While the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) was established to protect workers’ rights, an injured worker may lose those rights if they do not take action soon enough after their injury. There are deadlines for filing FELA claims and it is wise to consult an experienced FELA attorney to provide guidance with the filing process and help protect your rights.
Unlike workers’ compensation programs, under FELA, the employer must have contributed in some way to the injuring accident, through either negligence or fault. As long as the employer is at fault to some degree, even if the injured worker also contributed some fault to the accident, the employer will still have some degree of liability. This fault definition is much more liberal than most other compensation programs.
However, if the railroad company was in violation of any of the federal acts that regulate safety and maintenance, then the company may be held liable. Even if the violation cannot be shown to have a direct cause on the particular injuring accident, the company can still be held liable for the injuries.
There are no administering agencies for FELA claims the way that there are state agencies to handle workers’ compensation claims. Instead, FELA provides the right of the injured worker to sue the employer at either the state or federal level if the injured worker does not feel that they are being offered adequate compensation.
There is a statute of limitations of three years from the date of injury for filing a FELA case. In cases involving repetitive action injuries or industrial disease, determining the three year period can become quite complex. If the claim is not filed within the three year period, then the injured worker permanently loses all rights to receive compensation for the injury. So, it is wise to seek medical attention and to consult an experienced FELA attorney as soon as there has been an injury to determine if there is cause for filing a claim and to establish the deadline as soon as possible.
In some cases, an investigation will need to be performed. Coworkers and witnesses will need to be interviewed. Medical experts will need to assemble reports. All of these things take time, so it is in your best interest, if you have suffered an injury as a result of railroad negligence, to contact a FELA lawyer immediately in order to ensure that your rights are protected.