There’s no doubt that railroading is a dangerous occupation. Unfortunately, the hazards of this occupation can lead to a loved one’s death, leaving family members wondering what their rights are. Whether a railroad worker develops cancer from years of exposure to toxic substances at the workplace or is killed on the job, it is important to know who may hold the railroad accountable for the loss of a loved one. Here’s what you should know:

What is FELA?

FELA, or Federal Employer’s Liability Act, is a law designed to protect railroad workers and their families for injuries or illnesses sustained on the job. FELA claims can generally be compared to worker’s compensation claims in that it allows damages to be recovered on behalf of an injured or deceased worker. However, this is where the similarities end.

With worker’s compensation, the employee is not required to provide proof of the company’s negligence. They only need to prove that an injury occurred while in the course and scope of the employment. In a FELA claim, however, the injured employee is required to show that the employer was not only negligent, but that the negligence was also a cause of the injury. While this is a more difficult standard to satisfy, there are generally more damages recoverable through a FELA claim.

Keep in mind, however, that the injury does not necessarily have to be immediate physical harm. Illnesses such as cancer as a result of exposure to toxic substances are also eligible for FELA payouts.

What FELA Death Benefits Can I Recover?

This is another area where worker’s compensation (WC) and FELA claims differ. With WC, the employee is mostly limited to medical expenses. With FELA, however, one can recover damages including but not limited to:

  • Reasonable and necessary medical expenses (past and future)
  • Loss of income (past and future)
  • Loss of the value of fringe benefits (past and future)
  • Loss of future wage earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering (past and future)
  • Physical impairment (disability)
  • Physical disfigurement
  • Emotional/psychological impairments
  • Loss of ability to enjoy a normal life

And in the event of a railroader’s death, the recoverable damages are those which will fairly compensate the relatives of the deceased employee and may include:

  • Loss of support claimed by a spouse or child
  • Loss of services claimed by a spouse
  • Loss of nurture and guidance claimed by a child

Who Can Bring a Claim in the Event of a Railroader’s Death?

Because FELA is in place to protect employees and their direct families, there are limitations on who is able to file claims. A FELA wrongful death claim can be pursued for the benefit of the surviving spouse and children of the employee. If the employee was single with no children, then the employee’s parents will be next in line to prosecute the claim. If the employee’s parents are deceased, then the next of kin dependent upon such employee would be in a position to assume the claim. In addition, a FELA death claim must be brought by the appointed estate representative.

If you have any other questions regarding a railroader’s death as it relates to FELA, Doran and Murphy can help.  As trained FELA lawyers who have advised and represented many other railroad workers and their families, we can offer valuable insights and help you get the compensation you deserve.

Contact us today to schedule your free FELA consultation. We’d love to help!