Established in 1908, the Federal Employers Liability Act, otherwise known as FELA, was passed by Congress to address the safety of railroad workers. Prior to the FELA legislation, the only protection that railroad employees had were various workmen's compensation statutes, a majority of which provided inadequate and unbalanced benefits. A statute was enforced by carriers of FELA, making it a requirement that employees prove the negligence of the railroad company in order for them to reap the benefits.

Over time, there have been several changes and amendments to FELA, including:

  • Eliminating the assumption of risk. This provided that an employee does not assume the risks of employment in case injury or death results from the negligence of the railroad.
  • Employer negligence doesn't have to be the only cause, but needs to be at least partially to blame for a railroad worker's injury.
  • If an employee has been found partially guilty of contributory negligence, they will still be able to receive recovery and compensation, but the proportion of that amount will diminish depending upon the level of negligence that's attributed to them.

After years of disapproval by railroad companies, FELA was officially reviewed in 1997 by the General Accounting Office (GAO) to answer the question of whether or not it would be logical to modify FELA law. After extensive research, the GAO discovered that FELA has a major impact on the lives of injured railroad workers.

FELA has remained a lasting piece of legislation that has proven to be essential for protecting railroad workers that have been injured on the job. Without a limit on the amount of recovery that you can receive if you've been injured in a railroad accident, it's important to contact an attorney that specializes in FELA-related cases to obtain your right to compensation and recovery. Since FELA is a sub-specialty of personal injury law, it has a unique set of procedures, rules and tools. Watch our video of attorney Peter Higgins explaining the difference between FELA and state workers' compensation cases to get a better understanding.



Whether you're a train engineer, brakeman, or other Amtrak or railroad employee, it's crucial that you do your best to understand FELA law. Working in the railroad industry can be a dangerous environment, so it's important to know your legal rights under FELA in case you're injured in a railroad-related accident while working.