The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) vs. Workers’ Compensation

In most industries, people who are injured on the job have the option to file a claim with their employer and their employer’s insurance company in order to recover workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is not available to all employees in the United States, including people who work in the railroad industry. Railroad workers have their own separate system for receiving injury benefits. This system was established by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). FELA is completely different from workers’ compensation, involving separate processes and benefits.

Who Qualifies for Benefits?

Workers’ compensation benefits are available to most of the country’s workers, with a few exceptions. Benefits are provided to employees through a claims process that is facilitated by the employer and their insurance provider. The terms of workers’ compensation can vary between states.

FELA is a federal system that exists exclusively in the railroad industry. Only railroad workers are entitled to FELA benefits.

The Role of Fault

Under the workers’ compensation system, employees can receive benefits without proving the fault of their employer. In most workers’ compensation cases, liability is often irrelevant (except in cases of misconduct or gross negligence).

In comparison, proving fault is necessary to recover FELA benefits. A railroad worker who is injured on the job must prove the negligence of their employer in order to be compensated. Because proving fault is necessary, railroad workers can bring their claim into court. FELA claimants can present their case in front of a jury — FELA trials are more like lawsuits than claim appeals (as is the case with workers’ compensation).

Other Differences

Benefits are administered differently under the workers’ compensation system and FELA.

Workers’ compensation beneficiaries often have their benefits capped at certain amounts according to the type and severity of their injuries. Additional compensation may need to be pursued through an appeal or a separate claim if the initial award is not sufficient. FELA compensation, however, is not limited.

Workers’ compensation benefits and FELA benefits cannot be received at the same time, because railroad employees are not entitled to typical workers’ compensation benefits. The Federal Employers Liability Act was created in place of workers’ compensation. Its terms and processes are specific to the needs of people who work in the railroad industry.

Whatever industry you work in, McHargue & Jones, LLC can help if you were injured on the job. Our attorneys are well-versed in workers’ compensation law and the Federal Employers Liability Act. Contact us today to discuss your case.

To schedule a free case evaluation with our legal team, complete our contact form or call (312) 487-2461.