What happens when I make a FELA claim?
When you accepted the job as a rail worker, you probably learned that any injuries you suffer during the course of your duties are not covered by workers’ compensation as they are in most other industries. The federal government understood the inherent dangers of your job, so Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act to ensure your employer always takes the utmost care in protecting your safety.
FELA claims differ from workers’ compensation in that you address them directly to your employer or through a civil lawsuit if you can show that negligence on their part caused your injuries. The point is to hold railroad companies to the highest standard of safety by making them liable for workers who suffer injuries due to preventable hazardous conditions. If you suffer injuries as a rail worker, there are steps you must follow to file a claim through FELA.
The FELA process
Your first step after your injury should be to contact a Louisiana attorney with FELA experience. This will provide you with the best opportunity for minimizing any mistakes or oversights in your claim. Your employer will require you to complete an accident report, and the railroad will begin an investigation into your claim at the same time your attorney conducts his or her own investigation. At this point, the railroad may offer you a settlement, and your legal counsel will advise you if the offer is adequate.
If you and the railroad do not agree to a settlement, your attorney will likely file a lawsuit against the railroad in civil court. Such a process typically proceeds as follows:
- The two sides will complete the discovery phase during which they exchange all relevant documents and depositions.
- You may go through mediation in an attempt to reach a settlement on at least some of the issues in question.
- If the matter is still unresolved, you will likely go to trial.
- During the trial, each side will present its evidence for the judge or jury.
- The judge or jury will reach a verdict, but the losing side has a limited amount of time to appeal the decision.
Once you and the railroad or your employer agree to the terms of a settlement, neither side can appeal the decision. The entire process may take only a few months, but such cases have been known to stretch into years. As with any lawsuit, FELA cases resolve more quickly when both sides can come to agreements outside the courtroom. However, you want to be certain you do not agree to any conditions that are not in your best interests.