What is FELA?
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 USC §§ 51-60, commonly referred to as FELA, was passed by Congress in 1908 to protect the rights of injured railroad employees who were injured while working on the railroad.
As the railroads crossed our nation, Congress realized that railroad work was particularly hazardous and that railroad workers needed special laws to protect them. Such laws were especially needed because railroad employees worked in interstate commerce between the states rather than in just one state, and injury and compensation laws varied from state to state.
Today, after nearly one hundred years of application by our courts, the FELA injury law has evolved into a body of modern law that is state of the art in providing federal compensation rights to railroaders injured on the job without punitive damages. It also produces the desired side effect of making carriers cognizant that FELA requires them to operate safe railroads or stand accountable.