Railroad worker (FELA) injuries

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Railroad workers in Illinois who suffer job-related injuries are covered under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) rather than traditional state workers' compensation laws. FELA allows injured workers to seek compensation directly from their employers by proving negligence. Understanding your rights under FELA is crucial to securing the benefits and support you deserve if you are a railroad worker injured on the job in Illinois.

Definition and Requirements 

What is FELA? The Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) is a federal law that protects railroad workers injured on the job. Unlike no-fault workers' compensation systems, FELA requires the injured worker to prove their employer's negligence caused the injury. If successful, the worker can recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related costs.

Who is Covered? FELA covers all railroad workers engaged in interstate commerce, including train crews, maintenance workers, signal and communication workers, yard workers, and clerks whose duties are related to interstate rail operations.

Proving Negligence

To recover damages under FELA, you must prove that your employer's negligence played a role, however slight, in causing your injury. Negligence can include failure to provide a safe working environment, inadequate training or supervision, defective equipment, violation of safety regulations, or assigning tasks beyond a worker's physical capabilities.

Comparative Negligence FELA allows for comparative negligence, meaning your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault. This is different from some states' workers' compensation laws, which bar recovery if the worker was at all negligent.

Damages Available Under FELA, you can recover a wide range of damages, including past and future medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and permanent disability or disfigurement. There is no cap on the amount of damages you can recover.

Legal Process for FELA Claims

  1. Initial Consultation

    • Meet with an experienced FELA attorney to discuss your case

    • Provide details about your injury, employment, and medical treatment

    • Your attorney will assess the strength of your claim and explain your legal options

  2. Investigation and Evidence Gathering

    • Report the injury to your employer immediately

    • Seek medical attention and follow your treatment plan

    • Your attorney will gather evidence to support your claim, such as incident reports, witness statements, medical records, and expert opinions

    • They will also investigate your employer's negligence and safety record

  3. Filing the Lawsuit

    • Your attorney will file a FELA lawsuit in state or federal court within the three-year statute of limitations

    • They will draft and serve a complaint on your employer, outlining the facts of your case and the damages sought

  4. Discovery and Pretrial Proceedings

    • Both sides will engage in discovery, exchanging relevant documents and information

    • Your attorney will take depositions of witnesses, experts, and your employer's representatives

    • They will also respond to your employer's discovery requests and defend your deposition

    • Pretrial motions may be filed to resolve legal issues or exclude evidence

  5. Settlement Negotiations

    • Your attorney will engage in settlement negotiations with your employer's lawyers or insurance representatives

    • They will advocate for a fair settlement that covers your past and future damages

    • If a settlement is reached, your attorney will review the terms with you and ensure payment

  6. Trial (if necessary)

    • If a settlement cannot be reached, your case will proceed to trial before a judge and jury

    • Your attorney will present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and argue your case

    • They will fight to secure a favorable verdict and maximum compensation for your injuries

  7. Post-Trial Proceedings and Appeals

    • If you win at trial, your attorney will ensure the judgment is properly entered and enforced

    • If you lose, they will assess grounds for appeal and advise you on the appellate process

    • Your attorney will continue to protect your rights and interests until your case is fully resolved

Throughout the process, your FELA attorney will provide expert guidance, handle complex legal proceedings, and fight to secure the compensation you deserve. With their support, you can focus on your recovery while holding your employer accountable for their negligence.

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