HOW DOES FELA MEASURE UP TO WORKERS’ COMPENSATION?
The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) allows railroad workers to file claims for compensation when injuries are suffered while working on the railroad. FELA predates the workers’ compensation system and provides similar types of coverage for injured workers. However, there are significant differences between the two systems and FELA can be a more complete remedy than traditional workers’ compensation.
As with workers’ compensation claims, individuals may file a FELA claim for medical expenses, and for either partial or permanent disabilities that result due to a job injury. FELA also allows individuals to seek compensation for mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of lifetime earning capacity. FELA covers traumatic injuries including sprains/strains, broken bones, and loss of limb. It also covers occupational diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, sight/hearing loss, repetitive motion injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome, and injuries that aggravate pre-existing conditions.
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Filing FELA Claims
Unlike workers’ compensation claims that require merely establishing that the injury occurred while on the job, FELA claims require establishing an employer’s negligence and that the employer’s negligent actions caused the worker to suffer the injury. Failing to properly train an employee, failing to provide sufficient protective equipment, failing to properly maintain the railroad yard, or failing to provide adequate staffing are examples of employer negligence. Further, individuals filing FELA claims may also be held accountable for a percentage share of their own actions that contributed to causing the injury. As such, FELA claims have a significantly higher burden of proof and require more investigation and documentation than workers’ compensation claims.
Individuals seeking to file workers’ compensation claims do so by filing the claim with the state workers’ compensation court or via the appropriate industrial court. Conversely, FELA claims may be filed by the individual or their Las Vegas personal injury lawyer within any state or federal court. This gives injured railroad workers considerably greater flexibility in deciding where to file their claim. Finally, unlike workers’ compensation claims which often have a statute of limitations for filing that is one year from the date of injury or the date the injury was diagnosed, injured railroad workers have up to three years from these dates to file a FELA claim.
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