Railroad workers generally do not have worker's compensation because they are not really under the jurisdiction of any state so the railroad companies are not required to provide this type of insurance coverage.
So what if a railroad worker gets disabled at work; how can he get compensation from his employer?
Well, that is where the Federal Employer's Liability Act disability benefits enter the picture.
FELA vs. Worker's Compensation
Before you start thinking that FELA is the federal equivalent of the state's worker's compensation, you better look at the major differences between the two.
Worker's compensation is a type of insurance coverage that can be taken advantage of by employees who sustained a disabling injury at work.
In exchange for the income that the employee will receive through worker's compensation, he or she would have to surrender their right to sue the employer.
FELA disability benefits, on the other hand, go the opposite direction.
What FELA actually gives the railroad employees is the right to sue the railroad company for damages sustained from the accident while at work.
In many ways, FELA is more like the federal equivalent of personal injury laws in the state level.
The two main benefits given by FELA are:
- Entitles railroad workers the right to sue their employers for injuries and other damages.
- Entitles qualified family members to get death benefits if their loved-ones was killed on the job.
As with most personal injury cases in the state level; FELA also uses the negligence tort to prove an employer's liability.
It also allows the jury to determine damages to be awarded on a comparative negligence basis.
This means that not only is the employer's liability in the accident the only one to be measured, but yours as well.
If the court determines that you are partially at fault for the accident then the jury will determine how much of your actions (or inactions) caused the accident and it will be subtracted from the total damages computed.
There are many who believe that railroad companies should just be required by the government to implement an equivalent of the worker's compensation to save the trouble of going through the court systems to get compensation.
Even some railroad companies are becoming open to the idea as the cost of long term court defense can also take its toll on the company.
However, as of now, all efforts to revise the FELA have been rebuffed by Congress.
The best option would be to hire an employment law attorney who specializes in FELA disability benefits to represent you in your case.