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Railroad workers in Illinois and around the country have extremely dangerous jobs, and the work they perform was even more hazardous in 1908 when Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act. FELA ensures that railroad workers are able to seek compensation when they are injured in on-the-job accidents, but the claims process differs from state workers’ compensation programs in a key way. Fault does not have to be established for an injured or sick worker to receive workers’ compensation benefits, but individuals who file FELA claims must show that some sort of negligence contributed to their injuries.

Establishing negligence

In order for a FELA claim to be successful, the injured railroad worker must establish that their employer, another worker, or a supplier or equipment manufacturer acted negligently. This can be done by showing that the railroad company provided an unsafe workplace environment, did not conduct regular inspections, offered inadequate training or failed to follow safety regulations.

Burden of proof

In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff must convince the court that the defendant’s negligent actions were the proximate cause of their harm. This is known as proving causation. In FELA claims, injured railroad workers must only establish that the negligent act played a role. This is often done by showing that railroad companies violated laws like the Safety Appliance Act or Boiler Inspection Act or flouted Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

Compensation in FELA cases

When pursuing FELA claims, attorneys with experience in this area may seek compensation for an injured railroad worker’s lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering and mental anguish. They could also prepare to counter claims of the victim’s negligence that may be made by the railroad company involved.