FELA: Federal Employers Liability Act

When a worker is injured in New York State, he/she is barred by law from suing his employer. His rights are limited by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Laws which permit him only to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. The only exceptions to this rule are railroad and ship workers. Railroad workers are covered under a special Federal law called the Federal Employers Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. §51. This law permits any railroad worker to sue his railroad employer when he is injured due to the negligence, in whole or in part, of the railroad. As such, to recover under the FELA, one must first establish some negligence on the part of the railroad. Again, this differs from State Workers’ Compensation laws which require no such proof.

The amount of negligence that must be demonstrated is slight. It must be shown that the railroad failed to provide a reasonably safe place to work. There is also a special law which govern accidents involving locomotive engines called the Boiler Inspection and Equipment Act, 45 U.S.C. §11. This Act governs slips and falls on engines and their apertanences. Another special law contained within the FELA framework is the Safety Appliance and Equipment Act, 45 U.S.C. §23. This Act covers any and all accidents involving hand-hold and foot sills on railroad cars.

In order to decide whether or not you have an FELA lawsuit, a thorough investigation must be conducted to determine the facts of each particular case. Like all lawsuits there is an applicable Statute of Limitations. This is the time period in which you have to bring a claim. The FELA statute mandates that you bring a lawsuit within three years of the date of accident. If you do not bring a claim within three years, your claim is barred and you have no right to recovery. After suffering an accident, it is critical that you seek immediate medical care and attention. It is important that you tell the health care provider where and exactly how you were injured. It is also important to make a list of any witnesses, their addresses and phone numbers so that the case can be properly investigated.