Rail workers have unique circumstances when they file an injury claim. They file a Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) claim or lawsuit where the railroad worker seeks compensation for an injury on the job or illness due to negligence. It is similar to worker’s compensation, which states handle, but FELA reflects the unique circumstance where workers often cross state lines, which is why it is a federal program.
Compensation for your injuries
A lawsuit usually seeks damages for one or more of the following:
- The loss of past and future wages due to injury
- The cost of past and future medical bills not covered by insurance
- Pain and suffering endured because of the illness or injury
Where does mediation fit in?
A dispute regarding injury compensation may go before a judge, but the judge will often request that the two sides try to work out a settlement before the court trial. The mediation sessions will typically occur in an office or remotely using video conferencing or the telephone.
There are several different mediation formats, but it’s a less formal process where the injured plaintiff and their attorney are on one side with the railroad claims agent and the railroad’s attorney on the other (often they are in separate rooms of an office). A trained mediator is also present, moving back and forth between the rooms. They are required to be impartial, and their goal is to facilitate an agreement that both sides believe is fair. To do this, they often encourage the two sides to find common ground by establishing the case’s facts. They also try to identify areas of disagreement. From there, they attempt to build consensus and a resolution. This role may evolve as the needs of the mediation change, perhaps the mediator becoming more judge-like to help find a solution.
The benefits of mediation
Many areas of law use mediation, including business law, family law and divorce. Many prefer the process because it generally is:
- Less stressful because the format is not based on confrontation
- Quicker because hearings must fit into a busy judge’s schedule.
- There is no weakening of the case when attempting to mediate, only the chance to resolve the matter.
- The information discussed during mediation is not part of the court record.
This is a niche area of law
If the mediation is unsuccessful, the case will proceed in a court of law where the two sides argue their case before a judge. The judge then rules. Those with questions about a FELA claim will often get the best results when working with an attorney who handles this niche area of law.