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What Is the Difference Between FELA & Workers’ Compensation?

What is the Federal Employers Liability Act and How is it Different From Texas Workers' Comp?

You have most likely seen articles on how innocent bystanders and train passengers can obtain compensation via lawsuit. As an injured worker for a train or rail company, your sole financial remedy will be pursuing a claim through the Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA.

The train accident attorneys at Grossman Law Offices would like to give you some perspective on what makes the two different from one-another, ultimately showing what sort of an impact this will have on your post-accident financial recovery.

Questions answered on this page:

  • How does FELA differ from workers' comp?
  • Under FELA, what do railroad workers have to do to recovery injury compensation?
  • How can an experienced accident attorney help with your FELA case?

Key differences between FELA and worker's comp

Before discussing what makes a FELA claim unique, we must first consider who is covered by FELA and standard compensation law. FELA is reserved for railroad employees exclusively, and is federally mandated. Workers' compensation law, however, is a general catch-all for workers injured on the job, and is handled by the various states. Hence, a workers' comp case in our state would require a lawyer familiar with Texas law, while a FELA matter would demand experience in comprehending and analyzing Federal law. We at Grossman Law Offices can do just that.

Perhaps the most crucial different between FELA and workers' comp is that FELA is an "at fault" system, whereas workers' comp is a "no fault' system. This means that FELA claims have to prove negligence on the part of the railroad. If a railroad worker is injured and it is found that the injury is the worker's fault, the worker gets nothing. However, if it can be proven that the injuries were due to employer negligence, the railroad worker has the right to sue and recovery full compensation for their damages.

By contrast, since workers' fault is a "no fault" system, it doesn't matter whether it was the worker's or employer's negligence, which led to an injury; As long as the accident happened at work, the worker is covered. While an employee can't sue the employer under workers' comp, they are granted certain, minimal, but guaranteed benefits. While they don't have to go to court, workers injured under a workers' comp system rarely recover the full amount of their damages.

In a nutshell, the two systems break down like this: FELA does not guarantee benefits, while giving an injured worker the opportunity to recover full compensation for an injury, while workers' comp guarantees benefits, but there are few situations where seriously injured workers are made whole.

Partial recovery under FELA

Another interesting aspect of the FELA system is the burden of proof. It is among the lowest of any civil procedure in the country. While Texas has a modified comparative fault system, where a plaintiff must prove at least 51% of the fault rests with the defendants, FELA lawsuits allow injured workers to recover for any portion of the accident, which was caused by employer negligence.

Suppose an employee was 90% responsible for their own injury, while the employer negligence contributed 10% to the employee's injuries. In under Texas' modified comparative fault system, the employee would get nothing, because they were responsible for more than half of the injuries. However, under FELA, the injured worker can still recover that 10%.

While being able to recover at a lower fault threshold is an advantage for the employee, it also make FELA cases much more contentious, since every bit of blame and responsibility potentially costs money. In such cases, if the railroad admits any fault, they're are essentially admitting they owe money. That makes it very unlikely that they will do so.

Why you need an experienced FELA attorney.

Since FELA is an "at fault" system, where admitting any fault can potentially cost a railroad company money, it is crucial that you can prove liability in order to prevail in your claim. The only way to prove fault is with evidence and the only way to gather that evidence is with a thorough, third-party investigation. Injured workers cannot assume that the railroad, government, or their union will conduct the kind of investigation needed to bolster a FELA claim. In fact, without someone looking over their shoulder, railroads have been known, on occasion, to clean up an accident scene as quickly as possible to hide evidence.

With the help of an experienced train accident attorney, like those at Grossman Law Offices, you can get the independent investigation your case needs. In addition, once hired on, we set to work immediately, not just gathering evidence, but putting the railroad company on notice not to attempt to destroy any evidence, which could help an injured railroad workers' claim. In addition, Grossman Law Offices has decades of experience dealing with commercial insurance companies in high-stake negotiations, helping our clients to recover the maximum compensation that they are entitled to under the law.

If you would like to discuss your case, give us a call. Our number is (855) 326-0000. Grossman Law Offices' line is open to you 24/7. Call us for free, private consultation.

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