The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) And Railroad Workplace Injuries

When James Powell, Sr. founded Powell Law in 1906, the use of railroads and its effects on industrial growth in America were unprecedented. By the end of the 19th century, the railroad industry in the United States was our country’s largest employer outside of agriculture.

At this time, J. P. Morgan played a major role in consolidating the nation’s railroad system hoping to create an integrated transportation system and make railroads more efficient, despite primary motives to monopolize the industry. In 1906, two-thirds of the rail mileage in the U.S. was controlled by seven entities, primarily Morgan, New York Central, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. The latter two entities eventually merged to form the Penn Central Railroad.

As a response to railroad owners engaging in these monopolistic practices, including rate fixing, Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act and created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in 1887. Based on its power to regulate interstate commerce, in 1908 Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to protect the nation’s railroad workers.

Congress intended that FELA would increase workplace safety by providing effective legal remedies to injured workers. Congress hoped that railroads would choose to forego the payment of large, costlier awards to injured employees and take all measures necessary to improve the safety of the workplace and decrease injuries.

When a railroad worker is injured on the job, FELA provides an exclusive federal system of legal recovery for both the worker and his family. An injured worker may present a FELA claim directly to her employer or railroad and also has the right to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.

FELA covers just about every injury a railroad employee suffers on the job, including those employees whose primary work duties are not conducted in or around trains. Not only does FELA cover bodily injuries suffered while performing a job in the workplace, but it also covers repetitive stress and cumulative trauma injuries, as well as those caused by asbestos exposure.

For 113 years, our practice has evolved litigating all types of workers’ compensation claims and cases and building a body of knowledge and expertise that clearly provides our clients with a unique, distinct and incomparable advantage. Powell Law has an established 113-year-old reputation throughout northeastern Pennsylvania. Contact Powell Law at call (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE.

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