In the 1800s, as our country became industrialized, the railroad barons built our nation’s railroads across America to move freight between the various states. Although the railroad barons were very progressive in creating jobs, they were very regressive when an individual got hurt “working on the railroad.”
In many cases, if an individual started working for the railroad in one state and was injured in another state, the railroad would just move on building its tracks leaving the injured railroader behind wherever the individual was hurt working.
Congress, realizing the need to provide rights to an injured railroad worker who started working in one state but was left behind in another state, enacted the Federal Employers’ Liability Act in 1908 to create a legal remedy for compensating railroad workers injured on the job. Importantly, the new legal remedy provided the constitutional right to civil trial by jury.
Today, even though the FELA law has been challenged by the railroads many times, it has withstood the test of time.
FELA provides the sole remedy for a railroad worker injured on the job to recover for their losses. Under FELA, Compensable Losses include:
1. Past and future pain and suffering;
2. Past and future lost wages;
3. Any other common law element of damages;
It should also be understood that FELA does not provide punitive damages for a railroad worker but only compensatory damages. The purpose of compensatory damages is to make that individual whole so they can go on with their life and take care of their family.