An employee of a common carrier by railway, which is engaged in interstate commerce, is entitled to recover monetary damages if the injury resulted in whole or in part from the negligence of the railroad.

That is close to the exact language contained in the Federal Employer's Liability Act.  But what do those words really mean? 


 First off whether a railroad is a common carrier under the FELA is dependent on what its activities are rather than its stated purposes.The carrier must be performing a rail service for the public for hire as a part of interstate rail transportation. Today, almost every railroad and every railroad employee is engaged in interstate commerce.  Employees from the switchman to the office worker’s are covered by the FELA. The employer-employee relationship must exist at the time of the injury.  However, under current law, almost anyone who is doing work that a railroad can do has a question of fact for a jury to determine. An employee is covered by the Act if he is engaged in work incidental to his employment.  However, horseplay is not covered by the Act. The railroad has a non-delegable duty to provide the employee a reasonably safe place to work. This duty may include the physical condition of the work site itself, negligent acts of fellow employees, or the tools and equipment that the employer supplies.  If the negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury, that is enough.  


 Your injury need not be caused by a single trauma.  It may also include conditions resulting from a series of incidents In addition it may include occupational diseases.  

As soon as practical, report a work injury to your supervisor.  You are also required by union agreement to complete an accident report.  This should be thoughtfully completed by you and it is recommended that you speak with a FELA attorney as soon as possible. You must file a lawsuit within three years of the day that the cause of action accrues, or you are forever barred from any monetary recovery. You are not required to provide a recorded or written statement to a claims agent.  Remember he works for the railroad and he does not get paid to make sure you get the best medical care nor the largest monetary recovery.  

How do I know whether I need a lawyer or not?  A reputable FELA lawyer will advise you.  Every fact pattern is different, so it is important to consult an attorney.