What’s different about filing a claim as an injured railroad worker?
Railroad tracks first appeared in Georgia nearly 200 years ago, and have played an important role in the state’s history ever since. Today, there are more than 5,000 miles of railroad lines, and thousands of employees are hired to maintain and operate them.
Sadly, railroad workers face untold hazards in the course of their duties.
Most injured workers in Georgia must go through the state workers’ comp system. However, railroad workers are an exception. They are covered by a federal program known as the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
Don’t take your employer at their word if they say your workplace injury isn’t covered.
Contact us today for your free consultation.
What is FELA?
Railroads experienced significant expansion in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, that expansion also resulted in an exceptional number of injuries. In fact, President Benjamin Harrison once claimed that railroad workers experienced as many dangers as soldiers at war.
Recognizing the hazards, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act in 1908. In doing so, they hoped that railroads would make the safety of their employees a top priority.
Railroad workers facing an on-the-job injury are not eligible for workers’ compensation. Instead, they must file a FELA claim to cover lost wages, medical expenses and other damages.
FELA vs. workers’ compensation
FELA is similar to workers’ compensation. However, there is an important difference. Workers’ compensation allows claims on a no-fault basis. This means that individuals do not have to prove their employer was negligent before drawing benefits.
FELA claims are also subject to the comparative negligence rule. With comparative negligence, any amount you receive is reduced by a percentage based upon your own negligence. For example, if you are deemed 20 percent negligent, that amount will be deducted from your final award.
Another difference between FELA and workers’ comp claims is that injured workers can be awarded pain and suffering damages through a FELA claim, whereas workers’ comp does not compensate injured workers for non-monetary damages. This is a benefit to filing a FELA claim.
What is the FELA claims process?
Following an injury, seek medical attention first and then report the incident to your employer as soon as reasonably possible. You should generally do so within 15 days of your accident unless extenuating circumstances prevent you.
If you fall under one of the many Georgia railroad unions such as the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), you should also report the injury to your union steward. This should also be done within the 15-day timeframe whenever possible.
Your employer (and union representative, if applicable) will file a written report. Next, an investigation will take place to determine if your injuries were due to negligence on the part of the railroad. This process can take weeks or even months, especially if the accident involved serious injury or death.
If negligence is determined, the railroad company may offer you a settlement. Since railroad injuries are often very complex, it would be wise to have an attorney review your offer. Once you have agreed to a settlement, it can be difficult if not impossible to modify it.
Fighting a denied FELA claim
FELA claims are commonly denied at first. However, you are not out of options just because your claim was turned down. You could be eligible to file a civil claims action instead.
A civil lawsuit begins with a complaint. A complaint is a type of pleading that spells out your claim and alleges negligence on the part of the railroad. To establish negligence, you must prove the following:
- That the defendant owed you a duty of care
- That duty of care was breached
- The breach was the direct cause of your injury
- There were actual damages as a result
After receiving your complaint, the railroad company will have a set amount of time in which to file an answer. Once the answer is received, either party can then file motions or a request for the production of documents.
Our record of winning accident cases in Georgia speaks for itself:
Why consult a Georgia work injury attorney?
In any FELA claim, the deck is already stacked against you. Georgia railroad companies all hire teams of lawyers to protect their bottom line. They know all the loopholes and are aware of just how many hoops they can legally make you jump through. The other side’s attorneys will try to exploit weaknesses in the FELA law to deny your claim and keep money in the pockets of big railroad companies.
When they can’t deny a claim, insurance companies will sometimes stall them instead. In doing so, they are hoping you will forget about collecting any money. Workers’ compensation attorneys are often able to move things along when the injured party cannot.
FELA claims are taken more seriously when they are filed by a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer. And if a civil lawsuit becomes necessary, you’ll already have someone who is familiar with your case. Give yourself the best possible odds of success by allowing us to handle your FELA claim upfront.
When it comes to filing FELA claims, railroad employees can often use help. That’s where Gerber & Holder comes in, helping you facilitate the FELA claims process and make the most of your benefits. We are familiar with all aspects of Georgia workers’ compensation law.