Missouri Railroad Accident Lawyers
Frequently Asked Questions About Federal Employers Liability Act Claims
- Who is covered under FELA?
- My employer is paying me while I can’t work. Why should I sue?
- My employer’s insurance company called and offered me a settlement, but it’s not enough to pay my bills. Should I take it?
- What should I do after a railroad accident?
- What happens if I file a FELA claim?
- Can I afford to file FELA lawsuit?
Q: Who is covered under FELA?
A: FELA applies to any railroad employee without workers’ compensation coverage who was injured due to the railroad’s carelessness, as long as the railroad is engaged in interstate commerce. A railroad is considered engaged in interstate commerce if it ships freight or people across state lines, has rails that cross state lines or otherwise somehow does business in more than one state.
Even if a railroad isn’t engaged in interstate commerce, its employees may still be able to sue under Missouri’s general personal injury laws.
Q: My employer is paying me while I can’t work. Why should I sue?
A: Even if you’re still getting paid while you recover from an employment-related injury, you may still have skyrocketing medical bills and other accident-related costs to worry about. You may have to arrange for help around the house, your spouse may need to take time off work to care for you, or you may need someone to help with childcare.
You should also think about your future: Will you need continuing medical checkups? Can you earn the same amount of money you used to? Can you work at all? These costs can add up fast. Finally, you probably have injuries that are hard to translate into dollars: A reduced quality of life due to pain and suffering, a permanent disability, scarring or other long-term injuries. A FELA lawsuit can help you recover compensation for these injuries and more.
Q: My employer’s insurance company called and offered me a settlement, but it’s not enough to pay my bills. Should I take it?
A: If it’s not enough, or if you’re not sure, or if you feel uncomfortable in any way, do not take a settlement or sign anything from your employer and its insurer. Sometimes, companies that face a potential FELA claim may try to limit their financial liability by offering much less money than your claim is worth, or asking you to sign a waiver. In either case, you could be signing away your right to sue under FELA. You don’t have to decide on an offer like this right away. Say you’ll think about it and call Page Law for help learning what your claim is worth and how to proceed.
Q: What should I do after a railroad accident?
A: The first thing you should do after a railroad accident in Missouri is get medical help for anyone who needs it. The railroad may also ask you to help with an accident report. But after you’ve had time to think, you should try to preserve as much information about the accident that you can. Save all the paperwork you have — medical documents, the railroad’s report and any police report. Write down everything you remember while it’s fresh, and take pictures of your injuries and anything else that might show what happened. All of this preserves evidence that can help you later if you decide to file a FELA lawsuit.
Q: What happens if I file a FELA claim in Missouri?
A: Generally, Page Law will take over interactions with the railroad and its insurers and representatives. Your employer will probably investigate the accident, but we will conduct an investigation of our own, using any information and testimony you can give us. The railroad may want to discuss a financial settlement that will end the case; we will provide advice based on our experience and knowledge in railroad accident law, but the decision is yours.
If we don’t reach a settlement, we will file the lawsuit. You may be required to give a deposition, which is sworn testimony that will be written down and used when the case goes to court. In some cases, you can go to arbitration (private court); in other cases, you’ll go to a trial. The process can take a few months or a few years, depending on the issues at hand and the amount of money involved. Our St. Louis FELA attorneys can give you a better idea of what’s likely to happen in your case.
Q: Can I afford to file FELA lawsuit?
A: An attorney at Page Law does not ask for a fee at the beginning of cases. Because we work exclusively with injured people, we are able to use a contingency fee structure, which means we don’t get legal fees until your case is won. If you don’t recover, you don’t pay any legal fees at all; if you do recover, you pay us a percentage of the recovery, which we will negotiate with you before you hire us. And we never charge for an initial consultation, the meeting at which we learn about your case and you have a chance to decide whether we’re the right lawyers for you.
Additional Information About FELA: What You Should Know About the Federal Employers Liability Act
During the golden age of the railroads, from the 1880s to the 1920s, the network of railroad tracks and train services in the United States expanded to six times its former size. Unfortunately, with that expansion came a sharp increase in the number of railway employees who suffered serious or fatal injuries on the job. At that time, the workers’ compensation system we use today didn’t exist in many places and could not protect railway employees.
In response, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act, a federal law that applies specifically to railroad workers whose employers are involved in interstate commerce. That is, the railroad must carry interstate freight or have rails that cross state lines.
FELA is not just a special type of workers’ compensation. Workers compensation is a no-fault, state-based system that allows an injured worker to collect reduced wages and pay medical bills relatively soon after an accident, without having to prove that someone else was at fault. By contrast, FELA claims are federal lawsuits that require the worker to prove that the injury was caused, partly or entirely, by the employer — but allow much greater damages.
To win a FELA lawsuit, you must be able to prove that your injury was caused by the negligence (carelessness) of your employer or its other employees. Examples of negligence include:
- Setting unsafe policies;
- Using defective equipment;
- Not maintaining equipment or rails well enough;
- Bad decisions by other employees, both supervisors and colleagues;
- Inattention from other employees;
- Not taking steps to correct unsafe working conditions;
FELA claims have a big advantage over workers’ compensation: They provide far more compensation for injured people. Under the law, injured employees are entitled to ask for the wages they lost while they were injured and payment of their medical bills; any other expenses they incurred as a result of the accident; compensation for pain and suffering; and compensation for any permanent, lifelong disability.
Survivors of a worker killed in a railroad accident are entitled to collect all of the damages the death caused, without limit, including funeral expenses, loss of future wages, and compensation for the loss of a spouse, parent or other loved one. By contrast, under Missouri law, workers’ compensation allows workers to collect two-thirds of their normal weekly wages, up to a limit; as well as payment of work-related medical bills and financial compensation for a death, partial disability or total disability caused by a workplace injury. Under FELA, you can bring a claim even if the accident was partly your fault. However, if the jury in your case feels that you contributed to your own accident, they will probably reduce your compensation according to your share of the fault. Because the damages allowed under the law are broad, this can still add up to a substantial and worthwhile claim. An experienced railway accident lawyer can advise you on how to prove the railroad’s fault in a FELA lawsuit.
If you’ve been hurt while working for a railroad, the chances are good that your employer and its representatives have already taken steps to investigate what happened and offer appropriate compensation. However, even if the employer and its insurers or attorneys have been pleasant to you, keep in mind that their job is to protect their own financial interests — not yours.
If you suspect that you’re not getting all the compensation you need or deserve, you should speak to a St. Louis work accident attorney at Page Law as soon as possible. Our experienced St. Louis FELA railroad accident lawyers know how to reconstruct an accident to show fault, prove the full extent of your injuries and get you the best possible result for your claim.
Page Law is a successful law firm focusing exclusively on personal injury cases — cases in which clients were injured through someone else’s negligence. Based in St. Louis, we handle cases throughout Missouri and Illinois. Thanks to our many past successes, we have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to pursue a large and potentially long-term case such as a FELA claim. And we always offer free case evaluations for clients interested in a railroad accident or other personal injury lawsuit. For a free consultation with an experienced railroad accident lawyer, call Page Law today at (314) 322-8515, or click here for our fast, confidential online contact form.