Injured railroad workers often wonder how long it will take to recover for their injuries under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). The amount of time a claim takes can vary widely depending on the complexity of the injuries, how quickly the court dockets are moving, whether the case settles or is litigated to a verdict, and whether either side appeals.


Complexity of the Injuries

How quickly a railroader’s case moves can often depend upon how quickly and how well they recover from their injuries. If a worker has a slow, complicated medical recovery from their injuries, their claim will take longer as their attorney waits to see what the extent of the injuries are. Resolving a case too quickly can result in a worker not being compensated for complications or side effects that don’t show up immediately. Typically, a worker should reach “maximum medical improvement”/”maximum medical recovery” prior to resolving a case. When the worker has reached the level to which they are going to recover from their injuries, an attorney can assess the damages for the past, but also into the future. Because railroad workers typically can’t bring a second case for the same injury, an experienced attorney will encourage them to wait before attempting to resolve the case on their behalf.

How Quickly the Dockets Are Moving

The Federal Employers’ Liability Act has a special provision that allows for concurrent jurisdiction. Concurrent jurisdiction means that both Federal and State courts have jurisdiction over hearing the case. The plaintiff (the injured worker) decides whether to file in State Court or Federal Court. Additionally, the venue of the case may depend on where the injured worker lives, where the injury happened and where the railroad’s headquarters are located. All of these various venues move at different speeds due to the caseloads of those courts. Some venues move very quickly, with cases going to trial within a year of filing. Others can take years before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. The railroad injury attorneys at Doran & Murphy able to analyze the various options of where to file a FELA lawsuit. The choice of where to file can have a large impact on how long the case takes.

Whether the Case Settles or is Litigated to Verdict

More often than not, cases resolve prior to trial. Trials are very expensive and risky, so both sides are often motivated to settle a case without a trial. This can happen at any point in a FELA case, sometimes before a case is even filed in court. Other times, it may happen just before the jury is about to render their verdict – or sometimes even after the verdict.

Whether Either Side Appeals

An appeal can cause a delay in a FELA case at various points. Sometimes, one of the sides may appeal a judge’s decision while the parties are getting ready to try the case. Other times, one of the sides may appeal something that happened during the trial. Appeals can add long delays into the case, and may be seen as a tactic by one side or the other to make things take longer. However, the issues raised on appeal can be important to ensure everyone gets a fair trial.

How long a FELA case takes is not an easy question to answer, and will depend upon the injuries, where the case is filed and whether there are any appeals. If you have questions about the process of bringing a FELA case, please contact us for a free consultation.