You’ve probably heard of worker’s compensation—an insurance system designed to provide benefits to employees who were injured on the job. Worker’s compensation is a valuable protection for workers across industries.

For railroad workers, the types of benefits available and the process for receiving those benefits differ from other types of work. In this post, we’ll examine the key distinctions specific to railroad worker’s compensation.

Filing a claim

In most cases, if you suffer a workplace injury, you file a claim through your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance carrier. For railroad workers, you file a claim through FELA (Federal Employers Liability Act). The protections provided under FELA are high, covering almost any injury a railroad employee suffers.

Under FELA, railroad companies have a responsibility to:

  • Create, inspect and maintain a reasonably safe work environment
  • Warn workers about any hazards or unsafe conditions
  • Provide adequate job training and supervision to avoid workplace injury
  • Ensure that company job safety rules are followed
  • Protect workers—within reason—from intentionally harmful acts by others
  • Avoid unreasonable work quotas
  • Assist employees with activities beyond their physical limits

Demonstrating fault

For many jobs, worker’s compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that an injured employee does not need to prove whose fault the workplace injury was. For FELA claims, a railroad employee will need to establish that their injury was caused by someone’s negligence (employer, employee, equipment manufacturer etc.).

It is worth noting that the amount of fault an injured railroad worker needs to demonstrate (i.e., the “burden of proof”) is less than the amount required to prove fault in other types of personal injury cases, such as a car accident. An injured railroad worker is only required to demonstrate a “featherweight” burden of proof, meaning that they must show that the accused party had some degree of negligence (which may be minor), and this negligence led to the injury in some way.

Getting compensated

In most worker’s compensation cases, an injured party can be compensated for such items as medical bills, wage replacement, vocational rehabilitation and survivor benefits. Railroad employees, however, can also receive benefits for physical/mental pain and suffering.