FELA Damages/Types of Claims
Damages Recoverable Under FELA
The potential damages recoverable under FELA are far greater than those available to any other type of worker. However, before there can be any recovery at all, under FELA the injured railroad employee, or the family of a deceased railroad employee has the burden of gathering, preserving, and presenting witness testimony and other evidence. So, railroad workers run a particular risk in attempting to recover fair and adequate damages for themselves and their families.
Here are some typical damages that may be recoverable by an injured railroad worker:
- All past and future medical expenses necessary for the treatment of injuries
- Lost wages from the date of the accident until the worker returns to work and/or into the future until the end of the projected work life
- Pain and physical suffering
- Mental anxiety, including worry about the ability to work
In cases of serious injury, an accurate and informed appraisal of all past and potential losses and damages cannot be made without the aid of a competent and experienced FELA attorney skilled in negotiation and knowledgeable in assessing medical information and the relationship between disability and earning capacity.
Asbestos-containing materials, including insulation, gaskets, and brake and friction products, were widely used for many years in the railroad industry. Neither asbestos manufacturers nor the railroads warned of the hazards of exposure to asbestos dust. As a result, today many workers suffer from asbestos-related diseases.
These diseases include asbestosis, a scarring of the lung and/or its lining. This disease is characterized by shortness of breath and other breathing problems and may be present in combination with other conditions, such as those caused by smoking. Asbestos is also associated with cancers of the respiratory and digestive systems.
To determine whether asbestos-related disease is present, a specialist in occupational disease should be consulted. Thornton & Naumes maintains a register of such specialists and can provide referrals.
If you suspect that you may have an asbestos-related disease, it is important that you be examined. Early detection is the best medical protection. You only have three years from the date you knew or should have known of an asbestos disease to file a claim.
Thornton & Naumes has experience handling asbestos claims. Please see our asbestos/mesothelioma page for additional information.
Statute of limitations: Suit must be filed within 3 years
The injured worker has only three years from the date of his or her accident to file a lawsuit against the railroad in court. Notifying the claim department, filing a claim with the railroad claim department, and being in the midst of negotiations for settlement with the railroad claim department, are not excuses for not filing the lawsuit within three years.
As mentioned earlier, in cases involving an occupational disease, such as asbestosis, the three-year period starts to run when employees first discovers they have contracted a work-related disease.
Medical treatment: See your own doctor
Generally, when workers need medical attention, it is best to see their own doctor. If a worker does not have a family doctor, it is preferable to see a doctor who is not associated with the railroad.
Railroad Retirement Board benefits
As experienced FELA litigators, the attorneys at Thornton & Naumes regularly interact with the Railroad Retirement Board concerning sickness benefits, securing service credits, and the qualifications necessary to obtain a Railroad Retirement Board occupational or permanent disability annuity.
When to retain a lawyer
Even when an injured employee is able to return to work, it is advisable to obtain the services of a competent FELA attorney. In some circumstances, a railroad employer returns the employee to work while the settlement is pending, only to terminate the employee after settlement. If a railroad employee sustains any significant injury, it is foolhardy not to be represented by an experienced FELA attorney.
FELA and the National Railroad Adjustment Board both hold that neither the injured railroad worker who brings a lawsuit nor the railroad workers who testify on the injured worker’s behalf can be subjected to termination or other types of reprisals by the railroad. FELA provides that:
Whoever by threat, intimidation, order, rule, contract regulation, or device whatsoever...or whoever discharges or otherwise disciplines or attempts to discipline any employee for furnishing such information to a person in interest shall upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year or by both such fine and imprisonment for each offense.
Releases: Know what you are signing
When an injured employee settles a claim with the railroad, the employee is required to sign a release before receiving payment. A release is a final statement between the parties. By accepting the settlement and signing a release, the injured worker gives up all claims against the railroad resulting from that injury. Generally, once a release is signed, it is final and no further claim can be made, even if the injury becomes much more serious than anticipated. Employees should be sure of the extent of their injuries before agreeing to a settlement.
Federal Rail Safety Act protects whistleblowers
The Federal Rail Safety Act sets standards for railroad safety and establishes protections for workers who report violations. Railroad workers cannot be discharged, demoted, suspended, reprimanded or discriminated against for:
- Filing a complaint
- Cooperating with an investigation of alleged violations
- Providing information to a federal agency
- Testifying in enforcement proceedings
- Refusing to work in hazardous conditions
For additional information, please see—
Trust our Massachusetts FELA attorneys to help
Contact the Boston law firm of Thornton & Naumes online or at 1.888.491.9726 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in workplace injury litigation. You have nothing to risk. We offer a fair and accurate assessment of your case, and, perhaps, some hope.