, the employee is allowed to pursue multiple lawsuits and receive multiple compensations and benefits.


How is the F.E.L.A. different than Worker's Compensation?

FELA and state workers’ compensation differ in various ways including the filing process, the types of compensations that the plaintiff receives, and its view on liability.

Under workers’ compensation law, all employees are capable of filing a workers’ compensation claim if they are hurt while on the job or performing a task that is within their ‘scope of employment’. Employees who suffer a work-related injury and file for workers’ compensation do not have to prove liability or that their employer negligence was at fault for the injury. Workers compensation laws ensure that the injured employee is given a benefits package which may include disability and medical benefits. The health of the employee is at the forefront of the law which is why under workers’ compensation, both parties give up their right to sue one another. Without the need to sue, a worker is capable of receiving immediate compensation.

On the other hand, FELA establishes a different more complex system that allows railroad employees to receive more benefits and compensations. Under FELA, employees file a claim that explains how their employer’s negligence contributed to their work-related injury. The plaintiff only needs to provide featherweight proof of employer fault to receive an insurance benefits package. Unlike state workers’ compensation insurance which provides a fixed compensation, under FELA railroad workers are able to recover additional benefits including lost wages, medical coverage, and benefits for specific claims against physical pain and mental suffering caused by the injury.

Railroad workers are exposed to different workplace dangers that can be life-altering which is why FELA allows additional compensations to be claimed in a lawsuit.


How do I prove that my employer negligence contributed to my injury?

Under the regulations established by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and those provided by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), your employer has the obligations and responsibility to maintain a safe working environment for all employees. To maintain a safe environment an employee must establish safety and workplace regulations that follow the codes of conduct established by FELA and OSHA.

If your employer violations any of the regulations that result in an injury, you would be able to file a claim against your employer. Your employer needs to only be partially responsible, one percent responsible is enough to have your FELA claim processed.

The Orange County Workers Attorneys advise you to learn the regulations and standards put in place by OSHA and FELA so that you can identify a safety hazard or breach of workers law.


What is OSHA and what are their regulations?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lies within the Department of Labor to regulate working conditions for labor workers across all industries. Under OSHA, the employer has the responsibility to maintain a safe working environment that operates according to the federal worker's rights laws. OSHA establishes that there are certain rights to the employees and that there are certain obligations all employers must follow to reduce the amount of work-related deaths and injuries.

OSHA establishes that employees have the right to:

  • Access and review the standards and regulations of their working environment. The employer should never hide their workplace regulations to their employees
  • Access OSHA posters around the workplace to explore the regulations of their working environment
  • Call for an OSHA inspection if they identify a violation of their regulations. If your employer repeatedly violates a regulation or fails to fix a safety issue you have the right to contact an OSHA representative without fear of harassment.
  • File an OSHA complaint anonymously
  • Access to medical records

Under OSHA, employers have the obligation to:

  • Create and train employees on hazard communication programs so that everyone is trained on how to handle an accident while on duty.
  • Provide safety and workplace training to assure that all employees understand the risks and dangers associated with their working environment. This means that the employer has the obligation to assure that all employees know how to handle equipment, machinery, and how to move around the working environment to reduce the probability of an injury.
  • Let employees know where they can find their medical and exposure records. Employers cannot keep this information from their employees and must provide them these documents at their request.
  • Provide visual representation of OSHA safety and workplace regulations so that all employees are informed of their own obligations and the safety standards to which the company is held

OSHA provides detailed laws that are aimed to produce the safest working environment for all employees. If your employer fails to uphold these regulations, you have the right to call for an inspection and have the employer fix this condition as soon as possible. If you are hurt as a result of a violation of the OSHA regulations, you will have a much easier time proving liability. 

To learn more about your employer's obligations under OSHA law please visit:


What are the regulations and obligations that my employer must follow under FELA?

Like the regulations established by OSHA, any violation of FELA regulations will be enough to file a FELA workers’ injury claim. Unlike workers’ compensation, FELA requires that the employer is at fault in order to provide medical, disability, and wage loss coverage.

If your employer violates the following regulations that lead to your injury you may use this as proof of employer negligence. Railroad workers must be provided with a safe work environment which means:

  • Employers have the responsibility to inspect the workplace and address any safety condition
  • Employers have to provide training to all staff members so that they are able to handle the different equipment and machinery that pertains to their job
  • Employers have the responsibility to provide enough supervision of all tasks that are taking place at a job site. Employers need to assure themselves that employees are not violating safety codes and every task carried out properly
  • Employers need to be able to create and enforce safety regulations in the workplace

Like with OSHA, any violations of FELA regulations will be enough to file a claim for injured workers’ insurance and other compensations.


What is ‘alternative dispute resolution’?

FELA claims are negotiated outside of a court with the railroad company, the employee filing claims, and the employee's attorney. This is a process that allows both parties to discuss the situation and figure out a benefits program that will work for the plaintiff. Court's order an “alternative dispute resolution” with efforts to solve the claim without having to go to court.

If the resolution fails you will need an attorney who can represent your case in the court of law. Please contact the Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorneys if you are involved in an alternative dispute resolution so that you have professional guidance throughout the negotiation.


What is a “featherweight” proof of fault?

An employee who files a FELA claim needs to provide some form of proof that working conditions led to his or her injury. In most cases, you may receive your FELA compensation benefits if you can prove that your employer was at least 1 % at fault for your injury.

There are many regulations and codes of conduct that your employer must follow. If you need help providing proof for your claims please contact the Orange County Workers Compensation Attorneys.


How does comparative negligence affect my FELA claim?

Under FELA, the railroad companies are allowed to defend against an injury claim by showing that the employee contributed to his or her injuries as a result of his or her own negligence. In FELA claims the plaintiff is given a percentage of the compensations and these compensations are affected by their contribution to their own injury. In other words, the railroad company will attempt to pay the least for your reparations by providing proof of employee negligence.


What if I am at fault for my own injury?

If you are at fault for your own injury you are still entitled to some form of compensation. If while performing a task your own negligence causes an accident which leads to an injury, you may find that additional factors contributed to your accident. Under FELA law, employees can claim benefits for an injury if they can provide proof of “contributory negligence”. Contributory negligence clause states that employees may file for FELA compensation claims if the railroad company is at least 1% responsible for the injury.

State law differs from state to state so it is crucial to consult an attorney in your region about your FELA rights and compensations. If you are a railroad employee in the state of California, you are entitled to speak with an attorney and discuss the best step by step process for your specific injury case. Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney can be reached at 949-423-3212.


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