If you are injured as a railroad worker, you will likely have to pursue a claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, otherwise known as FELA for short. FELA claims can be complicated and can take quite some time. Knowing what to expect can help you successfully navigate the process and get the full monetary recovery you deserve.
After suffering an injury, you will likely be required to fill out an accident report. At this early stage, it may be important to get advice from an experienced FELA attorney to ensure you do not inadvertently compromise your case.
Next, the railroad will typically conduct an investigation into the accident. Your own attorney, with your assistance, will likely also conduct an investigation. Your attorney’s investigation will help determine fault and the severity of your injuries.
After this early information gathering stage, you and your attorney will sit down with representatives from the railroad company and any other involved parties and discuss settling your FELA claim. Many claims do not progress past this point. The relative strengths and weaknesses of each side’s arguments may have already been exposed, making it possible to come to a fair settlement without the expense and time commitment required to go to trial.
Alas, sometimes a settlement cannot be reached, and in this case, your attorney will likely file a civil claim on your behalf. The other party or parties will agree to or contest the claims made in your complaint, and there will be another information gathering stage facilitated by courtroom process.
At any time, the case can still be settled, but if it is not, eventually it will proceed to a trial, in which attorneys for each side will present evidence and arguments to a judge or jury. Ultimately, the judge or jury will decide on the contested issues. The decision reached at trial can usually be appealed, but it is unusual for an appeals court to overturn a decision in a FELA case.
Your FELA case could take some time, but now with a basic understanding of the chronology under your belt, you at least know what to expect.