The Federal Employment Labor Act (FELA) is a law enacted by Congress in 1908 to protect railroad workers who have been injured on the job. Railroad workers are not entitled to collect workers’ compensation when they are hurt on the job because workers’ compensation is governed by State law. So if a railroad worker gets hurt on the job, his or her only remedy is under the FELA.
The FELA allows railroad workers to recover for two kinds of work injuries. The first is an injury caused by a single specific accident. The second way that a railroad worker can recover under the FELA is for a condition that developed over the course of several years, which can also be considered an “injury”. An injury that occurs over the course of several years can be called a “cumulative trauma disorder” or a “repetitive trauma injury” or simply a “wear-out injury”. These types of injuries refer not to one specific injury, but to numerous disorders, caused by the performance of repetitive work over a long period of time. They are simply “wear and tear” on the tissue surrounding joints, ligaments and tendons, and they can be the product of many factors. The risk factors associated with cumulative trauma include things like repetition, force, vibration, cold and posture.
When a railroad injury is due to a cumulative trauma disorder, determining what caused it is not usually obvious to the worker, and thus requires an expert medical opinion. For most cumulative trauma injuries, the courts follow the general rule that a “laymen” cannot determine the specific cause of the injury, and thus the courts have required expert testimony about causation.
If you are a railroad worker and you have an injury that you believe may have been caused by the type of work you do, you should consult with your doctor and be as specific as possible about your job tasks. You should also consult with a lawyer knowledgeable about the FELA, as there are certain specific laws like the statute of limitations that may prevent you from recovering against the railroad if you wait too long to file a claim or lawsuit.
The FELA attorneys at Lipkin & Higgins have been handling railroad cases for over 20 years. If you have been injured as an employee of a railroad company, as a passenger on a train, or any other railroad accident, call the experienced, AV rated lawyers at our Chicago law firm today at 312-857-1710.