FELA vs. State Workers’ Compensation Claims

Workers’ compensation insurance covers most workplace injuries. However, workers’ compensation does not cover railroad employees injured at work. It also does not cover railroad workers who develop an occupational illness. Railroad employees are covered for workplace injuries and illnesses by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Even though FELA and workers’ compensation insurance share many similarities, there are important differences between the two types of coverage that railroad workers need to understand.

Proving Fault and Negligence for a Railroad Workplace Injury

Under a state’s workers’ compensation laws, an injured employee does not need to prove fault or negligence by the employer to be eligible for workers’ comp benefits. Proving that the injury or illness occurred during the normal course of employment is typically sufficient to receive workers’ comp benefits, even if the employee was partially responsible for causing the injury.

However, a railroad employee must prove that an employer’s negligence contributed to the cause of the accident. For example, the employer breached its duty of care by failing to maintain equipment or failing to provide a safe work environment. If an employee cannot prove the employer was negligent, the employee is not eligible for FELA benefits.

Furthermore, if the employer can prove that the railroad employee’s actions contributed to the cause of the injury, the employee’s compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the employee. For example, if a railroad worker is found to be 25 percent at fault for the cause of the injury, the compensation awarded for the FELA claim is reduced by 25 percent.

FELA Claims Can Be Filed in Federal or State Court

A railroad employee has the right to file a FELA claim in federal or state court and have a jury decide the matter. On the other hand, state laws govern workers’ compensation claims. An injured worker covered by workers’ compensation insurance cannot sue an employer in court except under a few extremely limited circumstances, such as in the case of an employer intentionally inflicting harm on an employee.

In most cases, a workers’ comp claim is settled based on a predetermined schedule of compensation enacted by state legislatures. Predetermined compensation schedules do not restrict the settlement of a FELA claim.

Compensation in a FELA Claim and a Workers’ Comp Claim

Both FELA and workers’ compensation insurance pays for reasonable and necessary medical treatment for an injured worker. However, the compensation available in a FELA claim for other damages and losses incurred by the injured railroad worker is much broader than the compensation available under workers’ compensation laws.

An injured railroad employee can receive full compensation for all lost income. Pursuant to workers’ compensation laws, an injured employee is only entitled to receive reimbursement for a portion of lost income. Also, the compensation available for partial or total disability and impairment in a FELA claim is unlimited. In a workers’ comp claim, the compensation for partial or total disability is capped at specific amounts. The amounts vary by state.

Railroad workers injured on the job may also receive compensation for emotional distress, pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Workers’ compensation insurance does not provide compensation for pain or suffering.

Do I Need a Maryland FELA Attorney to file a Railroad Work Injury Claim?

Filing a FELA claim may appear to be a straightforward process. However, FELA claims can be very complex. An employer may fight the claim by denying negligence and liability. The company may claim that the railroad worker is solely at fault for the cause of the injury. If the railroad company is successful in its defense of the FELA claim, the injured railroad worker may receive no compensation for his or her injury and losses.

After reporting the injury to the company and your union representative, it is wise to seek the advice of an experienced Maryland FELA claims attorney. An attorney can explain your legal rights and responsibilities under the Federal Employers Liability Act.

Your attorney also handles all communication and negotiations with your employer and calculates the value of your claim. If your employer refuses to negotiate a fair settlement, your attorney can prepare and file a FELA lawsuit on your behalf.

The Pinder Plotkin Legal Team Can Help You with Your FELA Claim

Our FELA attorneys handle all types of railroad work-related injury claims. We assist you with every aspect of your claim, including investigating the cause of your injury, gathering evidence to prove negligence, and working to maximize the amount of compensation you receive for your claim.

If you were injured at work, call Pinder Plotkin now at 410-661-9440 for a free consultation with one of our Maryland railroad injury lawyers.

For more info. on Workers’ Compensation check out our e-book series! Below you’ll find a preview of the e-book with the first five chapters.

Chapter 5 – How Do I Get Paid for My Workers’ Compensation Claim

Chapter 4 – Your Right to Medical Treatment After a Workplace Injury

Chapter 3 – How Do I Report an Injury at Work?

Chapter 2 – Who is Covered by Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Maryland? 

Chapter 1 – What is Workers’ Comp?


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