The Federal Employers' Liability Act – better known as the FELA – is the federal law that deals with the
rights to compensation for a railroad worker injured on the job. The FELA was enacted in 1908 to protect
railroad workers injured in the course of their work. Because injured railroad workers are not eligible for
Workers’ Compensation, the FELA gives them the right, under certain circumstances, to recover compensation
their railroad employer if they are injured on the job.
Some Circumstances where FELA provides protection:
The FELA requires railroad companies to provide their employees a reasonably safe place to work, no matter
where the employee is working. This means that the railroad has a duty to provide its employees things
- Safe walking and yard conditions.
- Safe transportation between hotels or terminals (whether or not the railroad provides this directly or
through another company).
- Safe accommodations when laying over.
- Adequate lighting in yards and other places where the employee may work at night.
- Safe tools and equipment.
- Safe locomotives - that must be free from defects/ Locomotive Inspection Act violations.
- Safe cars - free from defects/Safety Appliance Act violations.
- Adequate training, supervision, and manpower to perform the job safely.
- Competent co-workers. If a railroader is injured by a co-worker's negligence, the railroad is
The above is not an exclusive list, there may be many other ways the railroad, or it's agents, (such as limo/
jitney companies or hotels where employees are provided for required rest between runs) may be negligent. If you
have any questions whether your injury is covered, please talk to a knowledgeable attorney.
The railroad is obligated to inspect its equipment and work areas for unsafe conditions and remedy those
conditions as soon as reasonably possible. Unlike state Workers’ Compensation statutes, the FELA is
. This means that, in most cases, an injured worker has to prove that the railroad was
negligent to recover damages. A railroad is liable to pay monetary damages to an injured worker if the
railroad’s negligence was a cause, in whole or in part, of the worker’s injury. In other words, even if the
railroad’s negligence was only one of several causes of an injury, the railroad is liable for damages to the
injured worker or the deceased worker’s dependents. The railroad is statutorily prohibited from arguing that an
injured worker assumed the risk of his employment in FELA cases.