The History of the Federal Employers Liability Act

Both employers and employees should be well informed about the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) in order to understand rights and responsibilities related to the act. Learning about the history of FELA can help workers who are injured on the job understand why they are afforded certain rights and how to proceed following an accident in order to collect needed compensation. The Beginning of FELA The initial adoption of FELA was a response to the dangerous work environment that railroad workers were exposed to when the U.S. expanded westward in the late 19th century. Although the rate of accidents on the railroad has decreased as expansion has ended and technology has afforded workers more on-the-job safety, working on the railroad can still be considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. The dangers of working on the railroad were first formally brought to the attention of the House of Representatives in 1889 when President Benjamin Harrison cited injuries and deaths to display the need for such an act. It was 17 years before FELA was adopted. There have been several attempts to revise or remove FELA since it was enacted. An amendment was added to the act in 1939 to protect employees who report injuries and require that comparative negligence be proven in order for an employee to collect compensation under FELA. What Does FELA Do? FELA allows the injured worker to collect compensation if their employer acted negligently in a way that contributed to their injuries. Because railroad workers face danger every day, it may be possible that injuries not resulting from negligence will fall under worker’s compensation instead of FELA. Employers of railroad workers may be held liable if an injury resulting from an accident is suffered by an employee, and there are other instances in which these employers are liable years after an employee has left the company. Long term illnesses that can be tied to exposure to toxic materials used in railroading can allow a current or former employee to pursue compensation for ongoing medical expenses and inability to work. Hiring a FELA Attorney FELA attorneys have the knowledge needed to handle accidents related to the dangers of railroad jobs. While there are many personal injury attorneys to choose from, a train accident attorney has the specialized training needed to understand FELA and how it applies to the situation at hand. FELA is intended to protect railroad employees in case of an accident on the job. Anyone affected by an injury or illness related to working on the railroad should contact an experienced attorney for assistance.