Railroaders and the FELA

Railroads are different from other employers. Congress recognized the difference and realized that worker’s compensation laws were inadequate to meet the needs of railroad workers, and therefore passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) in 1908. This law allows railroad workers to obtain the compensation that they deserve when injured on the job. The law permits claims against the railroad for loss of the enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, and for past, present and future wage loss. To recover this compensation, the railroader must prove fault on the railroad’s part. We have been privileged to represent railroad workers for decades for injuries resulting from their employment.

Railroaders and the FELA

Types of cases brought pursuant to the FELA are as follows:


A link has been made between diesel fumes, asbestos, sand dust (silica), solvents and welding fumes exposure and many diseases of the lungs and respiratory system. In addition, these exposures have been linked to certain types of cancer (mesothelioma, lung, throat, blood, kidney, bladder, colon, and others). Railroad companies knew of these dangers to their workers at least as far back as the 1930s but failed to take any action to protect their employees. Our firm has compiled extensive proof of the railroad’s negligence by not protecting employees from the known dangers of these exposures.

Repetitive stress injuries

Repetitive Stress Injuries often affect the hands, wrists, elbows, neck, shoulders, lower back and knees. These painful and sometimes crippling injuries develop gradually over a period of weeks, months, or even years. Because symptoms of these injuries are progressive, many workers tend to mistake them as being age-related. Research has proven that railroaders are subject to Repetitive Stress Injuries. We have successfully represented railroaders for Repetitive Stress Injuries and have obtained significant settlements and verdicts.

Toxic Encephalopathy

We have observed a steady increase in the number of railroad employees suffering from brain damage that can be linked to exposure to certain solvents and degreasers. They may have had long term exposure to these solvents through skin contact and inhalation during their daily job duties. The worst cases of this type of exposure have resulted in a condition called Toxic Encephalopathy. This is a form of permanent brain damage that results in memory loss, depression and anxiety. Other symptoms of chemical exposure include nausea, headaches and lightheadedness. Shop craft employees have often been exposed to work environments with poor or inadequate ventilation. Railroads have either failed to provide suitable respirators or neglect to provide them at all.

Traumatic injuries

Railroad workers suffer serious traumatic injuries on the railroad as a result of derailments, falls or being struck by large pieces of railroad equipment. When injured, you have three years from the date of injury to file suit against the railroad to obtain compensation for your injury. However, the first days after an accident are the most critical for the injured worker. It is during this time period that the evidence in support of your claim can be most easily and effectively gathered. Memories dim and physical circumstances change. Therefore, the sooner you obtain competent representation, the better we will be able to blunt any effort by the railroad to shift the blame for an accident to you and thereby reduce the value of your claim. Remember, a delay in getting professional help hurts you and helps the railroad.

Our FELA team at Marc J. Bern & Partners is led by our Senior Partner Joe Cappelli. Joe is a nationally recognized trial attorney who has successfully represented railroad workers throughout the United States for over twenty-five years.  Also on our FELA team of lawyers is the past President of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys, Tom Joyce.  Together with firm attorney Shawn Sassaman, our FELA team has over one hundred years of combined experienced in handling FELA cases. We will properly evaluate your case and take all the steps necessary to obtain maximum compensation for the injuries you sustained as the result of the railroad’s negligence.


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