Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act,1 otherwise known as FELA, in 1908 in response to the high number of railroad deaths. Under FELA, railroad workers who are not covered by regular workers’ compensation laws are able to sue railroad companies for their on-the-job injuries.
FELA compensation is not awarded automatically. Unlike workers’ compensation provisions in state laws, FELA requires the injured railroader to prove that the railroad was “legally negligent” in causing the injury. After proving negligence, the injured railroader is entitled to full compensation. Such compensation includes payment for lost wages, medical and rehabilitation expenses, and for pain and suffering. As FELA allows a railroad worker to make a claim for damages which are not covered under New York State Workers’ Compensation Laws, the compensation that a railroad worker may receive under FELA may be greater than that provided by State Worker’s Compensation for non-railroaders.