FELA vs. Workers' Compensation - What's the Difference?
When it comes to employees, there are several sets of laws and regulations in place that are meant to protect them if they suffer injuries while on the job. These different sets of rules can be categorized based on range of scope. For instance, workers' compensation laws are meant to cover all workers in general, regardless of occupation. Other laws, such as the Jones Act or FELA, cover specific occupations and are tailored to those industries.
The acronym "FELA" stands for Federal Employers Liability Act, and it was originally passed by Congress in 1908 in order to protect railroad workers who were injured on the job. Although the law is nearly 100 years old, it still remains prevalent today, as even though other forms of shipping and transportation have come to the forefront of our economy since the early 20th Century, railroad transportation is still heavily depended upon to provide the delivery of goods that so many industries need.
Many will ask whether the subsequent passage of so many workers' compensation laws have in effect superseded the reach of FELA, as these laws are more modern and specifically deal with our current timeframe. However, FELA remains a critically important statute, as you'll see below when we offer a few distinctions between the two bodies of law.
FELA vs. Workers' Compensation - Scope
As stated above, the workers' compensation system is meant to protect all workers, while FELA only protects railroad workers. That's really the only instance in which the scope of workers' compensation goes beyond that of FELA. In other contexts, FELA goes well beyond the workers' compensation laws.
Specifically, FELA outdistances workers' compensation in regards to financial recovery for railroad employees. Workers' compensation statutes generally deal with compensation in relation to a pre-set equation that's in place to determine the amount of financial assistance an injured worker receives, almost like an insurance fund.
FELA, on the other hand, works more like a personal injury issue when determining compensation, as injured workers are eligible to receive financial recovery for their medical costs, pain and suffering, lost wages and even emotional distress in certain situations. This obviously allows for the potential for greater recovery for workers under FELA.
FELA is also federal in its application, which means that the standards are largely the same from state to state. That is the opposite of how workers' compensation statutes are applied, as they are all state-driven and feature vast differences between jurisdictions.
Overall, there is much to know in regards to FELA if you've been injured while working on a railroad. If this describes your situation, contact a FELA attorney at Williams Kherkher immediately to schedule a free initial consultation.
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