FELA railroad workers

Railroad Injuries | FELA Claims

Federal Employees Liability Act | Minnesota FELA Lawyers

In 1908, Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) in response to the high number of railroad deaths in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Before FELA was enacted, several workers were being treated unfairly by their employers and being denied benefits for injuries sustained on the job. Benefits were completely denied if any contributory negligance was assigned to the worker. Even if a co-worker made the error, the injurred worker could be denied coverage under the "The Fellow Servant Doctrine". Even in cases where the railroad companies were clearly responsible, they would often deny benefits based on the fact that the employee "assumed the risk" of their employment.

Under FELA, railroad workers who are not covered by regular workers’ compensation laws are able to sue companies over their injury claims. FELA eliminated the Fellow Servant Doctrine and took steps towards holding railroad companies responsible for the conditions their workers were exposed to. FELA allows monetary payouts for pain and suffering decided by juries based on comparative negligence rather than a pre-determined benefits schedule under workers’ compensation.

Tens of millions of dollars have been paid by railroad companies to settle solvent lawsuits under FELA. Current or former railroad workers have claimed exposure to toxic solvents from the 1960s into the 1990s caused mild to severe brain damage. CSX, the largest railroad in the eastern United States, has acknowledged settling 466 solvent exposure claims and paying up to $35 million, though the company has continued to deny a link between solvent exposure and brain damage. The railroad has said the high number of claims were in response to aggressive FELA attorneys recruiting clients and planting the idea that they were sick.

Medical experts estimate that thousands of workers may be suffering from toxic encephalopathy, but have been misdiagnosed due to the complexity of the debilitating illness. There are relatively few doctors in the U.S. considered experts in the field of diagnosing toxic encephalopathy due to the complexity of the illness.

FELA attorneys claim the toxic encephalopathy that has been suffered by potentially thousands of railroad workers was due to industry officials ignoring warnings of the dangers of solvent exposure, the failure to implement safety precautions and the opposition to allowing OSHA regulations to ensure workplace safety. Though chemical solvents have been largely phased out by railroads, workers have been exposed to high concentrations for long durations of time for decades and are still coming forward with symptoms of permanent brain damage.

For more information on FELA law and railroad lawsuits, please contact Schroeder and Mandel, P.A.