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How can railroad workers claim work injury benefits?


Railroad work is much safer than it was decades ago. But a railroad track or rail yard is still a very dangerous place to work. Moving rail cars and locomotives can injure or kill anyone who gets in their path. Railroad workers can also fall victim to many of the injuries that occur in other workplaces, including falls, repetitive stress and occupational disease.

When a Montana railroad employee is injured on the job, they do not collect state workers' compensation benefits. Instead, they are eligible for benefits under a federal law enacted years ago just for railroad workers: the Federal Employers Liability Act.

Under FELA, an injured rail worker can file a claim with her employer or bring a lawsuit in state or federal court. As with workers' compensation systems, benefits available under FELA include compensation for past and future lost wages and medical expenses. Unlike workers' compensation, the employee can also claim compensation for past and future pain and suffering resulting from the injury. If a railroad worker is killed on the job, death benefits are available for surviving family members.

FELA differs significantly from workers' compensation when it comes to proving employer fault. Workers' compensation is a "no-fault" system in which an injured worker can collect benefits without proving the employer was negligent, as long as the injury occurred on the job. Under FELA, the employee must prove that some employer negligence, however minor, contributed to the accident.

Whether the industry is railroad work or something else, a serious work-related injury can sideline an employee for weeks or even years. A knowledgeable workplace injury lawyer can help the worker recover the benefits to which she is entitled.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Railroad Worker Injuries / FELA - Overview," accessed April 11, 2016

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